|Annie demonstrating printing using a baren|
Mokuhanga is both an artistically and physically demanding medium. You might be familiar with Ukiyo-e, a style of Japanese art that extensively used woodblock printing. The Japanese created beautiful, popular images and colorful prints for the masses and employed teams of artisans to produce them with different craftsmen drawing, carving, printing, etc. Andy Warhol would have been proud!
Five days wasn't long enough to create any finished artwork but it was long enough to learn the basic technique. We had to have a drawing to work with when we arrived. The first day we learned to create the color separations onto the four blocks, two days to carve, and the last two days to print. Most people had something for the show and tell at the end- at the very least, a print that was close to being finished.
I realized that after I arrived, I had to greatly simplify my drawing so I had minimal black lines to carve since they are the most difficult thing to carve. We all labored over the carving, with cramping hands and dulling tools. We used traditional shina plywood from Hokkaido, traditional carving tools, baren, hake (brushes), rice paste, washi, etc. The brilliant thing abut mokuhanga is it's low-tech and relatively low financial output (You can spend $$$ on Japanese tools though)- no etchant, no mechanical press, no solvents, no ground. Like some printmaking techniques, you are not ready to print in an hour (Solarplates and monotypes come to mind), but ready to print in days, weeks or even longer. It's extremely safe, and like most Japanese art forms, the concepts are easy to learn but take many years to really grasp and even longer to master the medium.
|Carving black lines is challenging|
|Carving large, flat areas is a bit easier|
|"Wish Machine", 4th state, unfinished print.|
Explore more woodblock printmaking and mokuhanga- here are some of my favorite artists working in this medium:
More New Mexico Road Trip coming soon- next up, Silver City!