Learning Japanese Woodblock Printmaking

Two weeks ago I attended a Japanese Woodblock intensive at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis taught by master printer Keiji Shinohara. The week-long intensive was so satisfying–taught by a wonderful artist and encouraging instructor, with just enough time enough to design, carve and print an image.

Some of the unique features of this method of printmaking as compared with Western techniques is that it uses water-based pigments rather than oil-based, a baren (flat, hand-held disc) rather than a press, and that each block of a multiple color print contains the registration marks within it. In developing ideas for a pictorial work, for example, using katazome, it can be frustrating to design and make a layered image, that is, one with more than one stencil. You don’t know are getting you have until you wash the paste off. This is fine when a design for an image or a repeated pattern requires only one stencil, but frustrating for me when I want to layer images and align or register components on top of one another, and then create multiple instances of the image, like prints.

Here are a few sketches of my subject (my old cat, Lester) and two versions of the print I made in class. Lester is a sweet animal companion; a joy, a constant source of entertainment.

 

Cardinal in August

Cardinal in August

Above a rhythmic cadence of crickets
the young cardinal tries his song
one note at a time,
an adolescent, tentative disruption
of the peaceful pulse.

As darkness yields slowly
to pre-dawn light,
the crickets fade.

The cardinal, more confident,
repeats two
then three,
now four
notes of his song.

This space
and gentle quiet
opens to a voice
remarkably coming from him.

In this way
he reveals and repeats
the notes that unfold sleep,
memory, and longing in me.

Cardinal_det_500px
Detail, Spring with Cardinal  (natural pigments on silk) 

© Kit Eastman