Woodblock Prints

An Introduction to

Japanese Woodblock Printmaking
(Muka Hanga)

We Delight In Hymn
achieved with 12 plates and
40 hand burnished colours.

Graham hand carves the Basswood or Cherry blocks, one for each colour. Then, using a Baren, he burnishes the paper which has been placed on the woodblock carved plate to achieve the transfer of colour. Each colour change requires a different plate and must be inked for each impression. This image, "We Delight In Hymn" was achieved with 10 plates and 40 hand burnished colours.

Papers used for woodblocks are made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree. The resulting fibre is Kozo and is, even today, made by families that have been making paper for generations. The paper "Hosho" is one of the most expensive and highly renowned traditional papers. The term "rice paper" used to describe Japanese papers is misleading and is now generally obsolete. The pigments used are transparent watercolours, (sometimes powdered) with rice paste used as a binder. Any type of wood can be used, however the finer grained woods are best, which makes Basswood and Cherry the most favoured.

Records show that woodblock printing on fabrics had been practised by the Egyptians at least two thousand years before the Christian era. It was about the 7th century that printing on paper became more widely used. The woodblock, (relief plate), was inked and the paper placed over the inked surface and rubbed or burnished by hand to achieve an image. It was in the 8th century that woodblock printing was introduced into Japan from China and until the mid-17th century, the colour was achieved by hand painting after the printing. About the mid 1600's a new school of painting was beginning to emerge under the name "ukiyo-e" in the city of Edo (now Tokyo) which was responsible for the further development of coloured woodblock prints.

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Copyright © Graham A. Scholes. No part of these images may be reproduced,
in any form or by any means, without written permission of the Artist.