Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ukiyo-e-The Art of Japanese Woodcut Printmaking

Hokusai Irises
Source Wikimedia-Public Domain

Ukiyo-e means "Floating World" and I have been fascinated with this form of artistic expression since about 1969 when I saw a reproduction of a Japanese Print that my art teacher in high school showed me.

During this period a number of Japanese artists started print making using blocks of cherry wood which are turned into engraving plates by removing excess wood with small knives, and utilizing one single woodblock for each color to be printed.

Step 1 is to create a detailed line drawing, carve that out into a block of cherry wood, and then print that line drawing as many as 100-150 times. W.J. Phillips in his book mentioned that he was able to get a maximum of 150 prints before the block would degrade from the process.

The watercolor paper is kept wet with water during the printing process. The wet paper is laid on top of the block, after the colored pigment (watercolor) is painted on the block. The back of the paper is then rubbed with a block of wood wrapped in leaves. Each impression is then stacked in a pile wet, with newspaper in between each layer.

There can be as many as 10 colors in each print, meaning that there have to be 10 blocks, so the printing process is a long and arduous one.

However the Japanese discovered a beautiful way to expand their markets by providing limited editions of watercolor paintings. In essence they are not necessarily exactly the same because each wash that is applied can have it's own subtle difference from print to print.

Here are some Ukiyo-e resources that you may find interesting.

A guide to Ukiyo-e websites
Ukiyo-e Wikipedia
Empty Easel-A Brief History of Japanese Artprints
The Woodblock Prints Of Ando Hiroshige

Watercolor Demonstration-White Blossoms Ukiyo-e Drawing-Step1

I decided to challenge myself, and create a Watercolor Demonstration and post it as it was in progress instead of completing the whole thing first and then posting it.

Read my post Ukiyo-e to get some idea of what style I am trying to emulate here. I'm not doing a limited edition of prints, but only one watercolor in that style.

The process for step 1 is to select a subject as I have done, this is a drawing from one of my photos of spring blossoms that I thought would make a good watercolor painting.

For this I used a Black Pigma Micron 005 pen on tracing paper.

The purpose is to tape this to my light box, and then to tape the watercolor paper on top. The black lines will show through the paper when the box is turned on, and you can create your drawing much quicker, and you can change anything that you want easily.

The drawing looks very complicated because many of the lines define shadows, and these will give me a guideline as to the boundaries of the shadows which can be changed as you wish when you start painting.

So the next step will be to complete the initial drawing on watercolor paper and begin painting.

Stay Tuned

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vancouver Photo Of The Day-White Rose Afternoon

The roses on this white bush in the garden are getting larger every 24 hours. It is amazing how much happens within that 24 hours of growth.

The center of the rose was finally revealed today, what a treat.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Vancouver Photo Of The Day-White Rosebud

The Rose bushes are in various stages of blooming, and I captured this photo around noon, bright sunlight with a bit of high cloud, a wonderful sunny day.

The aroma from the Roses is intoxicating. I think I will have to cut one off and keep it in my window sill.

This was taken with my Nikon D70 camera with a telephoto lensNikon D80 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body only)


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