Studying Woodblock Printmaking in Osaka

We found a mokuhan-ga (woodblock printmaking) artist who teaches the traditional methods right in her Osaka studio, and I studied with her for two months this past spring.

The techniques she taught me enabled me to complete my Heavy Skies print series, which is currently hanging at Kafka’s in Vancouver.

K-Woodblock-Lesson-01Haruka-sensei applies paint to the block. The sketch and a test print are in the foreground. I’m using Day 21: Heavy Sky 12 from Thirty Days Project, November 2012.

Click through for more process images and the final result.


One method she taught me is called horisusumi (彫進み), which means “progressive carving”. Only one plate is used and it is increasingly carved away after each print run. The image builds up on the paper as the plate gradually disappears. Here, I am preparing for the second colour which will be darker and will cover up the first colour except where I have carved away the areas I want to keep.

K-Woodblock-Lesson-03A successful print of the second colour.

Float-Jerba-Test-03Here is the finished piece after three colours. No further prints are possible, of course, because the design on the block has been carved away.

Float-3x-Test-02I used Day 18: Heavy Sky 11 as a simple experiment in how to apply gradients and how to control values with different kinds of carving.

Float-CMYK-Sqrs-02This was a more common kind of printmaking, using one separate plate for each of the four CMYK colours. I wanted to get a feel for how the inks combined to produce secondary and tertiary colours.

3 Comments on “Studying Woodblock Printmaking in Osaka

  1.  by  Robin Campbell

    What a treat to be guided carefully through the woodblock printmaking process and then see such beautiful results. I’m so impressed with the exploratory nature of your artistic endeavours, Keith. Not to mention the craftmanship, this case in particular.

    •  by  KeithAdmin

      Thank you, Rob. I feel very lucky to have been introduced to such a generous teacher just when I needed those skills the most. I couldn’t have done my Heavy Skies series without her careful instruction.

  2.  by  Teesha

    Do you know any stationeries where I can find woodcut printmaking tools in osaka?

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