Laura Boswell ARE – Printmaker

Inserting loose brushwork into Japanese Woodblock Prints

It’s possible to cut a woodblock to mimic brush painting, here’s one way to insert it accurately into a design

I’ll number the steps to match the photos.

1. Example woodblock print showing stormy brushwork in the sky

2. Design drawing inside a grey frame. The grey frame represents the white margin around the finished print and is there for registration purposes The red oval maps where the brush painting of some trees is to go.

3. The first tracing. Note the tracing paper is matched to the left corner of the grey frame for registration purposes, the red oval is not traced here.

4. The second tracing taken aligned over the first, this time only the red oval is traced.

5. The first tracing is flipped over (as is the second) to reverse the image for printing. The marks on the bottom and right hand bottom corner of the tracing show where the registration/kento slots will be marked.

6. The first tracing is laid on wood. The registration/kento slots are marked using the edge of the tracing paper as a guide each time the various woodblocks are mapped out (using carbon paper, not shown). Here the shaded block is being transferred.

7. The same is done for the red oval along with registration/kento slots that are shown already cut.

8. Using layout/airmail paper several ovals are drawn right way around and series of brush marks painted within the guidelines, the best is picked and cut out.

9. A thin layer of rice paste/nori is rubbed over the oval mapped out on the block (see 7.) The painting is laid face down matching the drawn oval to the one on the block.

10. The block is carefully cut to simulate the marks of the brush, the paper washed away and can then be printed along with all the other blocks using the kento system of alignment.