Woodblock printing

Martin Roper

It seems everyone is familiar with this famous image:


The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai, c. 1830

I don't think many of us have thought about how it was made.

A drawn image is transferred to a block of wood and then everything not in the image is carved away. This often leaves very thin lines such as the text in the cartouche at the upper left. Separate blocks are cut for each of the colors in the image and the paper is pressed several times to layer on the colors.

This was just Part 6 of a 15-part series on his attempt to reproduce Hokusai's image. It was fascinating. I ended up binge-watching the entire series and spending a couple hours on his website, woodblock.com.

Some examples of his work:






The last is one he did not carve, but is his restoration of the original 1936 block that had been damaged.

I learned so much from these videos about something I had only the vaguest notion of. When I was stationed in Japan I bought a number of woodblock prints. I gave several away as gifts and kept three for myself. I kind of got one back when married the girl I gave it to!

I've since bought an Italian print while I was in London.

Mike Davis

Corporate Member
I did some linoleum prints in high school. No where as complicated nor as artistic and nice as those. Truly master work. I may be doing some in the future since my wife has one of her presses up and running now.

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