A Three Hour Workshop at the Japanese American Museum

In 3 hours, students grasp the full printmaking process.

Successful Workshop!

Successful Workshop!

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of teaching a three hour workshop at the Japanese American Museum in San Jose, CA. The participants in the workshop impressed me with their carving and printing skills! In a short amount of time, students transferred images onto woodblocks, carved the images out with knives and gouges, then printed them using traditional Japanese brushes and inks. 

I usually begin a workshop with a bit of context to inspire the participants. With a 15 minute presentation at the museum, students see examples of traditional Japanese prints, contemporary woodblocks, and how these styles inform the art I am creating. 

Lecturing about how the Japanese woodcut process influences my work.

Lecturing about how the Japanese woodcut process influences my work.

The first stage of the workshop is all about image transfer. Students learn how to transfer an image onto a woodblock. For inspiration, I use photographs of cherry blossom flowers and traditional Japanese kabuki masks. Sure enough, the guys in the class gravitate towards the masks while the women opt for the cherry blossoms.

Carving out the image on the woodblock.

Carving out the image on the woodblock.

Transferring a photograph of a kabuki mask to a woodblock using carbon paper.

Transferring a photograph of a kabuki mask to a woodblock using carbon paper.

After a quick carving demo, students begin to carve away portions of their blocks, placing their own creative spin on the photographs. Even though some students use the same image, they take different approaches when carving their blocks. 

Currently, I'm using the Akua liquid pigments to print, and I'm liking the results. Aku Liquid Pigment is also perfect for a workshop experience because the inks come in a squeeze bottle, which cuts down the need for additional materials (bowls brushes), not to mention wasted ink.

First proof from the woodblock using Akua inks.

First proof from the woodblock using Akua inks.

For printing, I brought along a pad of washi paper. Each student has enough paper to print ten prints, although most of them are content with just printing four or five.  Printing the first or second print is always a bit stressful, but students get the hang of printing around the third one or so. 

 Fresh prints full the workspace

 Fresh prints full the workspace

We can see the progress improves with each print. 

We can see the progress improves with each print. 

One of my favorite qualities of these prints is the roughness of the cutting and the rawness of the printing. Often class participants will have an idea of how the finished image will look in their mind. I remind them throughout the workshop that with each stage of the process, the image is evolving- It'snot going to look like how they think it will.