Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist who specialized in woodblock printing. Hokusai was best known for a series of woodblock prints he created, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.
A print from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji
Hokusai's print, The Great Wave
Our painting of the week is an internationally famous print from that series, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, which Hokusai created during the 1820’s. It is better known simply as The Great Wave. This print was also an artwork of the week last year. The Great Wave shows a huge wave about to crash down on three fishing boats with Mount Fuji on the horizon. Because The Great Wave was cut from a woodblock, thousands of prints were made from the original. It is one of the most famous images in the world.
Hokusai was a ukiyoe (u-KEE-oh-ey) artist. Ukiyoe were woodblock prints that were popular in Japan from the 17th through the 19th centuries.
The prints often depicted beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and scenes from history or folk tales.
Travel scenes and landscapes were popular topics for ukiyoe prints. When ukiyoe prints were exported from Japan to other countries, the Japanese art had a big influence on European and American artists.
Relief prints are made from a raised surface. Rubber stamps are relief prints. For relief prints, the artist cuts away parts of the design that will stay white and not receive ink. Woodblock prints are relief prints.
To make a woodblock print, a design is drawn on a piece of wood. After the design is cut away, the raised areas are coated with ink and the inked block of wood is pressed onto paper.
Woodcut print by Durer
Woodcut print by Hokusai
Albrecht Durer was a woodblock artist. Hokusai was also a woodblock artist. More than one color of ink can be used when making a print from a woodblock.
YouTube video - Wood Block Print (2:22 min.)
Linoleum block and print
Other materials besides woodblocks can be used to cut out a design to make a print. Linoleum blocks are popular for making relief prints. The linoleum is softer and easier to cut away than wood.
Other materials that are sometimes used to make relief prints include styrofoam and vegetables, such as potatoes or apples.
THURSDAY - Intaglio printmaking
Intaglio (in -TAL-yo) prints are made by cutting a design into the flat surface of a printing plate. Relief prints are made from ink placed on raised surfaces, and intaglio prints are the opposite. They are made from ink filling indented surfaces.
Using a burin to incise the drawing into the plate
An intaglio printmaker gouges lines of an image into a smooth metal sheet or sometimes into a sheet of plexiglass. When an artist uses a sharp V-shaped tool called a burin to gouge out the lines it is called engraving.
Plate covered in ground for etching
Scratching out the design through the ground for etching
When acid is used to cut out the design, it is called etching. In etching, the plate is coated with a waxy substance, and the lines are drawn through that ground. The plate is then dipped in acid which etches out the exposed lines.
Ink is spread onto the plate in etching
Ink is wiped off of the plate except for ink in the incised lines
After a design is cut or etched into a plate, ink is then spread over the sheet, being sure it’s pushed into the dug-out grooves. The ink is wiped-off of the flat part of the plate, leaving the ink in the cut-out lines only.
A press is used to force the ink onto a sheet of paper. The artist can print many copies of the design from the plate.
An etching by Durer
An etching by Rembrandt
Durer produced many intaglio prints, besides creating woodblock prints. Rembrandt also was an intaglio printmaker.
YouTube video - Drypoint printmaking (intaglio engraving) (3:52 min.)
YouTube video - How to Create an Etching (4:16 min.)