printmaking

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Art History

'Fantastic Landscapes' Surveys the Vivid Use of Color in Hokusai and Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Yamashiro Province: The Togetsu Bridge in Mount Arashi (Yamashiro, Arashiyama Togetsukyo),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1853

An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.

Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.

 

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Back of Mount Fuji Seen from Minobu River (Minobugawa Urafuji),” from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido (Kisoji no oku Amidagataki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki),” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Awa Province: Naruto Whirlpools (Awa, Naruto no fuha),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1855

Katsushika Hokusai, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),” from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Kirifuri Falls at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province (Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), c. 1833

 

 



Art

Enchanting Scenes Combine Multiple Precisely Carved Woodblocks into Full-Color Prints by Tugboat Printshop

June 1, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Blue Bridge” (2020), woodcut on ivory somerset paper, 18 x 22.5 inches. All images © Tugboat Printshop, shared with permission

Valerie Lueth, who’s behind the Pittsburgh-based Tugboat Printshop (previously), continues to cultivate dreamy scenarios painstakingly printed with intricately carved woodblocks. Her recent creations include a distant truss bridge peeking through vegetation, a whimsically intertwined pair of trees—now in full color, this piece began as a black-line woodcut commissioned for an edition of Jean-Claude Grumberg’s The Most Precious of Cargoes—and a web of vines dripping with rain and jewels evoking a dreamcatcher.

After sketching with pencil on plywood blocks, Lueth hand-carves the meticulous designs with knives and gouging tools and often cuts multiple panels with slight variances for each print. In addition to building depth of color, Lueth’s sequential process yields greater highlights, shadows, and overall detail to the completed work. The lush, leafy scene comprising “Blue Bridge,” for example, is the product of four blocks coated in black, blue, green, and purple oil-based inks, which are pressed in succession to create the richly layered landscape.

Prints are available on Esty or from Tugboat’s site, and you can see more of Lueth’s process and a larger collection of her works, including a glimpse at a new floral relief in black-and-white, on Instagram.

 

Detail of “Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

“Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

“Blue Bridge” (2020), woodcut on ivory somerset paper, 18 x 22.5 inches

Detail of “Web” woodcuts

“Together Trees” (2020), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 12.5 x 9 inches

Detail of “Together Trees” (2020), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 12.5 x 9 inches

Detail of “Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

Detail of “Blue Bridge” woodcut, 18 x 22.5 inches

 

 



Design

Enjoy the Art of Printmaking At Home with This Tabletop Press

January 7, 2021

Grace Ebert

As an antidote to lockdown boredom, Sussex-based Tom Boulton designed a lightweight, portable printing press that brings the inky art form directly into people’s homes. In contrast to traditional machines that are heavy and bulky, the F-Press was created using 3-D printing and CNC machines and easily fits on a tabletop, letting users produce A5 artworks, greeting cards, and other type-based pieces even without access to large equipment.

Boulton’s press already reached its goal on Crowdfunder, although you still have one week to support the project. Head to Boulton’s Instagram to see some of the prints he’s created using the device.

 

 

 



Design Illustration

Woodblock-Printed Matchboxes Light up with Canine Personalities

July 11, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

As a follow-up to last year’s wildly successful woodblock-printed matchboxes featuring the questionable decisions of tipsy cats, Ravi Zupa has just released a set of canine designs. Comprised of ten designs, the set includes a Boston Terrier with a high opinion of himself, a loyal hound, and an endearingly self-deprecating pug.

“These are the people in our lives with complicated dispositions and attitudes who never fail to bring
us joy, even when they’re jerks,” Zupa explained in an artist statement. “This new set of matchboxes is an effort to give the overly expressive, stubborn, supportive, unpredictable, confused and self important beings in our lives the recognition they deserve.”

Zupa used oil-based intaglio ink to create the three-color prints, and each one includes a pint-sized certificate of authenticity. The matchboxes can be ordered in the artist’s online shop, along with pre-orders for larger prints of the same designs. You can see more of Zupa’s vintage-inspired and humorous works, ranging from prints to paintings and sculptures, on Instagram.

 

 



Art

Four Meticulously Hand-Carved Woodblocks Bloom Together in Tugboat Printshop's "Clover Blossoms"

June 5, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Intertwining stems and leaves crowned with bright pink blossoms comprise the newest print from Tugboat Printshop (previously). Clover Blossoms is a four-color woodblock print, which means that Tugboat owner and artist Valerie Lueth drew, hand-carved, inked, aligned, and printed four separate panels to comprise the finished piece. Lueth prolifically dreams up and creates new work, and frequently exhibits her prints across the country. Tugboat prints are currently on view at the Staten Island Museum in New York City as part of the Field Notes exhibition, through February 23, 2020. Leuth also has a solo show at Bloom in West Virginia in November, 2019. Clover Blossoms and other prints are available on the Tugboat website and Etsy shop. Follow along with Lueth’s meticulously documented studio process on Instagram.

 

 



Design

A 3D-Printed Press Brings Printmaking to the People

April 10, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Last year, Martin Schneider rolled out the Open Press Project, which provided printing plans for the world’s first fully functional 3D-printed printmaking press, and was downloaded by more than 12,000 people. As a follow-up to that successful open-source endeavor, Schneider is offerings folks who don’t have their own 3-D-printing abilities the option to get a press through a new Kickstarter campaign. Traditionally, printing presses are prohibitively expensive and extremely heavy. Schneider has managed costs in part by shrinking the press down to a 5.7 by 2.95 inch printing area, but includes the usual steel roller and woven blanket found on a full-sized press. The cost of each petite press available through Open Press Project’s Kickstarter comes out to around $60. You can follow the project on Instagram, and download plans to use with your own 3D-printer on the Open Press Project website. (via Colossal Submissions)