A Portion of My Woodblock Print Collection

“Seven days of rhomboid pain makes one weak”. Source: Wikipedia

It’s been a crazy month for me: Spring Break (which was nice), then I blew out my shoulder from printing too much (I didn’t know I had rhomboid muscles… but after a week of intense pain, I sure do NOW!), and had an unrelated surgery from which I am now recouping with the help of some rather heavy meds. So, Dear Reader, I trust that I remain coherent…

Anyway, enough of that. Around 1993, before I mustered the courage to make woodblock prints, I collected them. It was great to see the prints in a reference book, but looking at the real thing has taught me a lot about color and printing techniques. As most of you know, woodblock prints are even more beautiful in the hand, the richness of the colors, embossing, and the details really come alive.

I believe these prints are first editions ranging from 1836 to 2003 and cover ukiyo-e > shin hanga > sosaku hanga movements >  the modern day. It’s admittedly heavy with Hiroshi Yoshida who’s  “My Main Man”. Don’t worry, Hasui- you’re cool too…

You KNOW dank memes are dead if Tanuki is using ’em.

So this is March’s entry. I hope the next article will have a bit more content- but until then, I do hope you enjoy the selection below.

Also, here is a link to Tanuki Print’s Pinterest Woodblock Image Encyclopedia.

ABOVE: Kawase Hasui, “Benten Shrine”, 1929 oban. I remember walking here south of Ueno Park.
ABOVE: Utagawa Kunisada “若菜姫 and 鳥山秋作 (Toriyama Akisaku and Princess Wakana)”, 1853 both oban. I was told that this looks like a typical marraige.
ABOVE: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, “Rainy moon – Kojima Takanori”, from the series One hundred Aspects of the Moon, 1889 oban. The wiped moon is really well done.
ABOVE: Published by Isetatsu “Cat School”, Yanaka, Tokyo oban. Research told me that this was wrapping paper???
ABOVE: Katsushika Hokusai “Mikiri no Fuji” from One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei),1834 chuban. Hokusai was a genius depicting Fuji in a myriad of ways.
ABOVE: Katsuyuki Nishijima, “Fuzuki: Tea House in July” 1998 ogata-chuban. We purchased this in Kyoto in 2002.
ABOVE: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, “Minamoto no Yorimitsu Attacking a Ground Spider” from the Thirty-six Ghosts series, 1889-1892 oban. Yoshitoshi was said to be a murderer and was locked up in an insane asylum.
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “Glipse of Ueno Park”, 1937 oban. This print required the most impressions of any of Hiroshi’s prints- a total of 100 colors!
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “Court of the Lions, Alhambra”, 1928 or 1955 koban. An exquisite print from Ben Blakeney’s memorial book.
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “Kameido Bridge”, 1927 oban. Horizontal baren suji in the water is a really nice touch.
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “Plum Gateway”, 1935 oban. Love the subdued colors.
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “In a Temple Yard”, 1935 oban. Anyone else find the proportions a bit strange?
ABOVE: Hiroshi Yoshida, “Himeji Castle”, 1928 oban. Evening version.
ABOVE: Toshi Yoshida, “Pagoda in Kyoto”, 1942 chuban. Delicate sky.
ABOVE: Toshi Yoshida, “Pine of the Friendly Garden” 1980 naga-ban. There is actually a third print missing for my set.
ABOVE: Toshi Yoshida, “Bamboo of the Friendly Garden” 1980 naga-ban. I think that there is a missing plum tree to the right.
ABOVE: Toshi Yoshida, “Myoko Hot Spring” 1955 oban. The orange sky really works IMO.
ABOVE: Kawase Hasui, “Lake Kugushi”, 1920 oban. From the from the series “Souvenirs of Travel”- a REALLY rare pre-Kanto earthquake print.
ABOVE: Katsuyuki Nishijima, “Asahi (the Morning Sun)”, 1999 slightly over-sized oban. I love the highlighted clouds.
ABOVE: Shoson (Kozon), “Wild Geese”, 1926 oban.
ABOVE: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, “Ishiyama Moon”, 1889 oban. Another from his 100 Moons series.
ABOVE: Kiyoshi Saito, “Temple Gate”, 1955 oban. A lotta gomazuri.
ABOVE: Paul Binnie, “Torii at Miyajima” 2003 slightly over-sized oban. I got this print from Paul himself- nice guy!
ABOVE: Gekko, “Calligraphy Performance at Flower Mountain”, 1897 oban. My wife is a calligrapher, so it hangs near her desk.
ABOVE: Kiyotada Torii, “Uwanari” From Kabuki’s 18 Famous Plays, 1896 oban. I like the scary hannya above and the fearless-looking guy below.

Oh, and in case you were wondering- here’s a listing of Japanese woodblock print sizes:

A Very Tanuki Christmas!

So, some of you know about tanuki statues– (here’s a brief description)- you see them in front of Japanese restaurants and bars. They’re kinda gimmicky in a charming way.

I have a friend that I’ve known for over 30 years who traded me this fellow. He’s had it since he was stationed in Japan during the mid-60s and (as far as I can tell) is stoneware from Shigaraki (ESE from Kyoto).

I think this one’s a relatively handsome example (about 19″ tall) and not quite as ‘pie-eyed’ and cutesy as some touristy tanuki statues (there are female ones, anime ones, hello kitty ones, etc.).

I hope that he (obviously) will bestow luck upon his new namesake business.

Tanuki Printing: My Set-up/Hovel

printingareaSMALL
1. blocks 2. water and misc. brushes 3.printing brushes (maru bake) 4. pigment storage 5. more blocks 6. pigment pots 7. barens 8. carving tools 9. bamboo skins takenokawa.
Not shown: sharkskin, washi, print drying press

I have very limited space to print as you can see. It’s doubles as my office at the university and is a mess most of the time. I hope that someday soon, I can locate to a studio where I am not falling over stuff- or stuff falling on top of me.

As you can see, I have pretty much all I need except space and time… I am presently building a forced-air print drying press (from a conversation I had in Hawaii with the gracious Paul Binnie)- details to come on that [UPDATE: here is the print dryer post]…

Tanuki Senjafudas!


I’ve always loved senjafuda. Senjafuda (in Japanese- literally “thousand shrine cards”) are taken by travelers and pilgrims where they are pasted on rafters and posts. They don’t look as junky as you might expect- much better than graffiti IMO.

Making and collecting senjafuda (some are quite spectacular) is very popular thing to do in Japan. As an artist, they’re very convenient to make- you have some left-over wood? Perfect. Some extra paper scraps? A piece here a piece there, and voilà!

I plan to use this as a demonstration and simple print for my printmaking students to start mokuhanga. The idea is to print around 200 (this test batch is only 14) to bring and give away at my IMC2017 Mokuhanga Conference talk at the University of Hawaii in late Sept. Shhh! it’s a secret surprise…

Technically, it’s obviously a 3-color print- actually 5 impressions as the red and black are over-printed. I took a hint from Mokuhankan’s print parties in Asakusa and printed the black keyblock last- that keeps the lighters colors clean! Normally, the black keyblock is printed first, but sometimes the black bleeds into the later lighter colored blocks resulting in a dingy mess.

As Thomas Edison said: “There are no rules here- we’re trying to get things done”.

Incidentally, I’m using ‘black hole’ sumi or sumi no kaori (literally “scent of carbon”?)- anyway it’s velvety-smooth-nano-vanta-fiber-crow-in-a-coalmine-event-horizon bahahalackkkk! If you’re interested in buying this glorious stuff, the only place I could find is a calligraphy shop in France of all places. See: Comptoir de Secritures

Tanuki Prints sighting- à Paris!

World-traveler
I received something wonderfully unexpected- apparently, our intrepid mascot is a world traveller. A past art student of mine, Caroline Welsch carried a Tanuki Prints sticker to Paris on her trip and was nice enough to position him, well, you know where this is.

Tanuki is good luck, that is, if you have a drink with him, Caroline!

FYI, for every print purchased, you’ll receive a Tanuki Prints sticker- I’d love to see him travel from each and every corner of the globe!

I know he’ll be in Japan come May.

For more interesting facts about the actual and mythical Tanuki, or the Japanese racoon-dog, click here