Japanese Printmaking

In this unit, students will explore Japanese printmaking during the 1600-the 1800s. Ukiyo-e (yoo-kee-oh-ey) “pictures of the floating world” were prints created in the 19th century in Japan. Celebrated for their one-of-a-kind process and distinctive aesthetic, woodblock prints have become a widely recognized and iconic form of Japanese art. Along with paintings, prints produced from the 17th century through the 19th century captured the spirit of ukiyo-e, a genre that presented “pictures of the floating world” to the public. -Source https://mymodernmet.com/ukiyo-e-japanese-woodblock-prints/

What is Ukiyo-e
Link to Printmaking History
Video on Printmaking Technique

Step 1: History of Ukiyo-e Printmaking

Students will access the Scholastic Art Magazine link for step 1 in google classroom (located under unit 6)

Step 2: Negative and Positive Shapes

Notan: the Japanese principle of balance “light dark harmony.” Students will use this design principle to better understand positive and negative shapes as well as balance.

In your sketchbook, students will practice creating a positive and negative shape reversals.

We will use the Activity from Notan by Bothwell and Mayfield.

What Is Notan?

Artists use many ideas in their work. When they create images, they often think about composition, or where to place elements on their canvas. Some artists might be inspired by an idea from Japanese art focused on elements of light and dark. It’s a concept called notan.

Notan is a term that refers to the Japanese idea of balanced light and dark areas in a composition. One of the most familiar symbols illustrating this concept is the circular yin and yang form from Eastern philosophy. Perhaps you’ve seen it before, the round image with interconnected teardrop-like shapes, one white and one black.

Yin and yang symbol

Notan is essentially the idea that the elements of dark and light are equally important and need each other to exist. You can’t have negative space without positive space, and vice versa.

Notan is an idea that’s been integral to Japanese art for centuries. You can find examples of pleasing compositions using the idea of notan in the works of many famous Japanese artists. This includes painters like Kano Sansetsu, who created an image across several large screens, called Old Plum, completed in 1646. Check out the image of Old Plum appearing here and look carefully at the dark shapes of land and wizened tree, and you’ll see how they balance with the negative space (or the light areas) around them. Sansetsu placed dark and light elements to create a pleasing, harmonious composition.

Source from study.com written by Stephanie Przybylek. accessed on 2/20/21 https://study.com/academy/lesson/japanese-notan-artists-history-designs.html

Step 3: Analyzing Artwork

Woodblock print by Masao Ido 1945-2016 Title: Garden in the Winter.

Looking at the artwork above, fill out the art criticism form on the right.

Step 4: Designing Linoleum Print

In your sketchbook, students will create a drawing based on something from natural. It can be an animal, plant, food, or close-up landscape. Using the Japanese printmakers as your reference, look for 2-3 photographs online that is a nature based subjects. This can be a piece of fruit and a flower or a jellyfish and bird.

Step 5: Creating your printing plate

Before marking or carving your plate please read the tips below.

(For both Styrofoam and Linoleum)

  • Words need to be written backwards on the plate to appear in correctly on the paper print.
  • Think about positive and negative shapes, not in lines.
  • Only apply ink when you are ready to make prints. Don’t waste the ink, it dries out quickly and can make the print look washed out.
  • The ink is water-soluble, but still, be careful with where you place your used materials and wet plates.

Step 6: Writing an Artist Statement

Bonus Art History