Why a blockprint?

Posted on July 09, 2014 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

Which one do you like better? (Don’t worry; it’s NOT a test!!)

Peace Lanterns 300dpi

I just finished making a new block print “Peace Lanterns”.  (The image above on the left is the new block print and the one on the right is my quick watercolor sketch.) It’s a scene of the lantern-floating ceremony “From Hiroshima to Hope” that is held annually near Seattle on August 6th. The event advocates world peace and opposes warfares and violence. It also commemorates the lives that were lost by the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Please view http://vimeo.com/16567779 for a great short clip of this event.)

Our family attended this event last year. My then-six-year-old daughter is usually shy, but on the night of the “From Hiroshima to Hope” event last year, she was ready to volunteer. She jumped into the lake water and helped hundreds of participants float their paper lanterns. I was also inspired by this beautiful gathering and so when I got home, I created a few watercolors.


Then I decided to turn one of the watercolors into a blockprint. As I worked on this print, I kept having a question: Why do I make a block print of watercolors? Obviously this is how we block printers often work. While carving away the linoleum (fun, but laborious process), the same question kept coming back: Why do I make prints from watercolors?

Hiroshima carving

It took me weeks (besides other things I’m trying to get done daily) to carve this linoleum block. Then it took another few weeks for me to work on color separations, make polymer color blocks for all the colors, and prepare the proof copies before my assistant and I were able to begin printing 180 copies of the print.

But then my sense of doubt was all erased when we began printing.  As my children like to say, printing is like magic! It’s when all the details and layers become fused into a cohesive whole. And the process of printing is so tactile and full of visual rewards. Every layer of colors adds depth and nuance to the print. Here (below) you can see how the print looks after the first six colors being printed.


Plus with the block print, the colors are more definitive than watercolors. The shapes and lines become simplified and cleaner. And the composition is more refined.

When I finished printing the last color and saw the completed blockprint, I felt a sense of relief. For the last two months while I was working on this new print, I felt as though I’d been swimming under water, holding my breath, thinking and imagining how all these blocks and colors come together to make one print.

Below you can see another example of this transformation from a pencil sketch, watercolor, and to a block print, made by Walter Phillips, a well-known Canadian block print artist and watercolorist.

Phillips sketch 

 Phillips blockprint

For my “Peace Lantern” print, I ended up using 14 blocks. We used 100% cotton Rives BFK paper, mold-made in France. Fifty copies (numbered from 1 through 50) have been donated to “Hiroshima to Hope” event organizers to raise funds for their annual event. To find out more about this print, please visit our website http://www.artsandcraftspress.com/BigPicture.asp?catalogid=462. And to find out more about the “Hiroshima” event, please visit http://fromhiroshimatohope.org.

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