This is my first ever wood print. I visited the V&A to look at woodblock printing and when I went to the Japanese collection, I was inspired by the red and black lacquer work there and Katsushika Hokusai's design of people on a bridge in a sudden shower. I like how he designed the slanting rain and the way the people seem to become their parasols/umbrellas. The umbrella creates a mini world around each pedestrian and using an umbrella in a crowded street is a way of creating a haven in which strangers are kept at arm's length. I chose the colours to fit with the Japanese influence. It took three weeks to make the two wood cuts, and print first the red and then the black parts of the picture. To create the softer red road, I printed the umbrellas first and then used a mask and created a 'ghost' print of the road. This took a bit of planning - it is quite restrictive only having two colours and white. The most enjoyable thing to carve was the rain, which I created freely carving straight onto the wood.
The revelation in class was the way the ink can be manipulated to create a less dense print and let the wood grain show through. I assumed the ink would be thinned using a medium, but in fact it is simply rolled out less thickly. You know when it is the right thickness, because it sounds like bacon sizzling in a pan!
Both Banks of the Sumida River in One View
ca. 1803 (made)
Katsushika Hokusai, born 1760 - died 1849 (designer)
Printed in colour from wood blocks, on paper. Japanese 4 hole side sewn binding
V&A collection reference number(s):