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Tom Kristensen, born 1962, is a passionate ukiyo-e collector and printmaker from Australia who works in typically Japanese 'sosaku hanga' style: self-carved and self-printed with natural Japanese pigments on hand-made washi paper.
In this essay Tom Kristensen describes how he developed from an avid collector to a skilled and successful printmaker. A handbook about printmaking by Tomikichiro Tokuriki from 1968 and the resources of the internet played a pivotal role on Tom's way to become a woodblock printmaker.
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"Woodblock prints have always been affordable and even today the finest work can be acquired by the ordinary collector. The avid collector will travel the globe to inspect collections, to attend fairs, and to search the drawers of little shops in the backstreets of Tokyo. For the new collector, the internet offers many shortcuts. Perhaps the most direct way to acquire a nice print is to make it yourself."
"Buying prints online is all too easy.� By visiting the various online print galleries, one can see enough prints to develop a taste for a particular style. Explore your interest."
"Secondhand books are easy to find on the net and are the best way to learn. Search the net for articles and learn more. Study the prints, as many as possible. Keep an eye on the prices at the various print auction sites.� Put on a bid and enjoy the excitement of taking part in an auction. One print will lead to another, a new interest, a deeper appreciation, and in no time at all, the collector will be checking the web daily for new developments. There are discussion groups and friendly people willing to correspond. The busy online commerce in prints means that there is always something new to learn."
"If I should describe my collection, I would say it is wide ranging but modest. I have preferred to buy affordable prints rather than highly priced work. I started by collecting late Ukiyo-e, and this soon led to the Meiji era, Shin Hanga, Sosaku Hanga, and now I find myself buying Modern Chinese prints. Along the way I have enjoyed many fascinating styles and subjects: I have prints of wrestlers and restaurants; I have scenes of horror and of heroes; charming portraits of animals and vegetables; many actor prints; many scenes of Prince Genji, but by far the greatest in number are landscapes."
"One small handbook, titled Japanese Printmaking, changed my way of thinking. Written by Tomikochiro Tokuriki (1902-1999) in 1968, it describes the simplicity of making prints. Tokuriki produced beautiful landscapes in Shin Hanga style for Unsodo in his early life, but he was more of a believer in Sosaku Hanga; creative prints. For me his "do it yourself" message was irresistible."
"The avid Hanga artist will study under a master to learn the skills. This path has been open to Westerners for over 100 years and there is a large body of work produced this way, from Paul Jacoulet to Paul Binnie. There are also good books.�Hiroshi Yoshida describes the discipline required to produce good prints in his comprehensive book Japanese Woodblock Printing (1939)."
"The difficulties of small practical problems are explored in Oliver Statler's book Modern Japanese Prints (1956).�Sempan Maekawa describes ten years spent re-discovering techniques that could have been taught in a few hours.�In the Western literature most books on relief printmaking give a broad outline of the Japanese process, but not enough of the detail."
"For those unable to relocate to Japan there are several internet sites offering advice to eager new hanga makers. Barenforum.org is a large group of woodblock printmakers who communicate via the internet. Questions can be answered overnight. There is a huge encyclopaedia of techniques and a library of books. An archive of past discussions will draw a number of informed opinions on almost every practical issue. Just as useful is the range of tools and materials available online from suppliers in Japan."
"So, if you have the urge to adventure into woodblock printmaking, I would encourage you to give it a go. It is possible to learn enough technique to keep you happily printing without leaving home. The postman still delivers prints from faraway lands, but he also brings beautiful empty sheets of washi."
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