Welcome to Masaaki Saiga's prints and Baren website

Herein is an overview of my Japanese style woodblock prints along with discussion on techniques and tools I use to create the prints.
Hanga is the Japanese word used for these type of Japanese woodblock prints.
Although I create both monochrome and multi color hanga, initially the focus of discussion will be on my monochrome black and white prints.

Example of my woodblock prints can be viewed by selecting from the menu above. Most of them has the date when I carved the blocks used to print the hanga. As one can see, the style of these prints changed over time as my techniques evolved.
In multicolor woodblock printing it is easy to produce intermediate colors and shadows by overlapping colors. However monochrome black and white hanga only involves carving a single block and therefore it is inherently difficult to express intermediate brightness of shadows for instance.
However over time I've discovered techniques that I now use that overcome some of the inherent challenges of the black and white hanga medium.
Creation of a hanga block involves drawing and transferring the underlying picture to the block by use of tracing paper. During the process the image gets reversed from the left and right when I transfer the inverted picture to the wood using carbon paper. I then carve the block with various wood sculpture knives and chisels along the pattern.
Creation of monochrome hanga is similar to letterpress printing; you have to carve and cut away all the areas that you want to show in white and the part which was not curvered will remain in black.
In order to express things like sky and water, texture of wood, stones and buildings to give texture and blurring, I use the technique of blur carving. Blur carving is a technique of engraving the surface of a woodblock to only a depth of 0.1 to 0.5 mm. Such carving results in moderate blackness that varies with the degree of depth therby delivering subtle shades depending on the carving depth and carving method.
I use a roller to spread black ink evenly then put Japanese paper "washi" on it and scrub it off with a traditional rubing pad that in Japanese is called a baren.
The firmness of the face of baren also greatly affects the result of the work. Therefore I construct my own baren out of bamboo leaves using a traditional method which is both rigorous and time consuming.

I hope you enjoy my hanga prints and cursory explanation as to techniques employed in their creation. I welcome your comments and any questions you may have.
My email address is : editor@maxsaiga.com