Japanese Woodblock Print

Activities hideme

Activity Ideas

1. Figures in Action: make a relief print

Ask the children to imagine in 'slow motion' the act of falling, sprinting from a start line or dancing. Put the children in pairs. Ask one of each pair to make some 'statues' or poses that describe the sequence of an action and ask the other to record the poses as outline drawings in their sketchbooks. Then swap roles.


Ask the class to take a good look at the Japanese woodblock print to see how the artist has locked the figures together in action. Discuss the ways in which visual effects can be used to show movement such as: overlapping lines and shapes, blurring the edge of a distinct shape, using flowing lines.  What appears to be happening in the picture? How are line,shape and colour used to express the idea of movement? Ask the children to record techniques in their sketchbooks.


Go back to your sketches and choose two or three that you could put together to make a composition. If the drawings were done on tracing paper you could layer them together. Use print making, eg making a relief surface using shapes of card and string glued to a firm surface, and then inking the card and pressing it onto paper.

This activity is adapted from KS2 Unit 6A People in Action



2. Faces, Expressions Feelings

Discuss the work of artists who have portrayed strong facial expressions related to figures engaged in dynamic physical activities. Discuss how this work is successful. Ask the children to record faces and expressions in their sketchbooks. 

Encourage them to notice differences in expressions. Ask the children to apply colour to their drawings to experiment with colours associated with feelings. Look at the Japanese woodblock print, this time paying particular attention to the expressions on the faces.

3. Design and print a two-colour pattern

Look for shapes and patterns in the Japanese Woodcut. Ask the children to identify the ways the patterns are made, eg how shapes overlap, repeat. Encourage the children to use their knowledge and understanding of mathematics to create different patterns, eg rotate, reflect.

Cut out multiple copies of a simple paper shape and then arrange the shape in different patterns, using a grid to ensure the pattern they make is repeated regularly. Ask the children to cut out a second shape, thinking about its relationship to the first shape. Will it be a similar shape but larger or smaller? Will it be a contrasting shape, size and colour? How will it be positioned in relation to the first shape? Will it overlap, be set inside or fit a space in between?

Make a paper stencil of one of their shapes and a simple block for printing their second shape.  Then make a two-colour pattern on paper or fabric. First print a stencilled pattern with one shape and then overlay the second shape (the block print) onto the first. Encourage the children to choose a colour for the block print that will work well with the first colour, eg strong contrast, shade or tint of the same colour. Encourage them to overlap and arrange shapes to make patterns.


Ask the children to identify and compare the different patterns they made in their work, using the vocabulary they learnt. Which shapes are symmetrical? Which patterns use rotation? Which use reflection? Which patterns make effective use of the printing techniques? Why do you think this?

Document icon Learning article provided by: Cartwright Hall Art Gallery | 
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