hosho paper


This handmade paper from Japan has been a staple in the fine art printmaking world seemingly forever.

Hosho is one of the “treasured” handmade papers being manufactured in Japan. That said, due to the ever-changing handmade papermaking craft in Japan there are several different qualities of this grade being produced and their quality with regard to fiber composition and surface texture will differ depending on the maker. We’ve been using the same papermaker for decades so we can ensure the quality of our hosho.

This wonderful paper, although a sulphite sheet, is still quite strong. The Hosho “student” quality has a bit more texture than the Hosho “professional” quality which is noticeably smoother with a less fibrous feel.

Both the “student” and the “professional” qualities do overlap with regard to their application, both being suitable for printmaking and archival restoration. The lack of sizing without compromising overall surface strength make both these papers perfect for etching, hand lithography and woodblock printing.

Conservators find both qualities to be excellent for backing and hinging fine art in the framing process.


Japanese Wood-block Printing, Hiroshi Yoshida


The paper constitutes an important part of the print. It is always used sized. There are two main kinds that we use: hosho and torinoko (hodomura). The best hosho, invariably with rough edges called mimi-tsuki, comes from Otaki in Fukui Prefecture. The place has an old tradition. Hosho is made from the bark of kozo (paper mulberry). There is a part, perhaps on the inside of the bark, which is of a darker colour and remains in the finished paper. The paper cannot free itself from these dark particles. Even the best of hosho contains them, only in less degree. But if bleaching is attempted with chemicals the quality of the hosho will deteriorate. Hosho is best suited for prints; so much so that hardly anything else has been used in Japan for this purpose from early times. It has excellent qualities; it is comparatively free from shrinkage and expansion. It is soft, yet strong, thus allowing the pigments to be driven into it, and enabling the artist to rub it many times without damaging it.

The fibre is longer than that in gampi; thus the paper has the fibre well arranged lengthwise. The one flaw in the fibre, the discoloured part, may happen to come in the face of the figure printed. In that case the print may be depreciated in value, but it cannot be helped; the paper must. be used as it comes.

In making the paper, the material in its fluid form is kept in a tank, out of which the necessary amount for making a sheet of paper is dipped into a frame receptacle. This receptacle is rocked backward and forward across the width of the receptacle. Thus the fibre runs crosswise of the paper. This sheet of paper is cut into halves for an ordinary sized print. So the fibre runs lengthwise in ordinary sized paper known as minoban (14 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.). The fibre of the paper runs in the same direction as the grain of the wood in the block, and the baren is used in the same general direction, being moved in the direction of the fibre of the bamboo-sheath with which it is covered.

Torinoko is made mainly from the bark of gampi (Wikstroemia) or of mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) and is too hard for ordinary prints. In order to make it suitable for prints foreign matter must be mixed with it. Sometimes wood pulp is added. The result is not quite satisfactory, because pulp remains flattened when once pressed; it does not resume its original condition as hosho does. Sometimes particles of “Manila” (fragments of ships’ rigging) are mixed to give the necessary softness.

The pigment does not sink as much into torinoko as it does into hosho, as may be ascertained by scratching the surface. The print looks even better on torinoko than on hosho immediately after the printing. But the colour on hosho improves with time, while that on torinoko remains the same.

Torinoko comes in a larger size than hosho; so it is useful for large blocks. It is widely used for etchings, and can be obtained in various thicknesses. Torinoko of medium thickness is used for the colour plates inserted in this book.

Masa, hosokawa and takenaga are kinds of hosho, only cheaper. Minogami is thin.

Foreign paper is not suitable for our purpose. Kent is smooth but too hard and the pigment cannot be driven into it. Whatman paper is rough and the pigment does not stick to the paper uniformly. It is also too hard, and the rough surface cannot be made smooth with the baren. Since these papers are too hard, when the pigment is pressed, it spreads on the surface instead of sinking into the paper. Cheap paper, such as “cotton,” may be mentioned as an exception.

Foreign paper shrinks and expands very greatly with moisture. In Japan extra caution is necessary during the tsuyu (wet season), which generally comes in June. It is at that time that bad spots occur on the prints. Spots generally come when the dosa gets spoiled. Even Whatman is affected by a similar trouble in Japan; paper so affected is said by Japanese artists to have “caught cold.”

Mimi-tsuki (paper with uncut edges) is generally characterized as good paper; the natural edges are preserved for beauty. Cheaper ones have their edges trimmed.

Silk mounted on paper has been tried, but found unsatisfactory. The pigment does not sink into it; it goes in between the warp and weft, and not into the silk itself. Silk has a sheen of its own even with pigment applied and this prevents the sheen of the colour from showing to advantage. Somehow colour does not look well on silk.


It has been said that the pigments used in the Edo regime were better than ours and that some of them are no longer obtainable. This is not so, according to my judgment; it is the way the pigments were used that produced the excellent colours found in the prints of the Edo Period.

Generally speaking, powder pigments have been found satisfactory. The transparent ones are the best. The body colours are also used, though they are not so good, because not all the colours are obtainable in transparent or semi-transparent form. The body colour may be used first and the transparent one on top of it in order to obtain satisfactory results.

Mineral pigments are not good for our purpose, for they do not sink into the paper.

Some powders are readily soluble in water, but others take a long time. Some do not dissolve in water; in this case use alcohol and then add water. Glycerine is used in water-colour painting and oil is mixed in oil painting, but in prints the pigments must be used pure, though mixed with paste on the block.

Printing ink is far from being good, except for kyogo. It contains oil and some kind of dryer and when it dries the colour becomes less beautiful. Furthermore, the oil spreads over the paper, discolouring it. For the purpose of thinning the colour, white may be added to the pigment. This too has a tendency to minimize the beauty of the colour.

Some young print-artists use oil paints in their work. It is easier to print with oil colour, for it does not easily dry up, and one can manipulate it on the block before printing. But the oil blurs on the paper, and though this can be remedied by benzine the colour loses the moistened effect of oil.

Dye, being a chemical compound, is undesirable. The colour may be attractive at first, but it penetrates the paper and has a tendency to disappear finally. The ordinary pigment can be pressed into the paper in printing to about half the thickness, but dye penetrates to the underside, and only a little remains on the surface.

When powdered water-colour pigments are used on prints the colour effects improve with time. They improve not in the manner often described in speaking of the old prints, viz., the improvement of colour harmony which comes from the fading or disappearance of undesirable tints. Here the mellowness, or the brightness of the colour, seems to be emphasized mainly by the disappearance of dosa from the paper.

The pigments that have been found to be the best from experience in painting are also good on prints. However, one observation may be made regarding the treatment of the pigment. It is necessary to use the pigment on wet paper, and to keep it from being exposed to the air for several days during the process of printing. Sometimes the colour may grow musty from the heat in the wet season, or the colour may be “eaten” up by rotting dosa, causing spots. Certain colours are affected in this way. Some pigments, therefore, should be used only at the last stage, just before the prints are to be dried.

Ki-wo, seki-wo (yellow) is obtained from sulphur and arsenic, and it is opaque, and so when printed over another colour it obliterates the other colour. It often shows spots of burn. These spots are the result of chemical action on the pigment of the oil transmitted from the back of the paper by the baren.

Shi-wo (gamboge) is a sort of pitch from tree-bark and is poisonous. It has a tendency to burn. Because of this, I refrain from using it.

Airo (indigo) is better than the blue that comes from India. The latter is too dark, but the former is clear with an element of brightness. This was the pigment used in the Edo Period, and it is still to be had in Japan. It comes in paste form, made by boiling old rags originally dyed with indigo.

Beni (pink) taken from flowers, is very effective when used for flowers, though very difficult to use. It should first be dissolved in the juice of half dried ume (Japanese plum). But the colour so obtained is not certain, for it sometimes changes its tint or fades.

Madder – pink madder, rose madder, or deep madder – of foreign importation may be used as substitute.

Shu, Chinese vermilion, is excellent. It contains quicksilver.

Benigara is rather poor. It is made of ryoku-ban, sulphate of iron.

Taisha (red ochre) is good.

Tan red is made from lead, shoseki (saltpeter) and sulphur; the tone changes slightly afterward. It first has a yellowish tint which changes to a brown.

Zumi, taken from tree bark, is brownish-yellow first and deepens afterward, but remains transparent.

Ukon is a pleasing saffron, but is no longer used; it fades too much.

Kuchinashi, yellow from Gardenia florida, seems to have been used, but is seldom used now. Good yellow is difficult to obtain.

Sumi (black) and gofun (white), secured in Japan, are both good. White is often mixed into, the body colour. This gives the effect of having been printed many times over. But by mixing white with it a colour becomes opaque, even if a transparent colour is used. Black made from lampsoot or soot gathered from the smoke of fresh pine-needles has been used from ancient times in Japan as well as in China.

There are many foreign pigments in use, such as vermilion, carmine, light red (like taisha), cobalt, ultramarine, indigo, cadmium (pale, medium, etc.), viridian, all of which may be used. And in addition there are other pigments which artists may wish to try.

For deep brown, sepia, umber, sienna, etc. are used and generally with good results. These pigments may be mixed and used on prints without decreasing their value.

Different countries produce excellent pigments peculiar to themselves: blue from Persia, red from China, black and white from Japan, carmine from South America, etc. Someone told me in India that good yellow might be obtained from a cow after feeding her with mango-tree leaves. I have not been able to obtain such colour.

Constant care is necessary in trying to get rid of any blemish from the colours used. Whenever any undesirable symptoms are discovered, I have always tried to find the real cause by suitable experiments so as to avoid the repetition of these failures.


Paste is made from rice flour. Fine rice flour is kept in water over night, and with a suitable amount of water it is heated over a slow fire; it needs continuous stirring until it begins to boil. When cooked it finally turns translucent, but just before it turns entirely translucent, while there still remain some whitish parts, it should be taken off the fire. That is the stage in which the starch paste is the strongest. When it becomes too thick it can be diluted with water to a suitable consistency just before using. It should be sufficiently fluid so that it can be poured into another vessel, and when an amount less than the tip of the thumb will adhere to the end of a stick.

For printing a mino size (14 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.) block in tsubushi the amount of paste required will be less in volume than an inch of an ordinary cigarette.

Paste has a tendency to contract the paper, and it is best not to use too much of it. Rather it should be used in small quantity each time the impression is made. If on the one hand, a strong adherence of pigment is not required, only a tiny bit of it will be sufficient.

The starch paste gives a thickness to the pigment which will force it into paper when pressed in printing. It also helps in printing, for the paper sticks to the block better, thus keeping it secure on the block when the back of the paper is rubbed with the baren in printing.

When paste is mixed with pigment, the print shows a clear, uniform, deep colouring. Without it, the colour on the print is likely to give a porous effect, a dry, granular texture, known as goma (sesame). As long as the colour in the brush is sufficient, the starch paste is not added. It is added only when fresh pigment is put on the brush or on the block.

Sizing (Dosa)

In summer thick sizing is necessary, but in winter thinner sizing is sufficient. Dosa is prepared by boiling glue and alum in water in the following proportion: glue about thirty-three ounces and alum about fourteen ounces, boiled in about four gallons of water. This is the proportion for preparing the standard dosa for the top side of the hosho paper.

This dosa is spread over the top side of the paper with a broad hake, or Japanese brush, and is dried by hanging it on a line. When the paper is dried, the underside of it is treated in the same way. The sizing on the underside may have to be thinner or thicker, according to the condition of the paper after applying dosa to the top side, and also according to the particular requirement at the time; that is, the paper should be strengthened with thick dosa, if a great number of printings have to be made on it. The sizing on the top side is to allow the pigments to stick to the paper uniformly; that on the back is to protect the surface and facilitate the rubbing by the baren. So if the work of the baren is to be repeated very many times, resizing may be required before the printing is finished. Fine days should be chosen for applying dosa to the hosho paper; rainy days should be avoided. It is impossible to print on hosho without dosa. The paper sticks to the block, and the baren will not move smoothly on the back, but will damage the paper.

When it is necessary to apply dosa again on account of repeated printings the print must be first dried, then the dosa put on, and the print allowed to dry before moistening it to make it ready for the printing.

Fusuma, a kind of torinoko paper, contains something that acts like dosa. But if fine work is to be done, dosa should, be applied, but diluted about four times; that is, add four parts of water to one of dosa prepared as described above.

There is great difficulty experienced in applying dosa evenly on the paper. The same dosa may be applied to a set of papers, but according to the speed used in drawing the brush across the paper, a great difference will be shown in the result.

Chinese Painting Brushes and Rice Paper, function of sizing in painting technique.

image selection tool

The purpose of this tool is to facilitate the selection and presentation of sets and subsets of images.

I put this together because I wanted a way to access drawings to use for reference when making new work. It might just as well be used in making a presentation to a client, or audience. It uses standard HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and so has the advantage of being portable in that it will run in any web browser.

On open, the page displays images that then may be selected by mouse click and then enlarged by pressing the keyboard Enter key. The images will scale-up to best accommodate the number of images selected and the width of the browser window. Use the F11 key to view fullscreen, and F5 to refresh the page and return to the opening state. Sample page.

image sample a, 1 x 1.25Images are scaled to fit the browser window. A percentage of the window width is allocated for the display of images, and divided by the number of images selected to determine their widths. The width is multiplied by 1.25 to set the height. To display correctly your images must be prepared with an aspect ratio of 1:1.25. With the browser open to the full width of your monitor screen, the single image display will be at maximum size and guide you in setting your template file to full resolution. Images must be placed within an “images” folder at the same level as the .html file, and named “1.jpg, 2.jpg . . . 18.jpg”. The download includes a Photoshop .psd template file and a folder with placeholder .jpg files. Ideally, I would have liked to be able to load files directly from a directory folder, but for security reasons Javascript cannot access local file information.

Portrait mode best fits my needs, and so I’ve put this first version together with that in mind. If there were interest, I would put together a landscape version as well. Future versions might include an option to load additional sets of images, controls for use on mobile, etc. The .zip file includes the .html page, a copy of jquery-3.3.1.min.js, the .psd template, and “images” folder with .jpg files. I offer this as is, without warranty. Feel free to use or change to suit your needs. If you have thoughts about how this might be improved, I’d be happy to hear your ideas.

Download here image selection tool v1.zip

working in the woods

I began last summer to work in clay, reasoning that it would be easier to manipulate and change than the wood I was working with, and while I took away useful lessons in how the clay could be used, the studio situation I found was not going to work for me. I went back to working directly with the wood I was cutting in the forest. A good deal of time went into figuring out what needed to be done to control wood, to prevent checking, splitting and warping, through drying and then sealing the wood in preparation for taking paint, stains and other finishes. I also began to experiment with other approaches to finishing the surfaces, by bleaching and also burning.

It seemed one way to color the wood was to char the surface with flame. My experience in making charcoal no doubt sparked the idea, and research revealed techniques that have been used in Japan, Shou Sugi Ban, a way of charring wood used in buildings, and in the United States, by wood carvers, to add decorative elements to bowls and other forms. The wood bleaches I used result in a coloring very close to white. The bleach would not affect areas that had been charred, resulting in black and white design that is intrinsic to the material.

Drying the wood quickly was accomplished using a wood kiln. This consisted of a cabinet I built from an old chest of drawers, with insulation added and doors that would seal fairly tightly. A heat source, a light bulb, and a small dehumidifier keep the moisture content of the air within the kiln low accelerated a drying process that otherwise might have taken months into a week or so, depending on the volume of the wood. I monitored the progress with a humidity meter, and when the level had stabilized over a period of a couple of days, the wood was dry and ready to work.

Finding the right materials to seal, stain, and prime the wood for additional finishes is a work in progress. A series of layers of shellac, Golden fluid matte medium, Keda water-based stains and Transtint alcohol-based stains, and Crystalac clear wood grain filler are the materials I have settled on after much experimentation. Wood is naturally hygroscopic, and the shellac reduces the absorption of moisture in the air and so prevents movement of the wood, and the matte medium both the leaching of tannins from the wood to the surface, and bleeding of medium from finishes into the wood. Different combinations of these materials for different finishes have to be considered, but those mentioned here result in a surface that retains the natural look of the wood, which is what I was looking for.

My thinking about these works has been changed by the situation I am working in. I have been looking at and to natural forms around me, and considering how these can be pulled into or used to develop ideas I have for the work. Photography and digital manipulation of imagery selected for that use is an important part of the process I am involved in, and a way drawing out ideas. Today I collected stones from the woods, and arranged and photographed them in different patterns, and will work with those in Photoshop. I have been photographing sticks, as a source of line, and cutting larger branches to serve as “rulers” for the same purpose. As always, the process of making the work is the source of the work, and so I think about ways I can invent process that will present new ideas.

wood, paper, clay

Out yesterday cutting wood slabs. A lot of work goes into getting one of these ready, so having more of a plan when beginning to cut makes sense. Thought I could make drawings on paper, but doing the work in one shot does not seem to be how it is happening. I make the cuts, then look, photo, and bring into Photoshop to make edits. These edits then can be taken back to the work… recut, assemble.

So drawings… preliminary, in order to get a better sense of where I want to go. Ink drawings on paper can also be cut and rearranged. Or clay, which can be cut into, patched and recut, and is more in accord with the process in working with the wood.

wood support for painting

Continuing to work cutting into slabs of wood from tree trunks and branches. Rather than just as blocks for printing, I am beginning to use them as supports for paintings. First drawing into the wood with a chainsaw, and reworking as needed with other tools for surface and detail. Photographing the work at various stages and experimenting with various reconfigurations of the image in Photoshop is an important part of my process.

cutting wood blocks for printing

I have been collecting leaves, bark, and other materials in the woods here and thinking about how I may use them in making drawings, prints, and paintings. The process at this point is to work up a sketch from scanned material, use that to determine the relative size of a wood block, settle on the dimensions for the work, find the raw material that will fit the requirements, here, a section of an old tree trunk, and print out a guide for the image and cut the block. Every source material winds up having to be handled differently in the cutting, the tools that work well with one piece of wood may not be what will work with another.


wood blocks

I have been cutting wood blocks out of an old tree stump to use for printing on rice paper. I eyeballed all of the blocks as I made the initial cuts with the chain saw, happy to live with the drawing and marks that resulted from the process. In the first prints I made it was clear that the proportions of printing surface to open space was wrong, and the images surprisingly smaller than the appearance of the blocks suggested. So I have been fixing the blocks by cutting them apart, removing what would be white space, and reassembling.

wood blocks for printing

drawing tool for ink and wash

The drawing tool, used here with sumi ink and wash.

I have been drawing recently with sumi ink and wash using brushes and pens of various kinds. Some are reed pens that I cut from the stems from an old hydrangea bush. I wanted a tool to use with the ink that had more of the feel of charcoal in contact with the support, as opposed to the brush which has a softer feel in point of contact. It occurred to me that something like the tool pictured here might be made using these stems and a section of fabric that could absorb ink. I was surprised at how well this works, the fabric will absorb a large amount of ink, and so it is possible to draw for a longer time before recharging with ink. I’ve made these in a variety of sizes, but even using one size it is possible to get a variety of marks. One drawback in that after prolonged use, the fabric begins to fray, but is easily replaced. Click on the image here to view a sequence of steps for the construction of the tool.

oral history interview with Richard Diebenkorn


Susan Larsen, for the Archives of American Art, interviews Richard Diebenkorn, 1985 May 1-1987 Dec. 15

“Diebenkorn speaks of his family background and early life; his education and his service in the Marine Corps; his introduction to modernism; his early abstract work; the formation of the Bay Area figurative school and the relationship between art in New York and in the Bay Area; teaching; critical and public reaction to his work; important exhibitions of his work; vacillating between the figurative and the abstract in his painting; his working methods. He recalls Daniel Mendelowitz, Erle Loran, Raymond Jonson, David Park, and Elmer Bischoff.”

Image: Richard Diebenkorn, “Reclining Nude – Pink Stripe”, 1962.

site launch

art·work results from a desire to rethink how my activity as an artist may be represented in a way that is more satisfying.  It is opening all the doors to the rooms in the house. The old hierarchy is out.

The plan is to present both the work of the studio and the research and discoveries related to my work, as well as the art that evolves from these activities.

I have pulled in existing content from drawingprocess.com, editing some of the posts and deleting others, before closing that site.