On Thursdays, we read reviews or news stories about art or design and study the language used in them. This week’s article is about the tradition of block printing and how to keep it alive.


Here are three paragraphs from My Modern Met, in italics.

Have you ever wanted to try printmaking? As one of the oldest types of art, it takes has a variety of different forms. Some, like etching, use acid in their process, while others use special screens and squeegees to craft an image. You can get extremely technical in printmaking, which is part of its appeal; but for those that find that fact intimidating, have no fear—there is a type of printmaking that is great for beginners but that professionals love, too. Called block printing, this technique involves you creating a stamp that you press onto paper, cloth, or another material using ink.

Block printing has a long history that spans thousands of years. Originating in East Asia, the technique existed in China as early as the 2nd century CE; one of the earliest surviving woodblock printings was done before 220 CE. Images and text were cut into blocks of wood and printed on silk cloth. Eventually, the printing made its way to paper, and by 600 CE the approach was used to display religious texts, calendars, calligraphy, and more.

Early prints were stamped in one color beginning with black ink. Vermillion followed next, and the addition of this second color was a big deal because, for every new hue introduced, a second carved block had to be produced and match up perfectly with the other color. The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) was the peak of woodblock printing; the imagery produced during this time comprised many different subject matter, from the opera to folklore to Chinese New Year. Starting in the 19th century the technique was in decline as other forms of printing became in vogue.

My comments:

The first paragraph begins by describing different types of printmaking. It talks about how you can get very technical with printmaking, which means you need very special skills to do it. Some people like this about printmaking – that is the appeal they mention. Other people don’t like it and think it is intimidating, which means they are afraid to try it. There is another type of printing that is easy for beginners called block printing. To make a block print, you create a design, or stamp, then apply the ink and press it on the material you want to print on.

In the second paragraph, we get into the history of block printing. We learn that it started, or originated, in East Asia, and that one of the earliest surviving woodblock printings was done before 220 CE. Surviving means keeping something safe over time. CE means the Common Era, and BCE/CE is an alternative to the Christian system of counting years, which is BC/AD. Next, we learn that the prints were made on silk cloth, which is a smooth, shiny material made from the thread of silkworms. Eventually, meaning after a long time, people began to use paper instead of silk. Then after 600 CE, block printing was used for religious texts, calendars, calligraphy, and more. Religious texts mean special or holy books from different religious groups, like the Bible, Quran, Sutras, Torah, or Vedas. Calligraphy is a type of beautiful writing as art.

In the third paragraph, we learn that black was the first color they used. Vermillion, a red color, was next. The writer uses the phrase a big deal to mean something that is very important. Using more than one color was much more difficult because each color block had to be in line with the other blocks. The phrase match up means to be in line, or in the correct place. It talks about how the Ming Dynasty was the peak, which means the highest level of skill, in woodblock printing. The writer says that the imagery produced during this time comprised many different subject matter, from the opera to folklore to Chinese New Year. Imagery means images, and comprised means what something is made of. So the images of this time were made of many subjects, like opera, folklore (which is traditional stories), and Chinese New Year. Finally, we learn that this art form was in decline, which means becoming less popular, as other forms of printing became in vogue, which means more popular.

Sometimes it is important to be able to paraphrase a piece of writing, as I’m doing here. To paraphrase means to rewrite something in your own words. Often this needs to be done for writing essays, articles, or reports. A good language coach can help you to improve your vocabulary and paraphrasing skills.

At Artglish, we help artists and designers to describe their work with the best vocabulary and language possible. Every Thursday we study reviews and articles to share useful words and phrases to help you improve your reading and writing skills. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Courses page.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To read the original article, written by Sara Barnes on May 2, 2018, click the link below: