I love it when our studies cause more than one school subject to meet each other. This year we have been intentional about studying both art history and geography in depth. It just so happened that as we were going through our six week Project Masterpiece study of Mary Cassatt, we were also studying Japan in geography! It worked out perfectly to participate in a Printmaking project since Cassatt was heavily influenced by the Japanese artform.

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Japanese Printmaking: Geography Meets Art


Background Lesson:

Japanese Printmaking, also known as Woodblock Printing, was especially popular in Japan during the 1600s-1800s. One of the most famous Japanese printmakers was Katsushika Hokusai. His Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji produced the very well recognized print, The Great Wave. Learn more about Hokusai, The Great Wave, and Japanese Printmaking here.

Mary Cassatt seems most known for her role in the Impressionism movement, but Cassatt was never one to be tied down to one art style. She was also a student of Japanese printmaking and considered an innovative printmaker. You may want to take some time to research Mary Cassatt and printmaking. The Mother’s Kiss is a Cassatt print and also one of her earliest mother-child portraits.


Materials Needed:

Acrylic Paint & Paint Brushes

Paper (We just used copy paper.)

Paper Plates

Foam Plates (I purchased this inexpensive pack from Amazon.)

 Carving Supplies (Plastic forks, toothpicks, pencils work fine!)

Optional- Rubber Brayer (We used this one.)



-You may want to encourage your students to make a few simple sketches, before carving into the foam boards. Remind them that most Japanese prints were simple designs and monochrome or with only 3-5 colors. My kids were impatient to start carving and just jumped right in.


-As I mentioned in the materials list, we used sharpened pencils, plastic forks, and toothpicks to do our carving. You may want to let your kids know that the print will be “backwards”. This will be important if they are writing words or signing their print.

-Provide several paper plates with one color of acrylic paint on each. This will allow students to roll the brayer around the paint to pick up a lot of the color, then roll the brayer across their foam board. Students may also simply paint their foam board carvings using paint brushes. Use one color or multiple colors, but encourage them to work quickly. They must make their “print” before the paint dries!

-Make one, two, or more prints!! Just press your painted foam carving to a piece of paper. Kids can experiment by adding more layers of paint or details over their prints. The best part is that they can keep reusing their carved foam board to make as many prints as they’d like!


If you’ve enjoyed this lesson, you’ll love Project Masterpiece! It’s a collection of FREE six-week unit studies on famous artists complete with plenty of fun art projects for you and your students!

Project Masterpiece

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Art Appreciation, projects, and study in just a couple hours a week! Subscribe to get your free lesson plans, Project Masterpiece: Mary CassattA six week unit study that includes picture study, book recommendations, and hands-on art projects!

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