|Avocet and Moorhen at Minsmere. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski. 6"x4", 2019.|
I don't think that there are any excuses for the huge gaps between my blog postings. Suffice it to say that the lack of comments, overabundance of spam, and other online outlets all took their toll. Nonetheless I hate to let this blog just die, especially as it's sort of become a blog about my progress with moku hanga. So with that said here are my two newest prints.
Above is a 6x4 inch print of an Avocet and Eurasian Moorhen that we saw at Minsmere RSPB last year on our trip to England for 'The Natural Eye' show of the Society of Wildlife Artists. Below is the newest print, a 4x6 inch print of a Great Crested Flycatcher, motivated as you might expect by seeing some of the first returning birds of spring.
|Great Crested Flycatcher against Blue Sky. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski. 6"x8", 2019.|
Technically speaking I'm not sure why anyone would take up moku hanga. There are so many things to consider and so many things that can go wrong: paper that is too wet or too dry, bad paper, paper with too little or too much, paint that is too wet or too dry, too splotchy or too saturated, smudging everywhere, colors that don't print the way I think that they will, wood that is drier than I'd like and breaks as I'm carving a crucial line, etc., etc., etc.
Some love moku hanga I'd guess because of the great moku hanga art that was done in Japan during its heyday. I admire it, both artistically with hardly a thought of the technical difficulties, but also for the incredible technical craftsmanship. I understand why artists want to continue that noble tradition.
Others today love it for a variety of other reasons but I suspect one of the top ones is that it is largely non-toxic, i.e. safe, and because it is so connected to nature. The paper is made from plants, the baren often is made largely from bamboo. Only perhaps the watercolors and/or gouache used by many might have some man-made ingredients.
For me the safety is important. When I switched, to a large extent, from painting to printmaking around 10 years ago I was thrilled by printmaking, all done without a press. But I was bothered by the toxic fumes of the paint/ink solvents. Did I really want to use them?
I also found that I much admired some contemporary moku hanga, used as a means of modern expression. I'd guess that the last two, safety and exciting examples, are what got me started.
But what kept me going, especially after the trials and tribulations of the first couple of prints, was my understanding that I was beginning to get control of the medium. It was starting to be a useful tool. At some point your artistic medium has to start seeming like a useful tool, one that helps you do what you want, rather than a constant opponent, one that you wonder if you can ever best. Oddly enough that happened with me.
There are still numerous technical mistakes and difficulties with my moku hanga prints. But I'm comfortable enough with it, and also know what rich possibilities it has that I've come to feel somewhat comfortable with it.
Too much of my experience with printmaking has been reminiscent of battles. I'm often happy with the results but never relish the process and regret how many prints have blemishes which necessitate discarding them. That seems to be, finally, less the case with moku hanga.
I'm not going to say too much about these two prints themselves. In both of them I'm trying to find a contemporary artistic vocabulary to express what I want, and also to use the subject of birds, insects, nature and the environment. Even with perfect mastery of a medium that is still a large task. How do you take traditional, some might say ancient, subjects and make them fresh? I find that moku hanga has helped me to do that.