Thursday, August 26, 2021

It All Started with Shina

Red Knots and Laughing Gulls  at Reed's Beach. Moku Hanga print on Nishinouchi paper by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021.

  I'm very happy to say  that one of  my Moku  Hanga prints will be included  in the Sumi-Fusion Exhibition at the International Moku Hanga Conference 2021. I had hoped that I would have at least one print accepted but I also feared that my relative newness to the medium, not to mention my skills with it, might work against me.

I received an email about  it  last week after just completing these two versions  of the Red Knots and Laughing Gulls moku hanga. Above is  an edition on Nishinouchi. Below is the first version on Masa Dosa. Unfortunately the photo is not shot in the brightest light so it looks a bit dark.

Red Knots and Laughing Gulls  at Reed's Beach. Moku Hanga print on Masa Dosa paper by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021.

I can still remember how I made my first step toward Moku Hanga. I was printing a linocut of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth  in 2013. I was using Gamblin oil based  inks. But I decided I'd like to try printing the background on Shina plywood, just to see what happened. There was such a feeling of openess, of a breathing surface to the result that I became completely taken with Shina. That print is below.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. Three block combination Woodcut/Linocut by Ken Januski. Copyright 2013.

In my many years as an abstract painter I primarily used acrylic paint. Only toward the end, partly due to a gift from a new graduate student who wanted to encourage me, a newly graduated graduate student, to switch to oil painting, did I start painting in oil. To make a very long story fairly short I never minded the somewhat plastic surface of acrylic painting. I sort of liked the fact that you couldn't sink into it, that it instead seemed to come out at you.

So when I started printing, first with linocuts then woodcuts I wasn't bothered by the plastic surface that could result from the oil based inks that I used, especially when I painted one color over another over another, etc. But then I was. Too much plastic I thought! So that is what I liked with the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth print. It was softer.

Again to make another long story short four years later I eventually did my first experiment with Moku Hanga. That was in early 2017. I have not turned back to other methods of printmaking. But I have also struggled! In this type of printmaking there are no machines involved, no printing presses. At least for me. The simplicity, the non-toxic materials, the immediacy and the complex tradition are both appealing, and also to a certain extent difficult. For better or worse you the printmaker have pretty much control over everything. If you're successful you'll get a striking print. But there are a million things that can go wrong.

I've always been happy with my Moku Hanga prints. But I've also known how much better they could be, at least in terms of technique. So that's a large part of the reason that I applied for this show with trepidation. I'm happy to say I'm glad it didn't get the better of me and scare me off from applying! Below is the print that will be in the show. It is in Nara, Japan in late November/early December 2021. As with 'The Natural Eye,' the annual exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists', it  is an honor to be in this exhibition. There will be an online exhibition  and I will eventually write a short post on that when it is online.

A Frenzy of Golden-crowed Kinglets. Moku  Hanga print on Nishinouchi p
aper by Ken Januski. Copyright 2020.

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