Monday, June 13, 2022

Two (Moku Hanga) for 2022


Original Moku Hanga of Nashville Warbler on Bean  Trellis in Winter. Copyright  2022 by Ken Januski

Original Moku Hanga of Bobolink at Dixon Meadow. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

I've finally finished my second Moku Hanga of 2022, this one a revisit of my first one ever: Nashville Warbler on Bean Trellis in Winter. I don't believe I ever showed the final version of the Bobolink at Dixon Meadow so I'm showing it as well.

It's not surprising that I did another version of the Nashville Warbler. Being my first moku hanga ever and being done with exactly no training in the art/skill/process it came into being more through will power, trust in my artistic abilities regardless of medium as well as sheer terror at all that was going wrong as I proceeded trying to print an edition!! And yet I still liked it, and it seems some other people did as well. But there was absolutely no consistency from print to print so I removed it from sale.

In the five plus years since I made the first version I've learned a lot. As I think I wrote previously about the International Moku Hanga Conference last December I learned a lot from presentations there, but I also had my ambitions raised. As with wildlife art when I first ran into The Society of Wildlife Artists I had to run into some accomplished artists in the field to see all that was possible and also I'd say to translate the ambitions I used to have in my abstract work into wildlife art, except here it was to moku hanga. One of the surprising things about the conference and other smaller online meetings that were an outgrowth of it was the discovery of what a great variety of accomplished and contemporary moku hanga there is out there in the world.

All of that I think informed these prints, as well as my continued desire to portray the natural world, something for which I don't make the slightest apology. If you're not smart enough to see that it is just as valid as any other 'subject' that is your blindness, not my anachronistic romanticism about nature. I think just about anything can be the subject of art, including wildlife.

But that is a bit of tangent. I really don't have a lot to say about these prints except to say that in the newest one I did a lot of experimenting on the background. I wanted it to be vibrant but I also wanted it to evoke in some way the very inhospitable weather we had when the Nashville Warbler was in our yard many winters ago. In that experimentation I  ended up varying what I printed even in the final edition. So these prints will be called e/v for Edition Varie. But I also found that I was getting tired of tossing prints from the edition, often each of which might have a few hours devoted to it, because of small blemishes.

I can understand the tradition of only choosing prints that are identical, that are without blemish of any sort, etc., etc. If I'd trained as a printmaker perhaps I'd believe in it as well. But it seems to be that there is a tyranny there, that values the skill of the printer over the artistic quality of the artist, who sometimes is the printer as well, especially in most modern moku hanga.

In fact almost everything is done by hand, by one person in modern moku hanga. I'm just guessing but with five blocks on my new print, multiple printings of some of the blocks and multiple colors as well on some that this leads at least to 10 impressions for each print, 10 times that something can go wrong, often just the slightest thing. I have been relatively strict in culling out prints in the past that have had very minor blemishes. But I'm getting more and more reluctant to do so given the work involved. So when I finally number the edition of the Nashville Warbler I may include more prints that I normally would. I think that this is a step in the right direction.

Otherwise I think printing can just become too inhibiting and just not worthwhile from an economic perspective as well as psychological perspective. Rules should not stamp the joy out of it. This I'm sure will rankle at least some print collectors. But my feeling toward them would probably be the same as it is to those art collectors who won't accept any thing out of order in the feather details of birds. Those demands are just too inhibiting I think for the serious artist to bother with.

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