Thursday, May 2, 2024

New Page, New Editions

White-throated Sparrow Moku Hanga, Version 3. Printed on Echizen Kozo. Copyright 2024 by Ken Januski

White-throated Sparrow Moku Hanga, Version 2. Printed on Torinoko. Copyright 2024 by Ken Januski

I eventually printed two more editions of the White-throated Sparrow moku hanga. Above are the photos. Each print on one paper is slightly different from the ones on the two other papers. This is not some clever, or not so clever, marketing ploy on my part. I just wanted to experiment. When I have culled out the rejects from the newest two editions I will put them up for sale.

I have now been using moku hanga for seven years and it has been my primary medium for five or so I'd guess. And yet I don't have a page for it on this site, just some examples on the woodblock page. So finally today I've made one! About time. It is listed on the Gallery section on right side of this page as Moku Hanga.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

White-throated Sparrow Mokuhanga


Most of the printed edition of 'White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow' mokuhanga. Copyright 2024 by Ken Januski.

I have finally finished an edition of a new mokuhanga print, 'White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow.' After years of just showing a closely cropped view of just one print I've recently gotten in the habit of showing part of the printed edition of my moku hanga instead. I'm doing that because so much of the technical effort that goes into each print goes into printing an edition with all prints looking more or less identical. This is quite different than the creative energy that goes into creating a print whose visual appearance I'm happy with. It is completely against my nature and goes against all my artistic training, which was as a painter not a printmaker, to worry about the similarity of each print.  Because I spend a tremendous amount of time and effort coming up with a print I'm happy with it seems counterproductive, if not actually unenjoyable, to print an edition. But it does give me something tangible to show for all the effort and also allows me to sell more of them at lower prices. I also just take some pleasure in showing that I've become accomplished enough technically to actually print an edition. That wasn't always the case! And I think anyone who does want to see a larger view of just one print should be able to zoom in on this edition photo.

The new print is based on my looking at and sketching White-throated Sparrows over the last few years. I think I have some field sketches from 2023 but I didn't find them in a quick search so instead I'm showing this sumi brushpen this  sketch of a White-throated Sparrow from 2022.  It is nothing spectacular but I enjoy it and most of my quick sumi brushpen field sketches. Because they are done with live birds I have to concentrate on what I'm seeing since they can leave or move at any moment. And using the sumi brushpen forces me to simplify. Almost unconsciously I very quickly decide what to concentrate on and start there. So for me these sketches often have an electricity to them that I like. 

Sumi brush pen and wash field sketch of White-throated Sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Someone might ask why I bother to spend so much time looking at birds in the field and sketching them in the field and then don't worry too much about accuracy in the actual prints. To put it simply I don't think birds or anything needs to be put in a photographic straight jacket. I like to be able to understand birds, both their appearance and their behavior, but my goal as an artist is to interpret all of that through my own artistic sensibilities and artistic abilities.  If I were doing traditional wildlife art or illustration I might be more interested in more classic field sketching. But I'm not. When I look at my more classical sketches from when I first started, excepting the many that were complete failures, I may like them but they don't inspire me to make a painting or print based on them. In the end I think all the looking and the brushpen field sketches get me to see the artistic possibilities in a bird, the things that I think might make a striking painting or print.

Watercolor and sumi brushpen sketch of White-throated Sparrow. Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski.

I also have done some watercolor sketches based on photos I've taken. My intent is to both  explore the bird further and, I hope, to end up with a sketch I'm happy with.  I often accomplish the first goal but rarely the second. So in the works from photos both above and below I'm really not happy with the finished work. But in both I explored something that I had noticed in much of my viewing of the bird in the field, perhaps the striping on the mantle, perhaps the underside coloring, etc., etc. There is so much to see in birds that is far more interesting than identification characteristics.

Sumi brushpen and watercolor sketch of White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow. Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski.

Oddly enough the little watercolor sketch above led me to the digital painting below. That in turn served as the basis for the new print. I think that it is all the transmogrifications that take place, from field sketch, to watercolor sketch from photo, to digital painting and perhaps back again that makes me feel that I've gotten far enough away from the bird and especially from any photo of the bird that it is relatively easy to feel free to make any changes that I think make sense artistically. I do not want to be limited by the bird or any other subject, though I also want to make sure that I am still in some way true to it. That is where all the looking at birds in field comes in. I think it gives me a pretty good intuitive sense of what they should look like.

Digital sketch using Procreate on iPad of White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow. Copyright 2024 by Ken Januski.

The watercolor sketch below is a quick watercolor sketch from a photo of a White-throated Sparrow. Most of ny watercolor sketches are quick. I don't like labored watercolors. But as a consequence they are also often unsuccessful. Such is the case with this. Still it was one more step along the way to getting what to me is a successful mokuhanga. I am quite happy with it in the two fields which it inhabits: bird art and mokuhanga. I can't ask for more than that.
Watercolor sketch of White-throated Sparrow. Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Moving Along at a Ferocious Speed


Three working proofs of new mokuhanga of a White-throated Sparrow seen at Houston Meadow.  copyright 2024 by Ken Januski
It has been a long time since I’ve posted, and also a long time since I’ve done a new print. As often happens after  I post something I realize that I’ve left something unsaid. In this case it was the desire to put down what you see in the world around you, probably the same impulse that goes back to the cave drawings and perhaps earlier. That is a basic impulse of mine, along with the more ‘sophisticated’ idea of building a picture. They can seem quite contradictory but I don’t see any reason that you can’t have both.

There were many reasons for my hiatus in both printing and writing but a small one was based on this idea of putting down what you see.  I had wanted to write more about that. But it is too late now and my focus is back on this new mokuhanga. I would just say that the impetus for it was looking at and drawing White-throats in the field this fall and winter. When I took some photos of a few in the snow I knew that it might be the start of a new print. Though the photo was the final impetus it was still the looking at and drawing White-throated Sparrows that made me think of them as a rich subject.

I am getting close to the final proofing of the print though there are stilll some changes ahead. The proof at top and on left are printed in Nishinouchi, the one on right on Shin Torinoko. When it is finished I’ll post my second post of 2024.