Moku Hanga


White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow. Moku hanga on Nishinouchi. Edition of 17. Copyright Ken Januski 2024.

Ken started working in moku hanga(Japanese woodblock printing) in 2017. This medium can take some time to learn, perhaps a LOT of time. But from the moment he started, even with the most hair-raising experiences, he loved something about it. Seven years later it is safe to say that he loves it even more, though he has not begun to master it.

It is difficult in writing about moku hanga not to turn this page into an advertisement for it. Ken started using it because he wanted to get away from the oil and solvent used in much traditional Western printmaking and because he loved the color effects that some artists were able to achieve using it. As he progressed he also found that he likes the organic and environmentally sound method of it. The paint is water based, usually watercolor or gouache. It is carved on wood, printed on Japanese paper, often handmade, and many of its peripheral elements and tools, such as the baren, are all quite connected to nature. 

For those who are unfamiliar with it the baren, a small pad less than 4 inches in diameter. is the printing press with the force applied manually by the printer. No need for a heavy and expensive printing press!!! This is a blessing but also a bit of a curse. Most of the responsibility for the quality of the print is placed on the artist/printer him/herself. There is almost total freedom but also quite a lot of responsibility. If the print seems badly printed it is most likely the artist/printer's fault. But it is a medium that allows continuing learning. When Ken started trying to print even a very small edition of prints that looked more or less the same was nearly impossible. In fact his first print is no longer for sale because it is so inconsistent.  Because the artist has full control though he can learn from experience. Over time and this has proved true for Ken the artist can gain confidence in his abilities, his tools, his paper, and the entire process and craft. In fact it is almost impossible to continue in moku hanga without developing an incredible appreciation for the craft of it. Hopefully this explains part of his love of the medium. It really is his primary medium today.

Because moku hanga has such a long a rich tradition any artist can get intimidated by masters of the past, for example Hokusai, Hiroshima, Utamaro, et al. This is particularly true if the artist, like Ken, wants to work in a contemporary style. Ken has been lucky to have exhibited in the last two shows that accompanied the International Moku Hanga Association Conferences. The first was online for all but locals when it was held in Japan in 2020 I believe. Because of this Ken was able to see how many international artists were also using moku hanga in myriad different ways. This helped him in not worrying about moving away from traditional moku hanga. That was his intent from the start but it is always easier when you realize that you are not alone.

Moku hanga of White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow. Printed on Echizen Kozo, copyright 2024

Moku hanga of White-throated Sparrow at Houston Meadow. Printed on Torinko, copyright 2024

Above are the other two editions of the White-throated Sparrow moku hanga. They show the variety that  can be achieved using different papers but also the importance, thought it was something Ken long resisted, of getting more or less consistent results in an edition. It has never been all that important to him but he is happy to now be somewhat successful without too much emotional travail! All of these prints are his newest prints, printed in 2024.

Below are some prints from the past seven years of moku hanga.

Pileated Woodpecker at Flat Rock Dam. Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski

NashvilleWarbler on Bean Trellis. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Bobolink at Dixon Meadow. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Red Phalarope at Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve. Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski.

3 Brant, 3 Black-bellied Plover. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Brant and Black-bellied Plover at Nummy Island. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski

Juvenile Northern Cardinal on Tomato Cage. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Some of my earliest moku hanga are on the Ken Januski -Woodblocks page in the Gallery section on the right side of this page.

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