Experiments in mokulito

I have been printmaking in a serious way for well over 25 years, and so assumed I knew pretty much all the ways of making a print. To my joy I recently discovered something new! It is called Mokulito, or wood lithography, and it came to light via a couple of artists I follow on Instagram who make wonderful prints. By chance I discovered that this was the method they were using.

It was developed in Japan in the 1970s, and developed some time later for Western printmakers by a Polish father and daughter team called Josef and Ewa Budka. The knowledge I have been using is all gleaned from internet searches and You Tube clips – I am certainly no expert yet, but the process is very straightforward. I have done lithography before, so understand the basic principles, and these are still the same for Mokulito.

The plate is plywood, any size or thickness, but I have been using small (10 x 10 cm) pieces to start with, to get an idea of what will work – or not. First, it has to be sanded with a fine sandpaper, partly to get a nice smooth surface, but also to remove any greasy fingerprints, as any oily marks potentially will take the ink. Then the image is drawn on to the plate, using any oil based medium. I have been using tusche, which is an ink specifically for lithography, and litho pencils. Once I am happy with the image, I wipe some gum arabic over it, and the plate is set aside, preferably for at least 24 hours.

Then, printing time! I set up the press, prepared the inks (which need to be quite runny, so I added linseed oil), put my paper into a water bath, then washed the gum arabic off the plate. The wet plate is then inked up using a soft foam roller. The ink should adhere to the drawn areas and not to the exposed wood, but if any sticks in the wrong places it can be gently wiped away with a wet sponge. Then printed.

I have had a couple of disasters, with two plates no ink would adhere to the drawn image, so I ended up with an image of wood grain. As yet I have no answer to what went wrong, but I was very happy with how most of the others turned out. I decided to make bleed prints using some of my monoprints torn to size to make a background image, so every print was different.

The opportunities are endless – I could also carve into the plate to add white marks if I wanted to. The woodgrain becomes an integral part of the image, giving each one a lovely organic look. Using thin Japanese papers to print on would give new and interesting results too. All the prints need to be made in one session as once the plate dries it will no longer hold the ink, also some drawing media will last longer than others, so there are no possibilities of making huge print runs. I got 10 prints from the silhouette dog, but the line dog was breaking up after seven.

It is so exciting to enter a whole new universe!

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Printmaking – masks and stencils

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Part of the pleasure of printmaking is the reveal – after the plate with paper on top has passed through the press and you gently peel the paper back, what do you see? With a conventional plate, where a carefully considered image has been made on the plate you hope to see a clear rendition of what you have put down appearing as a mirror image of the plate. With works such as the ones I have been doing recently it is much more a mystery.

The four images above were made by rolling ink fairly randomly – there was some planning involved – onto an acrylic sheet, then strips and small rectangles of plasticised paper were laid across the plate to make a satisfying arrangement. Next, dampened pieces of printmaking paper smaller than the acrylic sheet were placed on the sheet and the whole lot was put through the press, thus making bleed prints, where the ink goes beyond the edge of the paper.

Some of the strips had been used before, so had ink on them which also transferred to the paper, as well as masking out the ink below – hence both stencils and masks. The pressure of the press and the dampness of the paper also caused some of the ink to squish out below the masking strips, creating areas of different depth of colour. The top left panel is a ghost print, that is, a print made by putting the plate through the press a second time without re-inking, so just a light residue is transferred to the paper.

All of these were then printed on the back, to make double-sided images, as shown below.

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Probably they will ultimately be turned into a book or 3D object, so some of both sides will be seen. That’s for a future post!

 

Travel sketches from the dry west of NSW

In late September we packed up the camper trailer and headed towards the west of New South Wales, to camp on the banks of the Darling River, one of the great rivers of Australia. This year has been severely dry, and the vast majority of NSW was declared to be in ‘extreme drought’. The river was very low, mostly pools rather than a healthy flow. In summer you expect to see parched landscape but usually at this time of year, in spring, there is some green to be seen, but not this time. Even the big gum trees are pale, the colour sucked out of them. This also means there is little wildlife, the birds, kangaroos, even the big lizards seem to have gone searching for food elsewhere. The only animals we saw a lot of were goats, and even they were looking tired and thin. So searching for things to draw was not such an easy task. Plenty of bones, and some hardy plants and trees but little else. This sounds depressing, and in many ways it was, but the landscape is still magnificent and has an ancient power to it. We camped with friends, then met a group of people who have the same camper trailer as us, made some new friends and enjoyed the old ones! I’m doing this post on my phone, so quality control could be an issue, so forgive me for any oddities!

Collaboration book 3 – A Dog’s Life

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The 5-way international book collaboration is steadily moving on, and I have now completed my pages for the third of the five books. This one is from Cathe in Minnesota, and her theme is A Dog’s Life, but she has extended it to encompass all pets. I grew up with a dog, but don’t have one now, so I have reverted to when I was growing up on a farm in the UK where we were surrounded by cats which I loved. Most were wild farm cats, but there were quite a few who made themselves house cats, or who were willing to be friendly while keeping their distance from the house. I have chosen 3 of them to draw, all gingers. Orlando was named after Orlando the Marmalade Coloured Cat from a series of wonderful children’s books, Hector was a farm cat, big and tough and Albert was a sweet and gentle cat who took refuge in the house well away from the rough and tumble of the farm yard. I drew them in pen and ink, and added a watercolour wash to give a sense of nostalgia and memory.

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Cathe’s dog Cooper
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Karen’s dog Rosie

Visit the other contributors to this project: To see the works as they progress, all of us (except Gale) are on Instagram: karenbaileystudio, cathejacobi, rebeccacaryandersonart, and me anna_warren_portfolio, Gale is at sticksstonesnpaperstew here on WordPress.

In Flight – abstract drawing

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The forms in this drawing are inspired by butterflies that I found massed on the ground in Coral Bay, Western Australia. In death they remained connected to one another as they were in life. Their shapes are now transformed, but continue to connect with one another by fine filaments and tracery, still flying.

Drawings in my travel sketchbook were the starting point for this drawing. The basic forms were drawn in very loosely with a straggly brush using watery Liquid Pencil on Yupo paper, with no real attempt made for accuracy, it was more about finding fluid forms.  Once the Liquid Pencil was dry I started drawing in to the shapes, intensifying the curves and adding body to to them, creating linkages and form. There are plenty of stories to find within the details.

Below are detail images – please excuse the colour, photographing monochrome images is a little tricky. The paper is very white and the Liquid Pencil is sepia, so the brown tones are correct. I drew in using an 8B graphite pencil and a Staedtler omnichrom pencil, which is quite sticky, and takes well on the shiny surface of the paper. The paper size is 59 x 42 cm.

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A mix of miniatures

Every year since the late 1990s the Australian Society of Miniature Art has held an awards exhibition here in Sydney. I’ve been a member of the society for longer than I care to remember and have put work into the awards exhibition nearly every year since it has been going. Sometimes I win prizes, sometimes I don’t but it’s an exhibition that is always a pleasure to be part of. The standard of work is incredibly high, the best holds its own with ‘normal’ sized work without any difficulty.

There are eight categories: drawing, watercolour, printmaking, oil painting, acrylic painting, mixed media, 3D and hand made books and this year for the first time, abstract. Members of the society can put in up to 4 works, non-members one. There is a rigorous selection process and work that doesn’t fit the criteria, or is of poor quality is rejected. Prizes are given in each category, plus a Best in Show, Best Traditional work, Most Innovative work and there is also a prize given for a particular theme each year. This year it was ‘In My World’ which could be interpreted broadly. A different judge is appointed each year, and it is always interesting to see the different ways they make their choices. This year it was Judith White, a well-known artist in Sydney, and she gave a great deal of thought and consideration to her choices.

The main ruling that work must adhere to in order to qualify as a miniature is that two-dimensional works can have a perimeter of no more than 40 cm, ie 10 x 10 cm or 12 x 8 cm, or whatever fits within that. Many works come in well below that size. Also, the brushstrokes used must be small, no clumsy marks, and any subject matter must be miniaturised. Three dimensional works can be no more than 15 cm in any direction, including any base or plinth and hand-made books must be made entirely by the artist, and when closed the face be no more than 40 cm perimeter.

This year all my works ended up being abstract, mainly because that seems to be the direction I am taking in all my work at the moment. No prizes for me this year, but if you would like to see the works that won, go to the miniature society (ASMA) website here.

Below are my entries this year.

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‘Fleeting Thoughts’. This is a concertina book in a box, made from etchings, monoprints and drypoint prints, with added pen and collaged names of European cities taken from an old map. The box is 4 x 2.5 x 2 cm, and the concertina opens to 47 cm in length.

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‘Garden of My Mind’. This was in the Mixed Media section and also in the ‘In My World’ section. This is an element from a monoprint that I have worked into and elaborated with coloured pencils. The diameter of the circle is 6 cm.

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‘Opulence’. I put this one in the drawing section. The initial faint base image was created with a blot of Liquid Pencil, which I drew into with graphite, and also scratched into it. This one is 6.5 x 9.5 cm.

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‘Secrets of the Harem’. This was in the oil section, and is oil paint on a piano key, 4.5 x 2 cm.

Print assemblage – ‘Songbook’

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A pile of monoprints has gradually transformed into a book – or a sculpture. The theme of the prints was music, in maybe an obscure way. Some of the plates were made some time ago, others are new, but all were destined to be made into assemblage artworks for a travelling exhibition called ‘Music Box’. The imagery was derived from the shapes of instruments, such as a violin, and the inside of a piano. I had made four artworks some time ago (see here) and am now discarding one and adding another.

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The images above show the main pieces that went to make the pages, and the first stages of putting it together. The pages are printed on both sides then folded in half to make a double page spread. To join them into a book form, I placed a wooden rod within each fold then wove coloured leather straps through small slots on either side of the fold and around the rod, then in to the next spread, and so on for 6 spreads. Finally, the long ends of the straps were glued across the front and back of the book as both an anchor and decoration. (See the last two photos.)

I also added smaller pages or pieces of print inside or outside each spread. Some of these were altered with cuts, folds or pieces inserted in them, to add interest and give a sense of dimension to the book. Although I have called it ‘Songbook’, I intend the book to stand fully opened so each page can be seen, rather than be ‘read’ as a conventional book.

The last two images show the book closed, with the spine and straps visible.