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 arabicĀ 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!