Monthly Archives: August 2013

Moku Hanga workshop in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada (LSPP)

LSPP is a very large park located on the shore of Lake Superior about 120 km-220 km north of the US border. It is located on Canadian Shield rock and has beautiful rocky outcrops and both boreal forest (conifers, birches and quaking aspens (poplars)) and mixed hardwood forests (with maples and birches in the south part). It is on the downwind side of the prevailing winds and it receives the brunt of fall storms so its coastline is quite rugged and beautiful.The park has a visitors center about 140km north of the US border and the Montreal River Harbour Printer’s Association¬† presented a workshop for campers and the (few) residents of areas near the park. The wood for the blocks came from the land of Bob Moore in Batchewana Bay, Dee and Dennis Nelson were the ‘guinea pigs’ to work out the kinks before the day of the workshop in the park and Maria Udo and Larry Pinto (me) did the actual presentation.


Shoreline at LSPP showing an eroded basalt dike and granite diving under the water. Rugged place for the conifers on top, which are small but hundreds of years old.

Since we’re never done this before, we tried it on a small scale with three groups of four people and we only had them print, not design a print or cut blocks. We had four stations for people to work at, with one block per station. There were two barens and one set of watercolor paints in the middle for people to share. This worked out well. The picture below shows how the set up went. The side tables allowed us to keep the work space uncluttered, something that I discovered with Dee and Dennis was important.

Workspace for workshop participants. note the 4 blocks and 4 seats with 2 barens and shared paints and brushes in middle. Foreground shows the simple 2 block image used.


I designed the image to be printed with 2 blocks and a total of 5 colors were used. The participants first learned how to do the printing on a piece of newsprint. Then they were given a piece of good art paper (Reves) that had been cut to size for this purpose. They got the newspaper proofs and the good paper prints done in an hour. Most of the people had to make a second impression in order to get good color transfer for at least one of the blocks. However, a few made puddles of watercolor. I used Guerra pigments and the participants were asked to figure out what the binder was, which they all did without hesitation.

Bob Moore gave me blocks of Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) and White Pine (Pinus Strobus) and each print used one of each species of block. The people really liked seeing the difference between the prints on the two types of wood. In spite of the fact that the White Pine was sanded down to 600 grit, there were very clear grain impressions that happened to run up and down against the sky and water, so I showed them how to minimize this by rubbing perpendicular to the grain. The Yellow Birch had a few places where no amount of sanding would minimize the straight grain marks but they happened to run horizontal in the sky and water.

Perhaps the most confusing part of this for these neophyte people was the fact that the wells are where the most paint and color accumulates, but these are the places that are not supposed to have any color in the print. I figured out to ask the people to put their fingers all over each of the blocks to figure out their Z axis and after that there were no more problems.

Before having people start printing, I showed them the evidence for Japanese Moku Hanga influencing the impressionists, and they really liked that. They also liked the parallels between the Japanese seashore and the Lake Superior Lakeshore.

At the end we looked at everybody’s work and saw that there was a lot of variation. There were a few people who found smudges when they examined their prints closely, but then I showed them a print of mine which came out quite well except for a 1.5 cm long blue smudge in the left margin. I held it up and said, “Quick, where’s the smudge” and they couldn’t find it until they ‘got over’ looking at the image (lake shore with trees). That surprised them. The second thing that they seemed surprised by was in the figure in one of the prints (of a native mythological figure who created the big lake, Mizzupizhu). Her facial features were printed in blue over brown and they were sure it was black until I asked them look up close. The second photo shows the participants with their work. The youngest in this group was 17 yrs old but we had another group with two 13 year old boys who did just fine. I would happily do this again.

Participants showing their work. The vertical image was printed on white pine and it really takes up ink well in large areas of uniform color, but it shows its grain, too. The horizontal images were from yellow birch blocks.