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.

Southern Graphics Conference in Milwaukee, 2013

My classmate from the MI-lab course in Japan, Tina Fish Lutz, told me about this conference and I took advantage of its being in nearby Milwaukee to attend for a day this year. The venue was the campus of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Campus, with exhibitions at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and galleries in town.

There were a few things that I feel would be interesting to people who do Moku Hanga.

1. Member’s Portfolio Exchange. This exchange is not just for woodcuts but for any kind of print, but there were lots of woodcuts represented. You hand in 13 prints and get back 10 random prints. The participation was enormous. Below is a photo of the wall where the prints are displayed as they come in. There’s one wall for students and one for professionals. This is the student’s wall, and my print is the second from the bottom on the left. The whole wall was 3X this size.

Photo of about 1/3 of the wall showing the student section of member's exchange.

2. Thematic Print Exchanges. There were about a dozen of these. They work like this: an organizer  proposes a theme and suggested participants to the SGC and gets approval. Then the organizer gets together a bunch of printmakers and specifies the theme, the size, etc. Then everyone submits a number of prints to cover the participants and three for the organizations that sponsor (SGC and hosts). Then they prints (electronic images probably)  are sent to the person in charge at the SGC for jurying and those that are ‘in’ are shown at the thematic print exchange. This seems like a very good way to build a student’s experience.


Example of wall showing one of the many juried "themed exchanges"

3.The Product Fair. This was particularly interesting for me because I learned that there are many North American sources of washi that I didn’t know about. For example, there is

which is run by Lauren Perlman from Tokyo but the distribution is done from the US by a co-worker of hers who is a Japanese national who is a permanent US resident!


I also learned that Daniel Smith sells Awagami paper here and that they have a 20% discount going on until April 20, code WFAIRE20. Mc Clain’s, Hiromi and the Japanese Paper Place were also represented, and it was a pleasure to meet the people I have until now only known over the phone.

4. Justseeds. This is a printer maker’s cooperative that advocates for social causes, and their cause for this year is “Labor”. They set up papermaking and printmaking on-site and produced posters and paper with themes intended to benefit working people. I made a youtube video of them doing the setup and an interview with their Oakland, CA member, Favianna Rodriguez:


5. Exhibitions around town. The downtown area of Milwaukee has undergone an arts revival and the Marshall building there has galleries that work with print. I went to one of them that displayed the work of Rina Yoon, who applies rolled up washi paper to a print for 3 D effects, a Korean tradition, and I was quite taken by it.,

sample from Rina Yoon's work "Between In and Yeon-1" showing coiled paper

6. A new product for making moku hanga on cloth. Speedball has a new ink that doesn’t require heating to set and is able to be washed for relief printing onto cloth. This was good to see because I recently learned that until 1942, when parachute nylon began to fall from the skies over France, Hermes scarves were all printed with wood block printing! So, I was glad to see that there seems to be an ink that is made for doing this conveniently. There was a demonstration of how to do this for multi-color printing and the key ‘ingredient’ is a frame used to stretch the cloth over that is made just larger than the blocks that contain the relief images to be printed. The photo below shows one of them.

Frame for registration of multi-color woodblock prints onto cloth. The block fits inside.

I have organized (scientific) meetings myself and I appreciate how much it takes to make a meeting successful. The organizers of this meeting did a great job. They created an atmosphere that was welcoming and a great promoter of print. I really felt at home and welcomed, even though I’m a newcomer to printing. I got to meet Kari Garon (Themed Portfolio Chair), Jessica Meuninck-Ganger (Conference Co-Chair) and Yoko Hattori (Steering Committee member), and they were all very welcoming and helpful to me, a newcomer to the organization.

Thanks a million UWM!

George Suyeoka’s use of Graphite as a Background ‘Color” in a Moku Hanga

George is an artist and friend who lives in Evanston, IL. His professional work has included illustrations for books, particularly books that tell traditional Japanese folk tales, and other 2 dimensional work on paper, including woodblock prints. His undergraduate thesis at the Art Institute of Chicago included woodblock prints.


George Suyeoka next to his woodblock print of Gen Curtis E. LeMay, USAF

George was commissioned during the cold war to make a Moku Hanga of General Curtis E. (“Bomber”) LeMay, Chief of the Strategic Air Command. George employed a graphite background to give a steely feel to the print and I found this very engaging. It was applied in a manner similar to the application of mica: nori deposited from the block and then graphite powder spread on top of the nori. This photo had to be taken at an angle to avoid a reflection from a window in George’s home.


George Suyeoka's Woodblock Print of Curtis E. LeMay

Turning a watercolor painting into a print

I’ve been taking a combination of figure drawing and portrait classes for the past four years from Ken Minami at the Evanston Art Center. They are wonderful classes. Ken teaches us to do monochrome work to get the proportions and form correct and then moves us along to colored media such as pastel or acrylic or ‘water based’ oil paints. One monochrome medium he has us use is conte crayon but only the darkest and the lightest colors and then we rub them together to get form. It’s quite exciting to see this happen, and it works in a short time.

I’ve tried to apply what I learn in these classes to making Moku Hanga and i have learned a lot about getting the drawing and proportions right and have started to learn about how to achieve colors, but form has been difficult because it seems that you need many blocks to achieve the appearance of a gradient if you’re not able to use bokashi. Tiny bokashis on figures don’t work.

It is often difficult for me to achieve the colors I’d like when printing so I asked Ken if it would be OK to bring watecolors to class to learn about the colors. Ken agreed and then told me that the key in watercolors is to have a great drawing to start with and that you can’t really change the proportions, etc of the drawing after you’ve started. So, I used a dark pencil to draw in the outlines, location of the features, folds in the clothing, etc.You can see the pencil lines under the kimono and they resemble key block lines to me. You can also see that the flat surfaces like the bench and the suitcase resemble what one might see in a Moku Hanga. The hair, too, looks like a two block printing in a woodcut.

Below is a photo of the model that I drew.


Photo of Model that was the basis for the Watercolor above


It seems to me that this method of arriving at the plan for a woodblock print might be useful.

Seminar on Sosaku Hanga at Floating World Gallery in Chicago

Elias Martin of the Floating World Gallery in Chicago gave a seminar today about Sosaku Hanga (Creative Hanga).


He showed about 50 prints from artists of this era, stating with Yamamoto Kanai, who started the movement ca. 1904, the year before the end of the Russian-Japanese war, in which an eastern power defeated a western power for the first time in modern history.

The era of Sosaku Hanga started with repression of artists. Japan was struggling to become a military power and not suffer the fate of India and China under the western powers. The government banned these artists’ works from Art Fairs and they had to rely on sales to other artists or other forms of art such as oil painting to support themselves. This situation continued until after WWII.


He focused on prints by a few later artists, particularly Minami Kunzo, who worked in the UK ca. 1914, Umeiji (1914), who influenced other artists including Koshiro Onjei. These artists were in the vanguard of showing things as they actually existed, rather an idealized world. For example, Ishi Hakute showed someone at a lumberyard selecting wood and a bleak city scape by Ishi Hakute.



During the US occupation of Japan, starting in 1945, many collectors came to appreciate their work and Elias showed examples of large-scale works that were intended to be displayed publicly, perhaps in a frame. These were mostly bleed prints with no borders. After all, oil paintings don’t have a border!
The gallery owns four separate printings of a large (about 40 x 60 cm) portrait of a apoet, Hagiwara done by Oichi, Sukino, Oichi’s son and finally Oichi at a later time. These were all printed from the same blocks and they give very different visual impressions!


four prints from same blocks

Finally, a number of really lovely prints by Saito Kiyoshi were shown, and Elias pointed out that the influence of Gaugin was there to see. He was a favorite of collectors post-WWII.
The Sosaku Hanga era ended ca. 1960. Takumi Itow, whose exhibition I wrote about earlier, is a student of a Sosaku Hanga artist.

Gallery Opening in Chicago for Itow Takumi, Hanga Printmaker from Tokyo

The “Floating World Gallery” in Chicago had an opening on Saturday night for Itow’s work. It was very well attended and I’m posting a few pictures.  There were 3 groups of prints, one of which dealt with Matsuri, or festivals, in Japan. The photo below shows Mrs Itow (Makiko Hattori, also a printmaker who specializes in etchings) and my wife Maria Udo in front of a great print.

Itow-sensei is a professor at Waseda University and he was the instructor for my teacher Matt Messmer, who now resides in Chicago and is a member of the Spudnick press.

Itow-sensei is the president of the Japanese Print Society and this is the link to his website:


One of the prints shown has figures that come out of the paper to my perception. Please look at the lower right image on this page of his site:
The gallery sold one of his landscape prints right away. It’s on the home page of the gallery’s site and has mica overlays of rays of light on abstract trees:


This was a very interesting opening for me. Well-organized and I learned a lot

Attempt to draw an old white pine hanging on to a granite outcropping on Lake Superior

I would like to make a Hanga that includes this tree and shows that the tree, which was once knocked over, has grown horizontally, giving it stability, and has grown up to a considerable height. This all in spite of having to send roots to get nutrition from very thin  and narrow bits of soil. I took charcoal and a pencil but was not able to capture the light reflections from the needles. Only the trunk seems to have come through. I still want to make a print of this tree.

white pine tree drawings


The photo of the tree doesn’t capture what I’d like to say about it


Aki Fuji from MI-Lab

One of the highlights of the course was to watch Numabe-sensei print Hokusai’s “Akafuji” or “red mount Fuji”. Today we had the best view of Fuji since arriving here and today is a national holiday of remembrance for those who have past so there were lots of people in town. This made it particularly meaningful that there was a great sunset with a most unusual cloud. Today was the last day of work for me at MI-lab and it meant a lot to me because I got a good start on learning how to do something that I’ve always wished I could do: bring a relatively complex scene into a print that has a little charm. The scene I chose to work on was a view of a local temple, Fuji Omuro Sengen Jinja, and my classmates Ina Heiskanen and Tina Lutz, together with Keiko Kadota, showed me how by sketching the place, making pencil and then watercolor renderings, loosely, and then doing the color separations, I could get a start on a decent print. I’m attaching a photo of the place and the very preliminary print that came from it. Too bad that the ‘class is over’ and I’ll have to continue this one back home. It has been a very good experience for me to be here. I’ve learned a great deal and am very grateful for the chance to come.

Omuro Sengen Shrine's Kondo in Kawaguchi-ko
Incomplete print of Omuro Sengen Jinja done just before packing up
View from MI-lab at sunset on July 16

MI-lab print showing entrance to studio

MI-lab entrance on Korean Washi


Today I finished 3 days of printing and cutting of a simple, 4 block print that attempts to show the entrance to the studio. There is a very stylized pine tree with one very long branch that overhangs the entrance path and on the other side are the very steep hills that lie here at the base of Fuji. These hills are as steep as 60 degrees and there ‘s thick vegetation growing on their very fertile volcanic soil.


MI-lab entrance on pulp-kozo paper

These prints were done after about 5 changes in the blocks and the inks and after several suggestions by Keiko Kadota saying that there was too much ‘gomazuri’. So, I just kept it in the sky and then used heavy pressing to get most of it out of the hills.

Keiko also ordered 5 different kinds of ‘good’ paper for us to try and compare with the pulp-kozo mix that comes in rolls so I chose the ‘Korean’ kozo and it looked nicer than the ordinary paper, but it doesn’t show so well in a photo. The surface is nicer and it takes color better is about all I can say. It’s a little thinner but I didn’t dampen it much at all.

Roz Kean’s Ball Bearing Baren works well for large solid areas

I bought one of Roz’s barens, made in Australia, last winter and took it to mi-lab to try and learned that it’s great for printing large solid areas of color. Numabe-san uses a ball bearing baren himself for large areas of printing for which he doesn’t want goma-zuri. He uses it on top of a thin sheet of acetate and puts a little lubrication on the acetate when using the baren.

roslyn Kean <>


Roz Kean's baren upside down at mi-lab in Japan