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Would you like a Mokulito?

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

COVID 19 home studio time has meant that I am going to Mokulito instead of Lithograph for my next printing project. The benefit is that it is easier and cheaper to work on a small piece of ply wood over a 30 kg piece of stone. The water verses grease principle remains the same as crayon, ink, tusche, gum arabic are applied to wood instead of the stone. But unlike Lithograph, Mokulito printing can be done at a home studio with relative ease.


Inspiration of this work has come from a morning misty walk on my family's farm, whilst bunkering down during the COVID 19 pandemic. I loved how the muddy dam looked like a magical mirrored lake in the morning mist.



I'm researching the works of Australian artist, Brook Andrews, at the moment also. The hazy reflected landscape of this beautiful print is something I'd like to evoke in my work.


Clarice Beckett is another Australian artist I have just learnt about. She was an Australian Tonalism painter whose work was characterised by the misty ethereal art.



Last year I did a couple of expressive drawing classes with Canberra based artist, Rick Cochrane. In his class I produced this charcoal drawing. I love the hazy, tonal quality of the picture and I want to do a similar smudgy style in my mokulito.



Having no experience in the technique or the probable look of the end product, I spent a bit of time looking at Ewa Budka and Danielle Creenaune's methodology and art. I like the organic, harmonious results that mokolito offers. I especially like how Danielle Creenaune incorporates wood carving into her pieces.


I spend some time looking at different ways I can portray the photo of the misty dam. First I tried watered down acrylics with water pencils and a white Posca pen.



Later I experimented with thicker acrylic moved around with a palette knife, and again my handy 8B water colour pencil. It was fun. I have always loved palette knife painting like one of my favourite artists, Arthur Boyd - but I feel that it resulted in too much energy in the image. I am going for something serene, like the Japanese painting influence from Mokulito founder, Professor Ozaku, at the University of Tokyo in the 1970s.



This charcoal sketch kept blurring out of my notebook, but it gave me the closest effect to what I was hoping to achieve through my mokulito. Here there is a misty atmospheric in the organic smudginess of the charcoal - which I hope to replicate in the look of greasy ink rubbed into the wood with a rag. The lightness created by my eraser in the sky and water reflection give me an effect which I hope I can replicate through the use of Gum Arabic layered upon the wood.



To begin the process I lightly smooth the ply wood with sandpaper in a circular motion. A face mask and glasses are a good precaution to ensure dust particles are kept out of my face. I do the work outside for breezy ventilation.



I've set up the image of my photo on my laptop. My home studio looks like this: the ink, brushes, tusche, crayons, greasy pencils all lined up and ready for action.


My space is tiny in my childhood room with my studio table, bed and desk area. I have to keep things tidy and organised to prevent accidents.


My space is tiny in my childhood room with my studio table, bed and desk area. I have to keep things tidy and organised to prevent accidents.

To make things interesting, I'm entertaining my daughter in this makeshift studio too.


I begin building up the image, firstly by gumming out the sun and reflection which I want to remain unmarked by grease. I intend on layering the gum over the image as more of the sky tonalities build, that way hopefully achieving a graduated look. I'm not sure how this experiment will work.


I am happy how ink worked into wood with a rag creates the painterly charcoal effect I am after.


I enjoy using one of my daughter's crayons to create a rougher texture and line to the work.


I hope that the wood grains look like organic ripples in the dam. I wonder if the wood grain would look more like ripples if they had been horizontal across the image. However, the orientation of the wood could not have been landscape because it didn't work with my image. Regardless, I will remember to consider the grain of the wood next time I am planning a mokulito print.



It is fun cutting into the wood grain with my Lino cutters to create the line and texture of reeds and grasses. I am careful to direct the cuts away from my free hand and hold the board firm so there is no slipping.


It has been great experimenting with different ways to make marks.



The etching process is a lot simpler than with a Lithograph because the wood is so much more porous than stone. Only a generous layer applied with a sponge, wait over night, and then



rinse off gently under the tap, hoping like hell the image has held.



My home studio is set up for my first ever Mokolito printing session!


Is it normal to feel scared about taking the plunge into converting my lovely wooden board into a print?!


Japanese papers are so beautiful to use. Even ripping them is a delight.

It is a funny moment, all of the class working from our home studios all around Melbourne. Connected by technology and our love for art.


I know the first print is likely to come out extremely light as the lighter tusche takes a couple of prints to start taking up the ink. I use a metal cooking spoon and a Japanese bamboo barren to work hard at rubbing the ink in. I use baking paper as a backing sheet to reduce the friction.


Even still, the first print is unbelievably light. I'm enjoying the fact that I can see the wood grain however, and kitty doesn't seem to mind.


A rudimentary COVID 19 drying rack is on my bed, next to the our new pandemic rescue kitten!


I sponge the matrix with water, roll ink on it - alternating the direction of the roller, and work to gradually build up the tonal differences. Second time around the print is significantly darker. The image has abstracted in the printing process, but there is quite a beautiful quality to the image also.


I stopped using the metal spoon as a barren after I got this print result. You can see the marks the back of the spoon made as I pressed the paper onto the matrix.


For best results, use the light touch of a child and a Japanese bamboo barren!


You can see how quickly the image gets too dark. There seems to be a small window for getting all the elements right to achieve the optimal mokulito print. I am pleased with a few of the mid range tonal prints. The ones at the end of the run get quite dark, no maker how lightly I press.


Whilst the prints didn't turn out as well as I had dreamed, I got a lot out of learning the technique and process. The sky in the matrix had looked how I had wanted it to look, but it darkened quickly in the print. Sadly the process meant the image lost a lot of this misty, etherial look. The more I keep the prints on my wall though, the more I have appreciated them for their emerging beauty. You can see detailed pictures in my online gallery page.


Being good at art is such hard work, I can see that if making prints was easy, everyone could call themselves a Print Maker! It is going to take a lot more practice to get where I want to be.

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