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Mokulito (Wood Lithography) Printmaking

Printmaking mash-ups appeal to my experiment-loving, nerd-artist’s heart. In a previous series of blog posts this season (like this cat and tulip print), I relished mixing linocut with drypoint engraving. (More of those are coming soon.)

And then, I took a wood lithography workshop – also known as Mokulito – with master printmaker Jeff Sippel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Screech the tires, bang a sharp right, and forge a new path with the Art Car!

Learning a brand new printmaking method that I’ve been scratching my head to comprehend has ignited a barn fire on a windy day in my brain. I’m practically obsessed.

Preparing the mokulito plate of a still life by painting the image on prepared wood with Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic
Mixing oil-based printmaking ink colors for mokulito prints in the studio
Master Printmaker Jeff Sippel discusses mixing mokulito wood lithography and monotype prints during the week-long workshop at Making Art Safely in Santa Fe, New Mexico

What is Mokulito?

The Japanese word Mokulito translates roughly to Wood Lithography. Are you familiar with Mokulito? Have you ever seen a print up close?

Mokulito is a lithographic printmaking process that uses a wooden plate instead of the traditional stone or metal to print from.

Instead of grabbing litho crayons and tusches to draw and paint on stone, we used heavy body acrylic paint and gum arabic to build imagery on wood.

Basically, your acrylic painting becomes the printmaking matrix, because altered printmaking inks will stick to the acrylic. The ink will repel the prepared, wet wood. As a lovely bonus, you can also carve into the wood to print relief style, like a woodcut. The combination of possibilities in your design are incredibly exciting to ponder.

Alternately rolling ink, and wet-sponge mopping the prepared wood lithography plate

No Two Mokulito Prints are Alike

Mokulito Editions are small and variable, but I loved experimenting with drawing on wood with different acrylic pens, and alternating veils of acrylic paint to suss out halftones, and reveal printable woodgrain in the final prints.

Pulling a mokulito print after a run through the press… can you see the woodgrain that transferred in the window and curtains?
The mokulito print on the left next to the wooden plate on the right

Adding Monotype to Mokulito Prints

During the workshop, Jeff Sippel printed a variety of lovely mokulito demos to help us understand the process for image building and the patience required to properly ink the plates.

After his prints were dry, he also over-printed a transparent monotype on a portion of the finished mokulito print, which adjusted section of the values magically. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. It was such an AHAAAH-moment! More printmaking mash-ups!

Monotype on Mokulito prints: The print on the left was a reference to trace shapes on a smooth sheet of plexiglass (on the right). The plexi was then flipped over, and ink was applied inside the traced shapes. The color monotype was then printed on top of the monochromatic mokulito print.
After pressing the mokulito print against the monotype plate, and running it through the press, the colored ink has transferred to the print. The plexiglass was then washed, and new shapes were made with a grease pencil on the verso of the plexiglass to print other colors.
The mokulito wood plate on the left, the plexiglass sheet used to add color monotype in the middle, and the resulting mokulito monotype print on the right.
A varied edition of four mokulito prints with monotype drying in the studio.
Marionettes 10×15 Mokulito and Monotype print
Mokulito prints seem to vary with each ink, press & pull, so adding color with painterly monotype seemed an appropriate, no-two-are-alike design strategy. I’ve listed all four mokulito prints in my Etsy shop here.

Mokulito Resources

  • Mokulito was invented in the 1970’s, in the studio of Ozaku Seishi, a printmaking professor who was frustrated about students who learned stone lithography in college, but rarely returned to it because they had no access to litho stones, presses, and all the accouterments required to make the prints.
  • Recently, Polish printmaker Ewa Budka and her father have worked to fine-tune and demystify the Mokulito process with demo videos and workshops.
  • Don Messec’s Making Art Safely workshops in Santa Fe New Mexico are fantastic! You can read an interview with Don here.
  • Master Printmaker Jeff Sippel’s work is ethereal and painterly, and his printmaking workshops are stuffed with practical information about process, supplies, methods, and printmaking mash-ups. Don’t miss an opportunity to study with him.
  • Bernhard Cociancig has created some gorgeous mokulito prints, and he assembled and gives away a PDF download of supplies and methods that were the result of many experiments in his studio.
  • There is a new Mokulito book out by printmaker Marta Sliwiak. It’s published in both Polish and English in the same book. There are plenty of great photos and graphics to review her process too, which you can peruse here.

More Mokulito to Come

My studio is a vortex of wood boards, sandpaper, acrylic paint, sponges and print experiments drying on a line. I’m smitten with wood lithography mokulito, and if you’re interested in seeing more, let me know in the comments. You can subscribe to this blog to get each post via email here.

What are you printing or painting this season? Just say hello. I always love hearing from you.

Until the next post, make something soon –

Belinda

P.S. Do you know about the Association of Print Scholars?

Art Quote

I liked to draw . . . also adventure in the woods mostly by myself. I was especially fond of kites and swimming. As an older boy, I did not have much schooling, but I learned what education I have from reading books, listening to conversation and traveling.

Printmaker Dox Thrash (1893-1965)

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21 thoughts on “Mokulito (Wood Lithography) Printmaking”

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Belinda, I’m intrigued by Mokulito done with acrylic. I’ve done the Ewa Budka type using tusche or crayon. So your method looks a bit easier in some respects. Looking forward to more posts with details about the beginning of this process.

  2. Shelley Noble

    Wonderful. PS the Polish book is already translated in the second half of the slide show you linked. Hooray!

  3. Angela Finney

    Belinda,
    Thank you so much for all of this information!
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the prints you made.
    I am very anxious to learn this/take a workshop.
    I could ask a million questions, but for now, I will ask: What kind and thickness of wood did you use?
    Thanks again for all of you print making posts— a delight for the eyes and a boon for the spirit always!!!’👏🏻❤️

  4. Such a lovely, quiet scene. . . lamp, flowers, curtains and light. . . you have a wonderful eye! Thank you for the inspiration. I’m always delighted to see your posts in my in box!

  5. Think I’m smitten too! Please keep taking us along on your printmaking adventures. And thank you for the reference list — very much appreciated. Happy mokulito!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful new adventure in printmaking! I’ve always loved the look of litho but it’s not easily accessible. This however, looks like so much fun with similar results. Please keep sharing. I look forward to learning more.

    1. Hi Pam, I’ve always watched stone lithography from afar, and marveled at the breadth of mark-making – from drawn line to transparent washes. This approach makes it non-toxic, and doable from home. I hope you get a chance to take a workshop with Jeff Sippel. His demos and articulation of the process are excellent!

  7. Candy Manuel

    Belinda, I love this! I’d never heard of mokulito before. I love being able to see the woodgrain in the print. Thank you for this gorgeous post and the introduction to mokulito.

    1. Hi Candy – thanks so much for the feedback, and I hope you venture into some mokulito tutorials to give it a try. The prints are unlike anything I’ve seen, and they’re so fun to make!

  8. This is a post with amazing information, Belinda. I always appreciate your posts, they are so generous. But here!! a new technique I had zero knowledge about. Thank you.
    PS: the website link is a project I’m working on

    1. Hi David, Thank you for the enthusiastic encouragement, and for sharing your latest project! I love the way you blend words and prints, and how they connect to add a more visceral reaction to the text. Bravo.

    1. Hi Cindy, The origin of the image was a cell phone snapshot of a table in my house, and the wood plate holds a painting of the scene done in a single color of acrylic heavy body paint. You can see the painting on the wood plate in process near the top of the page. Does that answer your question?

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