The Colour of Ink

A FILM BY BRIAN JOHNSON
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: RON MANN
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: NICHOLAS DE PENCIER

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THE COLOUR OF INK is a film about the first, and maybe last, analog medium. Ink has always been with us. It’s the liquid currency of secrets and scripture, literature and legislation: civilization’s carbon fingerprint. This documentary feature explores ink’s ancient bloodline by following a contemporary alchemist who harvests pigments from the urban wild.

Jason S. Logan has won international acclaim as an artist, author and graphic designer. But his passion is ink. He makes natural inks in his home kitchen, creating vibrant colours out of ingredients foraged on the margins of the city - weeds, bark, buts, berries, roots, lichen, stones, rust… just about anything. His Toronto Ink Company, a one-man cottage industry, sends inks to artists and studios around the world.Jason’s ongoing “ink tests” - dramatic collisions of colour on paper - have generated an avid following on Instagram. When New York Times invited Jason to improvise ink tests on camera for a Facebook Live event, 300,000 tuned in. And his Instagram feed led to a book deal with Abrams. Jason will launch “Make Ink” in the fall of 2018 wit an extensive tour of ink-foraging field trips in cities across North America.

Following the trail of Jason’s ink, we find our characters, from authors to tattoo artists. A Japanese calligrapher covers a wall in a state of trance. An Ojibway painter mines pigment from the limestone of Manitoulin Island. A Mexican artisan draws red dye from insects that feed on cacti. Jason sends his ink to visionaries such as Ai Wei Wei and David Lynch, and novelists like Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, who find inspiration in the flow of ink. J.K. Rowling defends the need to teach children cursive writing.

The narrative unfolds in episodes of colour. We track ink’s evolution, from its indigenous origins to the colonial pigment trade, from illuminated manuscripts to the creeping extinction of print media. We explore ink’s spiritual and erotic mystery - religions have viewed it as both sacred and profane. And we explore its new frontiers. A start-up in Banglore makes carbon-blank ink out of soot captured from exhaust pipes. An M.I.T. scientist prints skin patches with medicinal ink made of fluorescing live bacteria. And we discover the beauty of a medium that connects us as the blood of ideas, a mark of authenticity in the digit5al ether of zeroes and ones. Ink still binds us.