THE COLOUR OF INK - An artist’s quest to make ink with colours foraged in the wild


An artist’s quest to make ink with colours foraged in the wild

Sphinx Productions and the National Film Board of Canada announce a new film by Brian D. Johnson

CANNES, France, May 15, 2019

CANNES, France, May 15, 2019 — Sphinx Productions announced today that it has joined forces with the National Film Board of Canada to produce The Colour of Ink, a feature-length documentary written and directed by Brian D. Johnson about an artist’s quest to reclaim the power and mystique of our first analog medium.

Sphinx President and award-winning filmmaker Ron Mann—fresh from the international success of his latest documentary, Carmine Street Guitars—made the announcement today in Cannes. Mann and Anita Lee of the National Film Board are Executive Producers of The Colour of Ink, which is produced by Johnson and the NFB’s Lea Marin. The film’s Director of Photography is Nicholas De Pencier, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker in his own right, whose most recent achievement was directing ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch with Jennifer Baichwal and Ed Burtynsky.

“We’re going to follow the ink and see where it takes us,” says Johnson.  “There’s a renewed

affection for this analog medium that’s not just a nostalgia trip.  In a digital age where the line between lies and truth is so slippery, there’s a craving for ink’s indelible substance, and for the human connection of handmade language.” 

Brian D. Johnson, one of Canada’s most respected journalists and film critics, produced, wrote and directed the award-winning Al Purdy Was Here (2015). The Colour of Ink, his second documentary feature, explores the magic of ink-making through the adventures of Jason S. Logan, a contemporary alchemist who harvests natural pigments from unlikely landscapes.

Logan is an artist, author and graphic designer. But his passion is ink. Based in Toronto, he creates vibrant colours from ingredients foraged on the margins of the city: weeds, bark, nuts, berries, roots, lichen, stones, rust . . . he likes to say he can make ink out of anything. He sends his ink to artists and studios around the world, finding such devotees such as Margaret Atwood. In 2018, Abrams published Logan’s book Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking. For its launch, he led a foraging excursion through the wilds of Manhattan that inspired a “Talk of the Town” story in The New Yorker.

The film unfolds as a global field trip, with foraging expeditions that take Logan from the Arctic to Death Valley. As he sources primeval pigments, the story traces the evolution of ink from its indigenous origins to the colonial pigment trade, from illuminated manuscripts to the creeping extinction of print media. The trail of his ink leads to other artists. A Japanese calligrapher goes into a trance to attack a wall with a giant brush. An Ojibwa artist mines pigment from Manitoulin Island’s limestone cliffs. A Greenland woman revives the tradition of Inuit face tattoos. 

The film also explores ink’s new frontiers. A Bangalore start-up makes ink with soot captured from car exhaust. An M.I.T. lab brews medicinal ink with fluorescing bacteria. In New York, Blue Hill chef Dan Barber and Row 7 Seeds work with Logan to make ink from experimental vegetables. And in the quick gleam left by a fountain pen, we discover the mysterious beauty of a medium that lives in the moment and still binds us like nothing else—a map of authenticity in our cyberspace of zeroes and ones.

Sphinx Productions is a documentary film and television production company based in Toronto that has been producing award-winning films since 1976.

Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada has created over 13,000 productions and won 5,000 awards, including 12 Oscars.

For media inquiries, contact: Virginia Kelly