Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Enjoying Prints without White-lines

Reflecting Pool at The Clark Art Institute

I recently visited The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA to see an exhibit of Helen Frankenthaler's woodcut prints and paintings. 

You may know that Frankenthaler's woodcuts are a huge inspiration for me. If not, you can read a previous post about my first encounter with her work here.

It was a marvelous exhibit. I hadn’t seen any of her prints in person before and it was well worth the five hour drive round trip. 

Some of the prints were unbelievably luminous. The brilliance was partially achieved using printmaking techniques that she herself didn’t even know how to do. She worked with professional printers who turned her ideas into print editions. 

That is the traditional way of doing things, actually. All the famous Japanese woodcuts familiar to you were created by a team. Two names you know, Hiroshige and Hokusai, were painters who created images for a printmaking house, who employed specialized carvers, paper handlers and printers, to translate into prints.

In Frankenthaler's case, she pushed these printers to their limits with her ideas and forced them to invent completely new techniques to fulfill her visions. Many of these pieces took years of proofing, experimentation and failure before completion. According to books and museum tags, tempers were known to flare.

Standing before her imposing images, I couldn't always puzzle out how they were done even after reading a detailed description. 

Even though they are woodcuts. Even though they are jigsaws.

Instead of frustration, I feel energized by this. 

I've got some big ideas of my own and seeing hers in full lively color helped turn my hope into faith that they will be in my hands or on the wall sometime in the future. Even if I don't quite know how it will happen.


P.S. There was also an exhibit of a few of Frankenthaler's paintings in another building of The Clark. To get there, you "had to" take this wooded path.

Even thought the Frankenthaler exhibit is no longer on display, The Clark is a marvelous place and I recommend a visit!





Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Break During Dog Days

Measure, a little more than six months old, enjoying a hike in Acadia National Park.

I went to Acadia National Park for the first time last week. For years, people have been telling me that I have to go there and paint.

I did half of that. I went and camped and hiked and ate a lot of seafood. 

I had all of my supplies for three different media just in case I felt like working. I enjoyed all of the scenery immensely and a lot of it reminded me of Home - the woods where I grew up north of Portland, ME, Rye, NH where I watched waves crashing on rocks for hours as mosquitoes and greenhead flies feasted on me every summer as a kid, and my grandparents' home on an island near Rockland, ME.

Acadia is my first visit to any National Park. This seems odd - most of my life I have lived only a few hours drive from this one and I had never been. And there is something wrong about an American who has journeyed all the way to Australia twice but never seen the Grand Canyon.

Somehow, all this added up to the decision to just look, relax and appreciate the environment, my dogs and husband, and a short break from my responsibilities here in New Boston.

I didn't even take many photos - a few of my puppy, Measure, who has now already been to a National Park as a baby. Lucky Dog. Maybe this will be the first of many for her. And me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Weeks After

More white-line woodcuts in the booth last week.

The League of NH Craftsmen's Fair is over. Some prints found new homes and lots of people were exposed to white-line woodcuts and jigsaw reduction woodblocks.

My "Beach House" inspired booth set up also won third place in the "Other" category and prompted many compliments. It was a nice space to sit in for 9 whole days straight and the prints looked great on the white, beadboard walls.

I gave out a ton of flyers about my next white-line workshop. It will be at League Headquarters in Concord, NH the weekend of October 14-15. 


Before that, I'll be teaching printmaking on Appledore Island August 28 - September 1, which is off the coast of Portsmouth, NH. There will also be sessions in drawing and painting. 

Sound fun? There might still be spots, so check here to sign up!

Before that, I am going camping with my dogs. Maybe I'll paint a bit. Maybe I'll do another white-line woodcut on site. Maybe I'll just sit and enjoy the outdoors. Any of that sounds nice after a fun, but very busy week.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

White-lines at the League of NH Craftsmen's Fair


The League of NH Craftsmen's Fair is this week. I am printing a little in my booth between visitors.

If you haven't stopped by yet, you still have a few days. The Fair doesn't close until Sunday, August 13th at 5 pm, so stop by!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Booth 407 Ready for Transport


Here is a sneak peak at part of my new booth. It is going to go to Mount Sunapee Resort soon for the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair.

There will be more in the real booth - note cards, large prints and more smaller ones - Come see for yourself!

And there are over 200 other craftsmen with booths full of pottery, clothing, jewelry, furniture and a ton of other great art.

I can't wait!



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

White-line Cards


The League of NH Craftsmen's Fair starts August 5 and that means that not only do I have to finish printing and bundling some of the prints I showed you last week, but I've had to get my note cards ready too.

Pictured above are some of the prints that have also become note cards. They will be available at the Fair, of course. If you can't wait, the 8-card packs are on the website and, for now, domestic shipping is free.

I have to get going and finish up some booth construction (if you want to see some photos of that, I've been sharing a bit on Instagram and Facebook). See you at the Fair!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Printing All Seasons

Two blocks and two prints, including Leaves in Winter

Prints in progress here. I am working on quite a few at once since the League of NH Craftsmen's Annual Fair is right around the corner. August 5-13, to be precise.

If you want to see any of these prints in person, visiting my booth, #407, at the Fair is a great idea.

Along with printing white-lines, printing at the DM Penny Press, framing and bundling, I am working on a new booth. Maybe I'll show you more next week, but right now, it looks like this:


Yes, my snowshoes are in the background. They stay there all year. It is appropriate that they show up in this post, though, because Leaves in Winter, pictured above, was inspired my snowshoeing experiences.

I won't be bringing them to the Fair, though. I'll have too much new art to carry.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bouy Composition Print

Printing another white-line block

The first print from a block is always a mixture of exciting and scary.

It is fun to see the shapes magically appear on paper - to witness the final act of a process that sometimes takes months.

But this is when thin lines reveal themselves by not holding colors separate from each other and seeing ink run all over the block is a bit annoying.

Also, there is no color on the block yet and that makes it hard to remember which hue goes in which shape. 

This block is readily transferring its pencil marks. It is impossible to tell how much that will matter in the final print until it is all done. So I better get back to it.

In the meantime, I'm printing a different block with oil ink on the Conrad Machine at DM Penny Press. You can see some of that on Instagram, including a little video of a print peeling off the block.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reviving Another Old Idea

carved white-line block

I've started yet another white-line print.

This is from a painting I did quite a few years ago on site. You might not be able to tell yet, but these trees are in a field overlooking the ocean. Someone stuck a pumpkin in one of the branches and piled a few lobster buoys around the trunks. 

I am looking forward to printing this because lobster buoys often come in very bright colors and I can go a little wild if I want. I'll see how I feel with each one that I print.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

House Reveal

New print, Veiled House, and its block

Here is the first print from the block you last saw in this post.

A sunny, fall day with screaming oranges and reds and a clear blue sky. A white house that looks purple on its shadowed face. Grass still alive and green. 

Of course, it is time for summer thoughts now, not autumn ones. The next planned block is summery. Water, lobster buoys, trees... Just wait and see.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Teasers

Two white-line woodcuts in progress


You will have to wait a bit more to see the print with the house in it.

Because I have found even more white-line woodcuts already in progress!

I have no idea why they aren't finished, but I am excited to finish ALL of them!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Under Construction

Block, print in progress and inspiration


I have printed quite a bit of it and here is a picture of it in progress. By the end  of printing, the leaves should be bright oranges and reds and golds and the house a bright white with one wall in shadow. 

I also hope that the tree trunks uphold the structure of the whole composition.

We shall see next week!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Revisiting

Bright Day, jigsaw relief print

Next week, there will be a new white-line woodcut to show you, but the block you saw last week still needs a bit more carving.

In 2013, I wrote a post about the making of this print. It amused me to read it again recently, so I thought I would share it with you.

There is also a video of me printing one of these, so you can see how complicated it was.

"This print is a jigsaw AND a white-line. I completed it a few weeks ago from drawings in my sketchbook. 

I don't know how many pieces I ended up with after I cut up the block - you can try to count them if you want to. But there isn't a prize for the right answer or anything. This time.

Something exciting happened while I was making this print. Aside from getting this cool image, I had a little revelation.

My mother is a crazily avid knitter (I swear this is relevant), but she doesn't like to do small projects with lots of little ends to tie in at the finish. I got her the book Knit Your Own Royal Wedding a few years ago as a Mother's Day gift and she certainly laughed as she looked through it, but I knew she wouldn't actually knit any of the projects. "These characters are full of little fussy bits," she told me. 

I used to think I was the same way - not interested in "little fussy bits". But now I am not so sure.

This block seems like a messy, logistical nightmare to print - there are a lot of pieces and some of them are small enough to worry that they might end up lost down the drain during clean up - but I really loved every minute I was making it. Even snuggling the tiny pieces together when they were covered with ink and one tiny slip of a finger meant pulling it apart and re-inking.

This was created in one layer, just like a traditional white-line woodcut. So I didn't have to worry about registering the paper on the block properly over and over again. 

Basically, all is going well."
If you are interested in adding this print to your collection, they are still available.
And this image is also in the Wave Collection of note cards.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Older and Newer

white-line woodcut, carving in progress

For a few weeks, we've talked about printing white-line woodcuts over several months or years. 

Today, you are seeing a block that is partly carved. I transferred the image last week sometime and I've been steadily carving ever since. The black lines haven't been touched yet

This block does have a few things in common with Low Tide Seat. For one thing, the image is from a painting I did in 2012 called Neighbor's House.

And the drawing that I transferred was started last August. 

Low Tide Seat has yielded a bunch of successful impressions over the years. This block has yet to bear any prints. Hopefully, that won't take too long.

 

Neighbor's House, oil on canvas, 14"x11"
Available - contact me

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Old and New


The newest impression of Low Tide Seat, carved in 2011


Last week, we talked about starting to print a white-line woodcut and not finishing it for a while.

Here is another example - as I was gathering materials for the workshop a few weeks ago, I found this block with an unfinished print attached! I have no idea when I started printing this version of Low Tide Seat, but I know for certain that I completed it last week.

If you would like to see it in person, I'll have it with me at Art on the Common on June 3rd in Hampton Falls, NH.

If you can't wait and you need to have it now, you can purchase it through my website.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Taking Our Time

Hoplon, first white-line woodcut print off a new block


Finishing it just the other day reminded me of another reason to love white-line woodcuts. You can start and stop easily - even in the middle of a print. 

The watercolor dries on the block and on the pallet but can be easily re-hydrated and used again at any time.

Some artists have literally worked on one print for years! Taking two months to finish one doesn't seem so bad compared to that, does it?

This is the only print from this block so far and it hasn't had its official portrait taken yet, but if you are interested in snapping it up before it even makes it to the online gallery, contact me.






Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Workshop Impressions


I spent the weekend with some delightful students at the white-line workshop I taught in Manchester, NH.

There is very little proof - I forgot to take any photos until the workshop was over and I was cleaning up. These pallets and puddles of paint are all I have left of a wonderful two days.

While they printed away, we shared artists we admired and talked about where we’d first been enchanted by the medium.

Even if some of the students never print another woodcut, they left with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the medium. 

We are all lovers of white-line woodcuts and that is a very special thing. 

If you missed this workshop and regret it, contact me and I will make sure to let you know when there will be another one!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Speading the White-line Woodcut Wealth

Evening Wave, Monhegan Island, white-line woodcut print

This weekend is the big event and I am very excited!

Saturday and Sunday some lucky people will learn all about white-line woodcuts and how to make them. With the knowledge and skills they acquire in two days, they will be able to create woodcut prints for the rest of their lives.

That's life changing stuff! Once you have learned to draw or paint or print, the world never looks the same to you.

Together, the students and I will investigate compositions, colors, techniques, shapes, tools, paper, and all things white-line woodcut. And we will spend some time on my favorite topic - how to make "mistakes" turn in to what we really wanted after all.

It is going to be a fun weekend, I promise. 

It isn't too late to join us, but you are running out of time. To sign up at the last minute, click here!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Traveling to History

Block and Print by Grace Martin Taylor at the West Virginia University Art Museum in 2016



If you are a white-line woodcut addict, you certainly know of Lazzell and some of her Provincetown, MA artist buddies who invented the method back in 1915. Many people call their creations "Provincetown Prints" and associate them exclusively with their New England birthplace.

The real story is that Lazzell and her cousin Taylor did create a lot of prints in Massachusetts, but they also used the medium to chronicle their hometown in West Virginia. Even a hardcore New Englander like me has to admit that the white-line woodcut is as much West Virginia's as it is Provincetown's. 

In fact, West Virginia turned out to be the best place for an avid fan to see a master's work.

As soon as I learned of the Taylor exhibit, I knew I had to find a way to go. But it seemed crazy - there is no convenient way to get to Morgantown from New Boston. Was it really worth traveling all the way down there to see one room full of prints?

Not really, but I have family and friends near DC, which is also not very close to Morgantown, but it is closer than here... 

I grabbed at that small excuse to fly from Boston to Pittsburgh, PA, drive down to Morgantown, see the exhibit, stay one night, drive to northern VA to visit some people for a few days then drive to Baltimore, MD to fly back to Manchester.

The exhibit turned out to be worth every bit of effort. A room full of beautiful woodcuts, blocks, and letters written by Taylor and Lazzell. Truly, I was surrounded by treasures. 


Hollyhock Time, white-line woodcut print by Grace Martin Taylor

I left the room to briefly enjoy some other exhibits and told a staff member how much I enjoyed the woodcuts and seeing a bit about Lazzell too. 

"Then you haven't seen the mural yet?" she asked, "There is a whole exhibit upstairs with Lazzell's work in it, including her mural from the courthouse."

My trip was about to get even better! I rushed upstairs and found a gallery full of paintings, prints, and charcoal drawings by Lazzell, including this giant mural (you can learn more about it here):

Justice, by Blanche Lazzell

My whirlwind trip was a only a few months ago, but as time passes, I grow more and more thankful that I went. I doubt this collection will be shown again in my lifetime and there is even less of a chance that these prints will travel extensively. I saw a chance to get a white-line woodcut fix, and I grabbed it. Instead of regretting it, I feel proud that I honored my love for the medium by experiencing this special exhibit.

Do you need a white-line woodcut fix? Taking my workshop in a couple of weeks would be perfect!

Sign up here!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Green Printmaking



Above is a photo of the green printmaking studio, D.M. Penny Press, in Manchester, NH. You can see some proofs of my latest, large jigsaw woodcut print under the presses.

Even though oil based inks are allowed in the studio and there are etching baths for copper plates, the DM Penny Press is a "green studio", perfect for our workshop.

Any oil based products are cleaned with vegetable oil, simple green and/or soap and water - no turpentine or mineral spirits are allowed.

But white-line woodcuts don’t need that anyway.

You use watercolor as your ink, which is easy to clean up - you only need water to clean your brushes and other equipment. You could even use a rag instead of paper towels if you wish. The blocks don’t need to be cleaned at all. In fact, as discussed earlier, they become beautiful works of art in their own right after a few prints have been produced from them.

So if easy, environmentally-friendly printmaking sounds good to you, you still have a little bit of time to sign up for the White-line Workshop at the D.M. Penny Press in May. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Minimal Carving, Minimal Tools

Damascus steel marking knife and partially carved white-line block 

White-line woodcuts have a giant advantage over other types of relief printmaking - There is very little carving. 

Only the outlines around your shapes are removed. That means that you only need one knife. Yours could be very fancy - like the one I had made for me by New Hampshire Bladesmith, Zack Jonas - or you could get a less expensive Japanese Sho To, or use a utility knife. The point is, you don't need an array of gouges and chisels.

And the carving is very easy. Compare the small lines carved out of the block above to the retired block from the print Upright Wave:

 Block used to print Upright Wave, 24"x12"

The light parts on the blue block and the golden colored part of the brown blocks all had to be carved away.

If you want to try woodcut printmaking, but you are afraid your hands can't handle all that carving, give white-line woodcuts a try.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Portable Printmaking

Printing Odiorne Rocks! on site in Odiorne State Park
© Hannah Phelps 2010

The reasons to add printing white-line woodcuts to your life continue to mount.

White-line woodcut printmaking is very portable - for starters no press needed.
 
Everything you need to make one can easily fit into a small pack - a few brushes, a spoon, your block, a piece of printmaking paper, some watercolors and a small bottle of water fit easily in a small bag. 

If you want to work start to finish outside for some plein air printmaking, add a sketchbook and pencil, a piece of tracing paper and your knife. All of this is lightweight.

In the photo above, I brought a small table to hold some extra stuff, but I sat on the rock wall to do all the printing. In many places, you can use a picnic table or a bench or whatever. 

Trust me, it is a lot of fun to sit outside and create a print on a beautiful day.

I'll teach you all you need to know to get started (inside).





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Extra Art

 Block for Calm Day at Fort Stark, white-line woodcut print

Have I mentioned that when you create white-line woodcut print, you end up with an extra piece of art when you have finished your edition?

White-line woodcut blocks are more beautiful than any other left over matrix out there. Many people love them more than the prints!

When you take my white-line workshop in May, you will carve and color a block or two plus all the prints you can make!


 
 Pine block (left over wood from a construction project) and print in progress for Morning Obsession on Appledore


Pine block and print in progress for Leaves in Winter

 Block for Leaves in Winter

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Changing Colors with the Seasons

Spring, Summer and Fall prints all from one block


White-line woodcuts are printed one at a time by hand. Using a brush, you paint and print one shape at a time until you are satisfied that you are done.

When you go to print again, you can certainly use the same colors you did before. If you mixed enough of paint in the first place, your print might look identical to the first one.

Most of the time, that doesn’t happen. Instead, you try to make the second print look just like the first, but you don’t match the colors exactly. You might not even know the new one isn’t the same until you get that first one out and compare them.

Here’s the fun part - the first one isn’t really better than the second or third or however many you end up printing. It is just different. And that is exciting.

Next time, you might intentionally mix different colors on purpose.

You can’t do that as easily with painting or with every type of printmaking. With white-line woodcuts, you can play with color relationships and harmonies on the exact same design very easily.

Say you have a beautiful image of a beach. Print some inspired by a sunny, bright summer day and another with a grey sky and moody seas. In a still life, you could try a green vase with red roses one day and a red one with white flowers the next.

Intrigued? 

Come carve a block at the workshop on May 6 & 7 and print it multiple times with the same pallet or a completely different one and see what happens!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Along the Lines



First Watch, white-line woodcut print

Last week, you saw how learning a new medium can help you improve upon your current skills. Specifically, learning printmaking can strengthen the design of your paintings.

Along those same lines (pun intended) the outlines around all the shapes in a white-line woodcut can unify your images if you pay attention to it in the beginning.

Each line you are to carve in a white-line woodcut defines two shapes. This is always true in painting and drawing and real life - each edge you see is where something begins and something else ends. We don’t always pay attention to both of these things.

This is the idea between “positive” and “negative” shapes. Draw a circle on a blank piece of paper and you have really drawn two things - the circle defined by an outline and the non-circle shape surrounding it.

With white-line woodcuts, you can use a line that defines a bunch of different things to track along the entire image. Long, shared edges like that move the viewer's eye exactly where you want it to go.

In the white-line print at the top of the post, there are many lines that travel all the way from the left side of the image to the right side, even if they are informing different shapes along the way. It is more obvious in the water, but I did it in the rocks too.

You don't have to be a printmaker to do this. Celia Beaux used a similar technique in this painting:


 
Ernesta (Child with Nurse), 1894



There is one "line" that you can trace from the bottom right corner all the way to the middle of the top of the image - it swoops to the left, catches the outside of the little girl's dress, takes a right turn at her shoulder and shoots up her arm and into the nanny's.

You could have a lot of fun tracing this type of energy in Georges Rouault's paintings too. Also notice how his strong outlines describe the positive shapes of the women and the negative shapes between them at the same time:
 

 

Automne (Autumn) (1939-1946)






No matter what type of artist you are right now, you can use white-line woodcuts to practice this design technique.

Need some help learning about white-line woodcuts? Sign up for my workshop!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

One Way Printmaking Improves Your Painting

White-line Woodcut Print in Progress


After I fell in love with the white-line woodcut printing method, I realized that creating them was improving my painting.

I wouldn’t have expected that. In fact, I would have predicted that adding a medium would have meant less time painting which would lead to atrophied painting skills.

Instead, I found myself anticipating prints while I was painting. And that became a very useful thing.


 New Look at an Old Friend, oil on board
inspiration for the print pictured above

Right from the beginning, I had used some of my plein air sketches as references for my prints. I quickly transitioned into thinking about what would make a great print while I was painting.

That meant focusing, first and foremost, on creating solid compositions.

Compositions ARE paintings, really. Without a great composition, a painting will never work out no matter how skillful the brushwork is, no matter how vibrant the colors are, no matter how well it is rendered.

Before printmaking, I occasionally got a bit lazy about that. With oil paints, you can wipe off and start over or paint over things that don’t look right. With printmaking, it is a lot harder to fix mistakes - sometimes even impossible. Planning everything in advance doesn’t just make things easier - it is crucial.

Which really is true for painting too - if you want to get anywhere.

This was something I already knew and valued, but I didn’t always act like I knew and valued it. After printmaking for a short time, I painted like a printmaker - planning in advance.

And that made all my paintings more successful. I designed the compositions carefully right from the start and the rest of the session went smoothly.

Want to improve your painting? Paint like a printmaker. 


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