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. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

White-line woodcuts - A Love Story



 White-line woodcut progression

The very first time I saw a white-line woodcut, I fell instantly in love.

I think I knew it, but I didn’t believe it was happening. Is it really possible to fall in love with an art-making method?

Here is what happened and you can decide:

When I had happily been painting for about a decade, I signed up for a printmaking class. I don't remember why - maybe I wanted to understand printmaking terms better on museum trips, maybe I had extra time and money lying around, maybe a little angel whispered in my ear.

During the next several weeks, the other students and I worked our way through monotypes, collagraphs, etching, screenprints, solar plates, and, one fateful night, reliefs.

At the beginning of that evening’s class, the instructor showed us blocks and examples of block prints other students had created. She also shared a small book about Blanche Lazzell, a white-line woodcut artist. The teacher had a white-line block with some paper attached to it that she had been using as a demo for years. Using watercolor and a wooden spoon, she added another petal to her flower design right in front of us.

I had a little linoleum block and I was carving a small still life, but I had a real hard time focusing. Every few minutes, I would put down my Speedball carving tool and made my way across the room to look at the Blanche Lazzell book. Then I would scold myself to get back to work and return to carving my little block.

All night long, the book and the instructor’s block called to me like a Siren and I didn’t finish my linoleum carving that evening.

If I dreamt of white-line woodcuts that night, I don't remember it. What I do remember is that I leapt out of bed at 5:30 the next morning (not my usual get up time), and rushed around gathering a small piece of spare plywood, a utility knife and a crusty water color set. I quickly drew a small design loosely based on mountains in winter, transferred it to the paper, carved it, inked it and printed it. 

Before breakfast, I had created my first white-line woodcut start to finish.

Since the night white-line woodcuts and I fell in love with each other, I have met other obsessed souls. There is something unique and special about them. 

Maybe you have already fallen in love... 

Maybe you would like to see what power this medium holds over those of us who are under its spell. 

Either way, you could find out if this is for you by signing up for my workshop! It is in May in Manchester, NH.

Find out more by clicking here!
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