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).

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