November 2010   volume 9 number 9 The Artist's Loft logo The Artist's Loft logo

William H. Hays  Hello and Welcome Friends,

So we've just finished Thanksgiving weekend and are counting our blessings as the holiday season approaches. It all comes along much sooner than we expect, perhaps a little colder than we want, a mite bit darker than we remember... but a gift to enjoy nonetheless. Patricia tells me that I accomplished the presentation of a perfect turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. All modesty aside, it was wonderful!

Although there are still tasks to be done which await the end of the year, I've been looking back a little bit at this year. I see that sales of my artworks have been very good and I can't tell you how humbled I am at your support of my work. I'm pleased to tell you that this year we've sold works from our little studio to folks from six different countries and from thirteen different states within the U.S. Wow! Thank you, everybody!

Now it's time to take a look at what I've been up to for the past several weeks. I would like to tell you that I've done many different works of art. But instead, I'll have to concentrate on the one that occupied so much of my efforts this month. As I've done from time to time, I want to take this opportunity to show you the full process of creating a multicolor, reduction linocut print. This print ended up to be eight colors, all carved and printed from the same block.

I'm often asked, from where do the ideas come for my artworks. The answer is not simple. Sometimes they are completely imaginary. Sometimes they are from sketches. Sometimes from photos. Most often they are from some combination thereof. This particular one came from a photo that I took in October one afternoon when we went out for a drive. It was late in the day and the sun was softly coming from the side and illuminating a hillside in the distance. The photo I started with is in last month's newsletter.

Linoleum block for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   The carved block partially inked for the first color impression, yellow.

You can see (above) that the image of the photo has been drawn onto the block. This alone takes almost two days to accomplish. The inking is done only partially because that is the only place I wanted the yellow to be. You can see within the inked area that there are small carvings that will reveal white (the paper) within the printed yellow (below). No doubt about it, this print was going to be very different from the photo....

First color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   First color impression

I may have forgotten to mention that the late afternoon autumn image was not what I wanted for the print. I wanted to do a snowy scene around nightfall, not quite dark. My approach is based in my experiences with two previous prints with this theme, "Illumination" and "Quiet Night." You can see the image with the second and third colors printed over the yellow below. These light blue/grays are printed in very thin applications. So they have a degree of transparency which allows the yellow to show through and change the colors that are laid over it.

Second and third color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   Second and third color impression

The first two colors of blue gray are still quite light, even though they might look relatively dark against the white of the paper. The only "snow" that I've carved away at this point is that which is right around the unseen source of light behind the house. So at this stage, the little points of light that make up the lit halo of snow are white, yellow and the first light shade of blue. The larger elements of falling snow were not carved away until the next color was applied (below).

Fourth color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   Fourth color impression

Now the image is beginning to take solid shape in the foreground. Although you can clearly see that snow is falling, there is no background yet defined. So the next carving stage begins to bring out some definition of the background. But it is subtle. The mixing of colors from one stage to the next involves only enough darkening to make a clear distinction between one color and the next. But the contrast is slight. Remember that I wanted a nightfall scene where the distance can be very faint.

Fifth color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   Fifth color impression

Now the background is coming into focus. I've continued to carve more snow falling, but it is difficult to see what I've done until you see it with the added contrast of the next color. And here is one of the dilemas of choosing colors without seeing them in the context of their neighbors: you're never quite sure what this is going to look like. Not only that, the carving itself is something that I can only really see when it is printed. Some of the carving is done knowing what will happen. Some is done as educated guess work. Some, I have no idea until it is printed.

Sixth color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   Sixth color impression

At this point you can clearly see the fully developed composition. The added darker color brings out all of the fine carving that I did in lighter colors. Also, you'll notice that the yellow coming through the upper colors is beginning to go away. Part of that effect is due to the increased contrast of the darker colors. Some is due to the fact that there are now five layers of ink over most of the yellow that was laid down in the first impression.

Seventh color impression for Nightfall Snowfall by William Hays   Seventh color impression

Now we're almost there and I'm enjoying the way the image has come together. You'll note that the yellow is no longer bleeding through the latest colors since it is covered with six layers of ink. I just needed to add one more, darker (and redder) color to pull everything together... and I'm done:

Nightfall Snowfall, linoleum block print by William Hays   "Nightfall Snowfall" 8-color linoleum block print, 12" x 9"

It's an amazing process to do. I very much enjoy seeing the consecutive pieces of the puzzle falling into place. The main difference between what you see here and what I experience is that it took me a little over two weeks to see it all come together. I don't really know how many hours that translates into. But it is quite a few, to be sure.

As I've done sometimes in the past, I watched what was happening on the block and thought that with the impression of the sixth color I had a block that would work just by itself. So I printed a one-color version, below:

Daybreak Snowfall, linoleum block print by William Hays   "Daybreak Snowfall" linoleum block print, 12" x 9"

Although that is all of the artwork I was able to get done this month, there is one more thing that I'll bring to your attention. Some two years ago I received an inquiry from a publishing company about using an image of one of my paintings for a book they were putting together called, "The Art of Lake Champlain." Patricia and I had spent a couple of weeks in the spring, at the invitation of the Basin Harbor Club, enjoying the "fifth Great Lake" in Vergennes, Vermont. There I did quite a few watercolors and a couple of oils. One of the oils caught the eye of the editor from Verve Editions. It has been included along with the works of fifty other Vermont artists in one of their latest hardcover publications, below:

Art of Lake Champlain   The Art of Lake Champlain published by Verve Editions

Lake Champlain Sunset, oil on panel by William H. Hays   Lake Champlain Sunset (2002), oil on panel, 18" x 12"

With that, let me thank you once again for spending your time with me while I show you the process by which I make these works of art. You're always welcome to come by The Artist's Loft in Brattleboro. I will be giving away another "Gallery Walk print" by random drawing at the end of Gallery Walk this Friday (Dec. 3rd). Last month's winner was from North Carolina. Who knows, you might be the next person to get one.

You're welcome to sign up online for the drawing and you are even more welcome to brighten our doorway with your figure when you visit us in Brattleboro.

Yours,

William H. Hays


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