Hello and Welcome Friends,

  December, 2007
volume 6 number 9

Well, I've finally received my printing press and am very grateful for this new tool. I immediately dove into the deep end and started printing and haven't stopped during the whole month of December. So prepare yourself for a newsletter that features more works than I usually have for one month, in contrast to last month. As well, I want to show you how the prints are made. We'll start with that.

The technique I've been using is called reduction printing. It means that, although there are multiple colors printed, just one block is used. Here's how it is done:

Printing with linoleum is just like printing with a block of wood. But it is easier to obtain, more consistent and a little easier to work with tools. The first step is to come up with a design. The design needs to be simplified and “broken down” into component areas and shapes of a limited number of colors. Once the design is composed on paper, I transfer the drawing to the surface of the linoleum using carbon paper (you remember that, don’t you?) and a ball point pen. So that I will not wash away the design later, I go back over the carbon paper lines with indelible marker.

    First Color Block

I identify which areas are going to remain open paper, without any ink. These areas will be my white in the design and are carved away about an eighth inch deep using U-gouges, V-gouges, chisels and knives. The top image is what the block looks like with the white areas carved away and the fresh marker line drawing (the lighter, textured areas are the carved portions):

Using a roller, the block is coated with a thin, even coat of ink, a light blue in this case. It is placed in a jig so that the block and the paper are always in exactly the same place each time a new color is printed.

    Second Color Block

The paper has holes punched in it and these holes are used to place the paper on registration pins that stick up about 1/8”. Using either a printing press or by rubbing by hand, the ink is transferred to the paper with pressure. The block is inked up again and the impression of the first color is made on each piece of paper in the edition. An edition can be any number, but is usually between 20 and 50. Smaller editions are sometimes made when hand rubbing is used as the physical labor is punishing after the first two colors.

Next I carve away those parts of the image that I want to remain the first color (light blue). The indelible marker drawing has lightened considerably on the block from the action of the ink, turpentine and soap and water when cleaning. Then the paper is printed again with the second color (a darker shade of blue in this case). Notice the image is reversed.

    "Winter Crossing" after the first two of five colors.

The first color shows through the open places in the second color.

The third, fourth and fifth colors are done just the same way. Each time the block is carved to allow the color just printed to come through and remain visible. Here are the rest of the stages on this five color print, “Winter Crossing.”

    Third Color Block

    Fourth Color Block

    Fifth Color Block

On the last color, I only had need for a very limited portion of the block to be printed. The lower and right hand sides are not completely carved away. But they are also not inked for printing. Its less work to leave that portion of the block intact and unnecessary to carve it away.

Here is the completed print:

    "Winter Crossing" 5-color Linocut 5" x 7" edition of 28

The next print is not so involved as it uses only three colors. The village of Newfane, Vermont is very near our home in Brattleboro and features one of the most beautiful town commons in Vermont, or New England, for that matter. Like many town commons in Vermont, Newfane has a monument to the many soldiers who volunteered and gave their lives to the cause of keeping the union together during the Civil War. Covered in snow, the statue and the Windham County Courthouse among the bare trees make for a wonderful composition.

    "Newfane Common" 3-color Linocut 7" x 5" edition of 30

The next print celebrates one of the things that I feel makes winter something very special, the contrasts between the bright sun on snow and the shadows and trees. This image greatly simplifies the components of the composition due to the medium. Nevertheless, the complexity of carving the various versions of the block is considerable, especially the dark, final color. It is a bit difficult to see in this image, but the sunlit area of the print is a pale salmon color.

    "Winter Light" 4-color Linocut 9" x 12" edition of 20

The next print changes seasons a bit but the subject is pretty much the same, within the forest of New England. The difficulty in doing a print like this is that you never quite know what it is going to look like until it is printed. The success or failure of a print this complicated has everything to do with planning out how the colors are going to be cut before I ever begin. It can be very confusing figuring out what exactly is being carved since the structure of the image comes only with the combination of colors, not with any individual color. The first few colors don't tell you much but it can come together nicely in the last, darker colors if all goes well. I hope you agree with me that this went well.

    "Forest Light" 5-color Linocut 7" x 5" edition of 23

The next print is one where I introduced and experimented with a technique I discovered when testing out my new press, embossing. With embossing the print is run through the press with two felt blankets on top of the paper under high pressure. The felt pushes the paper down into the areas that are carved out and remains in that stretched configuration - like pillows in the paper. Aside from the embossing, which was done during the printing of the first color, a light blue, there are six colors that went into creating this image of sap buckets in spring.

For those of you who are not familiar with this part of Vermont, let me describe it briefly. As the temperatures get above freezing in the day time and below freezing at night, sugar maples' sap begins to flow. The trees are tapped with metal spigots and (in the old days) buckets are hung on the spigots to collect the sap. The sap is like slightly sweet water. This is boiled down to make maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of syrup.

    "Sugaring Season" 6-color Linocut 9" x 12" edition of 30

Here's another version of my "Angel of Winter." With this small edition of 10 prints, I used a very soft violet grey, which I like very much. I hope you do too.

    "Angel of Winter II" Linocut 12" x 9" edition of 10

Finally, we had a lovely couple from Massachusetts staying with us earlier in the month, Erika and Jonathan. Jonathan is a fine sculptor and Erika is a photographer. After leaving us, Erika put together a small gallery of images she took while staying with us. Her eye for composition surprised and delighted us. When photographing our place, we have always concentrated on the entirety of the rooms and the view from our B&B. Erika saw the beauty in the small things and in the way Patricia arranges the appointments in The Artist's Loft. Take a look at what Erika saw.

Thank you for taking the time to look over what I have to offer this month. If you are interested in purchasing any of these prints or others that I've done, they are available on my "Prints" page. I look forward to hearing from you and hope that you are well and happy this holiday season.


William H. Hays

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