February 2010   volume 9 number 1 The Artist's Loft logo The Artist's Loft logo

William H. Hays  Hello and Welcome Friends,

It has been several months since I've written to you. Let me apologize for the gap and say simply that it has been a difficult couple of months. Life's responsibilities are not always compatible with making art. But, like all things, they pass and I'm pretty well back to a regular schedule these days. The works that I'm going to show you have come into being during December 2009 along with January and February of 2010.

This is the ninth year of my posting a fairly regular newsletter. I don't know that I can call it a blog. When I started doing this in December of 2002 there was no such thing as a blog. I'm not overly fond of the idea of posting my everyday activities for all to follow. I can hardly imagine that anyone would be very interested to begin with. So I stick with "newsletter" - from the old days when there was such a thing that might arrive in the mail. I figure that art is about the most interesting thing I do and I enjoy sharing the latest with you and hearing your reactions.

These works are all linoleum block prints. It seems that each time I start to do a block print the idea appears fairly straight forward. Inevitably I find that the simple act of just drawing the composition onto the block is an affair that takes at least two days. (You can take a look at how complex the drawing can be in my May of 2009 newsletter for the print "Seaside Rest.") For a 9" x 12" block the carving required to prepare for each color printed seems to take about two days. It only takes about 3 hours to print each color (on 48 sheets of paper), but the overall time required to complete a print is about 1 - 2 weeks.

So let's start in with the first one. "Green River" is a small print, 5" x 7". But it is one of the most complicated prints I've done. It is nine colors and getting them to fall into place and work together to create the feeling of this place was a challenge. The Green River is a real place near our home in Vermont and it flows down into Massachusetts, eventually joining the Connecticut River. In Vermont it is a small river, quite clear and lovely.

Green River, Linoleum Block print by William Hays   "Green River" 9-color Linoleum Block Print, 5" x 7"

As I sometimes do, I used the block in an interim state to produce a one-color print in a very small edition. This print was taken from the block as it was prepared for the fifth color, the lighter of the two greens. It is printed with a brown-black ink.

Vermont River, Linoleum Block print by William Hays   "Vermont River" 1-color Linoleum Block Print, 5" x 7"

From complexity to simplicity.... The past few years I've tried to do our Christmas card with a block print. This is alot of work for a Christmas card. But we want them to be special. This past December I did a card of snowflakes because that's what I was seeing outside for the month and we think they're beautiful. Not having individual snowflakes on hand myself, I turned to fellow Vermonter Wilson Bentley, (1865-1931) who lived in Jericho, Vermont. He was the first person to use a microscope to photograph snowflakes and the world has not been the same since. This print is done in one impression using two shades of blue in a graduated tint. The edition (aside from the Christmas cards) is small in number and on each print are little pieces of round glitter, just a few, that catch the light.

December Snow, Linoleum Block Print by William H. Hays   "December Snow" 1-color Linoleum Block Print, 5" x 7"

This next print took the longest to complete of any that I've done in quite some time. Again, it seems fairly straight forward. But I can remember drawing out the image day after day and thinking, "My goodness, this is taking a long time...." The carving did too. But I think you'll like the results. The title comes from the slightly open mouth of the crow that made me feel it was cawing as it flew over the open area.

Snowy Caw, Linoleum Block Print by William H. Hays   "Snowy Caw" 8-color Linoleum Block Print, 12" x 9"

Snowy Caw, Linoleum Block Print by William H. Hays   "Snowy Caw", detail

One aspect that is different in this print; normally I'm using one block and using the reduction technique to achieve multiple colors (see the May 2009 newsletter). With this one I did that for the first seven colors. The crow is the eighth color and it is carved in a separate block. I experimented with half a dozen impressions before I got just the right placement of the crow in the composition. Below is the 2" x 3" block used for the crow.

Snowy Caw, small block for crow   "Snowy Caw", small block for the crow

I find that I'm using crows fairly frequently in my print compositions. It is because they are often outside my studio window all year round. They're very vocal and are regularly harassed by other, smaller birds in the spring and summer. They're not quick or very maneuverable in flight. But they are muscular and their presence on every continent except Antarctica is testimony to their ability to survive the most brutal of conditions.

Finally, my latest print(s). This composition is based on a watercolor that I did in 1989, yes, 21 years ago. I figure, why waste a good idea on just one painting? I always remembered that painting and am taken by white birches in the northern forests whenever they pop up.

Paper Shadows, linoleum block print by William H. Hays   "Paper Shadows", 6-color linoleum block print, 12" x 9"

As with the "Green River" print above, I experimented with an alternate version with more limited colors. In this case, I took impressions from only the fifth and sixth colors to make a two color print. The alignment on the two colors was tricky and I started with only a few sheets of paper. As a result, there are only two prints of this version, a very small edition, indeed. I'm fascinated by the different feeling this has from the more fully developed version above. It feels like a very cloudy, flat-light day in winter.

Winter Birches, linoleum block print by William H. Hays   "Winter Birches", 2-color linoleum block print, 12" x 9"

I hope it was worth the wait for you. I'll have all six new prints on display during Gallery Walk in Brattleboro on Friday, March 5th between 5:30 and 8:30 PM. Of course, since I'm constantly working in my studio, you are welcome to drop by and see these prints along with my paintings any time. I look forward to seeing you here!


William H. Hays

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