August 2010   volume 9 number 6 The Artist's Loft logo The Artist's Loft logo

William H. Hays  Hello and Welcome Friends,

The worst of the summer heat is behind us. Yesterday Patricia and I went over to Williamstown, Massachusetts to the Clark Art Institute to see their exhibition of "Picasso Looks at Degas." It was a fine show and we got to see some "old friends" in paintings and drawings we've seen before in the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), The Musée d'Orsay (Paris), the Picasso Museum (Barcelona) and the Guggenheim (Venice) which were gathered for the show. As well, we were reminded of how many fine works of art (by Degas in particular) the Clark Art Institute has in its own collection. Our summer drive was lush and beautiful in Vermont and Massachusetts both. As I sit writing this, here's the morning view from my studio window:

view from The Artist's Loft studio   The Connecticut River from my studio window

I seem to be on a roll in reworking paintings. So I'll start by showing you one that has gone through quite a few major changes. The original idea for this painting was a medium sized horizontal format of a sunrise through the mist on a lake:

Lakeside Morning (2005) by William Hays   "Lakeside Morning" (April 2005) Oil on Canvas 28" x 38"

In part, this first version was based on some lakes we often see in Nova Scotia. But it is an imaginary composition and not intended to actually represent anywhere in particular. Although all of my original ideas are brilliant (wink), this painting lost something in the process of going from an idea to a finished image. Sometimes I fail to see the weak points until some time has passed. In this case I did not think out the centrally placed rocks in the water and how they stop the composition right in the middle. I was also not pleased with the way the water in the foreground was depicted. About a year later I cut it down (just about in half) and focussed in on the right side with the sun in the morning mist. Cutting a painting in half is a commitment and it generally takes some lengthy deliberation with myself before I do such a thing:

Lakeside Morning (2006) by William Hays   "Lakeside Morning" (March 2006) Oil on Canvas 23" x 16"

I felt the cropped-down composition was stronger and I wanted to concentrate on the brilliance of the light through the morning mist. In attempting to do that, I used many high-key (bright) values of color. Over time I understood that the light colors without contrasts of medium and dark tones in close proximity made the painting feel washed out. As well, I came to feel that the foreground was just too spare to make it interesting. So I decided to go at it one more time and here's the result:

Lakeside Morning (2008) by William Hays   "Lakeside Morning" (final) Oil on Canvas 23" x 16"

The next painting is my first start-to-finish new painting in some months. I was inspired by watching a very fleeting moment of a sunrise out my studio window about a month ago. The colors were brilliant and I know that anyone would sigh at the extraordinary and ephemeral beauty that I saw that morning. So, I decided to do a painting in homage to that moment. Here it is in three stages:

Northern Dawn (first state) by William Hays   "Northern Dawn" (first state), Oil on Canvas 18" x 24"

Northern Dawn (second state) by William Hays   "Northern Dawn" (second state), Oil on Canvas 18" x 24"

Northern Dawn (final) by William Hays   "Northern Dawn" (final), Oil on Canvas 18" x 24"

It's difficult to photograph the subtlety and nuance in the dark areas of this painting. It is not just a silouette, but full of dark tones of blue, green, gray and violet. You're either going to have to trust me on this or come by the studio to see for yourself!

Lastly, let me return to printmaking - this one was a little different for me. Along with designing just a one-color print, my intention was not so much fine art as graphic art. For years I've been thinking about doing something to celebrate Gallery Walk in Brattleboro. The arts community here has been holding forth now for more than 15 years, once a month having a collective opening/arts event downtown. It has proven to be much more popular that anyone foresaw (I think) and it is today a much-loved and anticipated event on the first Friday of each month.

Along with being the largest print I've done to date, I wanted to show that artists are the driving force behind this monthly celebration while including images of downtown Brattleboro. I wanted to image to be lively and incorporate obvious evidence that it was carved from a block and printed. Here's the first version:

Gallery Walk (first state), linocut print by William Hays   "Gallery Walk" (first state) Linoleum Block Print 18" x 12"

I felt the first version had too much going on (visually) with the solidity of the swirling strokes and the heavy artifacts of carving between them and other elements of the design (which I could not really see until I pulled the first print). I decided to recarve the block to reduce the strength of those parts. I did two versions of the final print, in dark blue and in dark red:

Gallery Walk (blue), linocut print by William Hays   "Gallery Walk" (blue) Linoleum Block Print 18" x 12"

Gallery Walk (blue), linocut print by William Hays   "Gallery Walk" (red) Linoleum Block Print 18" x 12"

The early responses I've received from the few folks who've seen the print are very enthusiastic and I'm pleased with the result - and I've sold two prints already. Along with debuting framed and unframed copies of this print at this month's Gallery Walk, I've decided to give away one print by random drawing at the end of the evening this Friday. If you want to be included in the drawing, you can register to win here. If you can't wait or want to order a copy of this print online, you can click on one of the images above and it will take you to a page from which you can purchase one for yourself.

Thank you for coming along with me on this month's creative journey. You're always welcome to come by The Artist's Loft in Brattleboro. I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you walk in the door of the studio!


William H. Hays

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The Artist's Loft Bed & Breakfast and Gallery, Vermont
103 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301-4308  USA

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