Emptying The Sky


William H. Hays Hello and Welcome Friends,

A large portion of this year has been devoted to making a single linocut print come to fruition. It all began ten years ago when I was working on an oil painting, a large painting, 48" x 39". It was an almost aerial view of a rather pastoral Vermont landscape with a river reflecting the afterglow of the setting sun. I called it "Emptying The Sky" for the light of the sky brought down to the river.

Emptying The Sky, oil on canvas by William H. Hays

I wasn't overly pleased with this painting, so I made some changes with a pair of scissors and then repainted the remainder. The finished painting was 38" x 28" and now a vertical composition with which I was very pleased.

Emptying The Sky (second version) oil on canvas by William H. Hays

But something about the horizontal composition stayed with me for ten years. So I revisited the image and worked up a return to the horizontal. In making the adjustments, I tried to find the best of the vertical thrust of the river and the rolling rhythms of the fields. After several days working on the image and drawing it onto the block, I began printing, starting six weeks of work to complete this print.

Emptying The Sky, impression 2, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Emptying The Sky", two color impressions

The first impression was a golden yellow at the top blending down into a bright, primary yellow without any carving on the block - just a solid block of color. The second impression carving revealed the open sky and the river and overlaid the first impression with a transparent brown-green.

Emptying The Sky linoleum block, by William H. Hays

"Emptying The Sky", second block with color

I carved a second block (above) for the color of the river and the mountains in the background. Since it only covered a portion of the print, the block was not as wide as the total print image area.

Emptying The Sky, second block impression

"Emptying The Sky" with second block impression, an intense blue in the mountains and a graduated tint to nearly transparent in the river.

Next I continued carving on the original block for the fourth impression. Here is the block (below) with the fourth color on it. You can see the ghost of the drawing through the ink which I'm using to guide my carving.

Emptying The Sky, linoleum block

"Emptying The Sky" block carved for the fourth impression.

Emptying The Sky, fourth impression, linocut print by William H. Hays\

"Emptying The Sky" with the fourth impression in place.

Continuing to carve away more of the full block, I added the first dark color to begin bringing the composition together in more of its final form.

Emptying The Sky, fifth impression, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Emptying The Sky", 5th impression

At this point, the carving became very complicated and fine in order to achieve the effects I wanted. Whereas the previous preparations for each impression had required two to three days of carving, this next phase required almost a week each for the sixth and then the final seventh impressions. Below is the block as I was printing the seventh and final color, a dark, red-brown.

Emptying The Sky lino block, by William H. Hays

"Emptying The Sky" linoleum block carved for the seventh impression

Emptying The Sky, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Emptying The Sky", 7-color linoleum block print, 11¼" x 17½" 

Six weeks is a long time to spend on one image. But I'm very pleased with the results. I hope that you've enjoyed seeing how it came into being. 

Do drop by The Artist's Loft Gallery [now closed] to visit me in the studio. As well, be sure to mark the first Friday of each month on your calendar. It's Gallery Walk in downtown Brattleboro from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. And remember, my gallery and studio are open 10-6 daily in Brattleboro. I always enjoy showing my work to folks and often have a print underway so you can watch the process. Come on by! 


William H. Hays