Fair Skies and Skimming The Sunset

William H. Hays  Hello and Welcome Friends,

I've been hard at the press since my last newsletter and I'm very please with the results. Let's start right in!

The Wave, oil painting by William H. Hays

"The Wave" oil on canvas 38" x 28"

WHAT?? An oil painting?

Yes. Many of you are already familiar with my years of oil painting. But those who've more recently come to know my work may not have seen any of my paintings. The inspiration for "The Wave" was as much the sky as the water.

I had the privilege of spending many summers in Nova Scotia (Canada) and I developed a real fondness for the wide open skies of the Atlantic coast. In Vermont there are many mountains and such broad vistas are not so easy to come by. Still they reside in my memory catalog of images from which I draw my compositions. After my experimentation with the clouds in "After The Storm", I wanted to do a print with fair skies, like the painting above, but with a Vermont twist.

Fair Skies impressions 1-4, linocut print by William H. Hays

My last print, "Halifax House", was so complicated that I wanted to minimize my colors (passes on the press) to achieve the sky. I chose to define the clouds with three tones. Then the open sky was added to contrast them. Still, I have to admit that the carving for these first three passes on the press took me weeks to do!

The Vermont twist (very appropriate for this time of year) was the bottom third - a field with autumn foliage. This too I wanted to keep fairly simple. But the coloring I was looking for was more than I anticipated. Luckily, the area I was working in was small and it went fairly quickly compared to the sky. Here is the development of the lower portion:

Fair Skies impressions 5-9, linocut print by William H. Hays

As always, the last color pulled everything together into the image I had in my mind and below is the final print

Fair Skies, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Fair Skies" 10-color linocut print, 7" x 5"

This next print was more ambitious from the start just by starting with an 11" x 17" block. When it comes to carving for each color, the next print is 5½ times the surface area as "Fair Skies." I used four times as much paper and it usually takes me twice as long to do a print at the 11" x 17" size. I've been working for a solid year in the studio without letting up. The prospect of printing 100 large prints seemed a bit too much for me. So I decided to reduce the size of the edition from my usual 100, to an edition of 50. Still, it took nearly a month to complete this print.

Lake Champlain

I began with this photo of Lake Champlain I took about 15 years ago. I added some framing elements of tree branches with oak leaves and pine boughs. And then I borrowed an idea from a British linocut artist named Mark Pearce. The idea was birds flying close to the surface of the water. 

I set the tone of the print with fairly dark yellow and yellow ochre for the first pass, keeping in mind that this was going to be the lightest color in the print. Two more passes laid transparent layers of color over the yellows - at a diagonal so as to make the upper left the lightest area in the print. The same angle was used to lay in the first (most distant) range of mountains and the beginning of the trees and water reflections. This was done using a brick red, going to a blue. Below are the first four passes.

Skimming The Sunset impressions 1-4, linocut print by William H. Hays

After these first layers of ink, I wondered if the subsequent, darker colors were going to bring out the luminous quality I was looking for form the beginning. Remember, I have to mix and print each color without seeing what it will look like next to the colors which follow. I won't take you through the tedious step-by-step any further. I'll just say that I'm quite pleased with the way this linocut print finally turned out.

Skimming The Sunset, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Skimming The Sunset" 7-color linocut print, 11" x 17"

As I promised last month I'm happy to announce that four of my prints have been put into production for a line of Christmas cards with Pomegranate Press out of Portland, Oregon which will be published for the 2017 season (not this year). They are one of the finest publishing houses in the US and I am very pleased to be a part of their stable of artists. I'm in good company! As well, there is an excellent new gallery which will very shortly be carrying my work in St. Paul, Minnesota, The Grand Hand Gallery. I'll be sending off a selection of work to them this week. 

In the meantime, remember that you can purchase my prints and see them in person at the galleries which represent me. If you can't get to one of those wonderful shops from where you live, you can purchase my linocut prints (unframed) from this website. Please do email if you have questions or comments about my work.


William H. Hays