From Dawn To Dusk, "Winged Sunset"


From 2002-15 I had the privilege of having a home on the coast of Nova Scotia (in the town of Liverpool). Each summer my late wife (Patricia) and I spent four months of the summer in this beautiful place. Often we were able to travel around the province and enjoy the variety of landscapes and atmosphere. Cape Breton Island, in the north is well known for the high bluffs that drop off into the sea in the northern part of the island. On the northeast side of the island is a place called Cape Smokey - no doubt, named for the layers of mist that tint the many tongues of land which reach out into the sea.

Here is the oil painting I did of Cape Smokey in 2004.

Cape Smokey, oil painting by William H. Hays

"Cape Smokey" oil on panel, 2004, 11" x 24"

I cropped the left-hand third off for my composition and and then proceeded to spend about a month (while working on my previous print) thinking about what colors and what mood I wanted for the print. The colors of the painting wouldn't work for me since they are within a narrow range that accompanies the morning light I depicted. The feeling of the painting is very soft. My printing process is most often very hard edged. So I spent some more time considering how to carve the block for this image and pondering the order of printing and the colors I would use.

As with many of my prints, I decided to establish an overall tone to the print with the first impression. In this case I applied a yellow, an orange and a red. With each of the next two impressions I applied a darker version of the same colors to the sky while adding other colors to different parts of the print. By the time I got to the fourth impression (below right) I had used 19 separate colors, applying as many as six colors for one impression. Here are the first four:

Winged Sunset, first four impressions

The application of so many colors at a time made for slow going but I liked the vibrance of the colors and the way it was becoming a completely new image from my original source material.

Lately I have been reading about the work of 20th century Shin-hanga master Kawase Hasui. I am not schooled in the traditions of Japanese woodcut printing and my influences are generally more western. But the elegance and beauty of the Japanese tradition is undeniable. Some of that tradition started to seep in during this print and I decided to address the foreground with an element that is almost always used in the traditional prints, an outline. You can see above that there are no outlines on any shapes. 

I wanted the foreground area to stand out from the large diagonal hillside. So I decided to cut the leaf shapes in the foreground to outline the color work and make this (visually) come forward. Here is a picture of the block I was carving with a close up (much like what I see when I'm carving) to show you the outline shapes being carved.

And here is what I was looking for, (in detail):

Needless to say, there were many hours put into carving those little, tiny outlines. But I got the effect I wanted, as you'll see below. But there was one more element that I decided to add even before I began carving and printing - a flock of birds. I carved a separate block for the the birds and added them at the end. And here's the finished print:

Winged Sunset, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Winged Sunset", linocut print, 9" x 12" (23.5 x 31 cm)

I usually do an edition of 100 prints but with this one, there are only 50 in the edition. The previous print took it out of me and I lessened the amount of work by a little bit for this print. Of course, now I wish I had printed 100....

As always, this print is available for purchase on this website. Like my last print, I decided to create a video of the process to show how the layers are added and the print takes its final form. You can take a look at the one minute video below. Thank you for taking the time to look at this new print. I hope you'll be in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.