Late Summer Falls


In August of 2023 my partner Nina and I went to Aurora, New York on Lake Cayuga of the Finger Lakes. The surrounding farm land and perimeter of the lakes are just beautiful and it is easy to see why this area is so fondly embraced. As rain water gathers on the farmland, it concentrates into small rivers that frequently cascade over multilayered strata and into the lakes. Waterfalls were well known here and each is worth at least a visit. I chose one of those falls to translate into a linocut print. As usual, I am not really trying to be literal or do a portrait of a particular place. So I'll let you ponder which of the waterfalls I chose to work with.

Finger Lakes landscape in upstate New York

What fascinated me about the scene I chose was the thin layers of nearly flat stone, worn away by water and ice into a complicated staircase, sheathed in thin layers of water below the falls. I thought about how to do this for quite a while before starting. The few conclusions I came to were cast aside pretty quickly once I got underway. As usual, what was happening in the process of making this print was quite different from my original idea and source material. I started by laying down multicolored layers like this:

At this point I had the basic structure of the scene pretty well worked out. But reduction printing is usually done from the lightest colors to the darkest, as you see above. But I had yet to define any of the foliage beyond a silhouette - a very dark silhouette. So I would have to start printing colors in the reverse order from here. I began by printing greens in the foliage that were lighter than the near-black underneath. But I was not happy with the foreground. I wanted to change the lightest part of the water to address the fact that the sky was reflecting on the water's surface. At the same time I wanted to make the water and the rocks more blue. So, I carved another block to add a transparent blue in the upper third, then a pale blue graduating to a transparent, rich blue. Here is where that ended up:

"Late Summer Falls" seventh impression.

After another impression I felt that the foreground was still not working the way I wanted it to. I took the same block that I used above for the blue, carved it a little bit more and applied a layer of opaque white. The layers of ink are very thin and are never really opaque. Here are the first nine impressions with the last of these showing the layer of white that became a layer of pale blue.

"Late Summer Falls" impressions 1-9

Finally, with the addition of one last lighter color on the foliage hanging in from the right hand side, here are the finished print and a couple of details so that you can see it better:

Late Summer Falls, linocut print by William H Hays

"Late Summer Falls" linocut print, 12" x 9"

"Late Summer Falls" detail (above and below)

And so I am quite pleased with the final print. The amount of very complicated carving in this print, on two separate blocks was considerable. I was challenged at just about every step of this process. In all, the print took more than two months to complete from start to finish.

I do hope you enjoyed seeing how this linocut print took shape. So far this year my work has been accepted into five national (US) competitions and one international show. I've been fortunate to receive a first place award and several sales from these shows. If you would like to see my work in person you can take a look at the galleries which carry my prints. This new print, "Late Summer Falls" can be purchased from this website.

If you have questions or would just like to touch base, don't hesitate to write to me. I enjoy hearing from you.


William H. Hays