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Jul 01, 2016
Let me dive in head-first with my first print done in May and June. This one began from a photograph I took in the autumn of 2013 on a little bit of an overcast day of the sun reflecting on the wet sand in Nova Scotia.
I've been looking at a great many Japanese moku hanga block prints from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The Japanese artists also had an affinity for nighttime prints and I was inspired by them. I reworked the composition from my photograph by moving the horizon down and adding a larger and different sky to include the full moon. Here are the original photo I took and one of the Japanese prints that inspired me:
I wanted the sky to be a little bit more dynamic than the Japanese style of print. So I carved the clouds two different ways; undulating striations and irregularly scalloped and layered edges. I wanted the night sky to be the only area of intense color while the rest of the image was warm and cool grays. I wanted the light and the clouds to be softer than the style of the Japanese print above. So my carving was meticulous and the transitions from one color to another much more complicated than the simplicity of a carved shape. Below are some of the steps which led up to the final seven-color print.
"Moonlight Coast" first six impressions
The last pass through the press I printed two areas, the black on and below the horizon and the blue of the sky. Here's the final print:
"Moonlight Coast", 7-color Linoleum Block Print, 7" x 5"
The process of carving and printing these linocut prints is very slow. It takes weeks and even months (sometimes) to create one print. There is much time to consider what I'm going to do from one step to the next. As well, I am carefully looking at each print, each color printed to see if there are errors. I will often see something which I think is interesting and deserves more attention in the future. And so it was with this print.
I was quite interested in how the clouds came out, how they were carved, how they could be soft and even moving/flowing. Here's a close up detail of the clouds to show you what I was seeing:
I decided that the next print would be about the clouds - not entirely, but you get the idea. Also, I had been thinking of a old (not very good) photo I took in about 2000 for a long time. I wanted to start with that photo for my foundation. Here's the photograph I took near Lake Champlain, looking back on the Green Mountains of Vermont in the early morning.
At first I put together a horizontal composition, but after a few days, I changed my mind and reverted back to the vertical. I decided I would use two blocks; one block for the sky and reflections in the puddles, and one block for everything on and below the horizon.
I carved the clouds (an ironic phrase!) using an undulating hatch which was rather complicated to keep on track. I was looking to establish color transitions as well as motion and shape through the carving. Below are the seven stages that completed the first half of the print followed by a detail of the sky in the sixth stage (before the open sky blue is printed) to show you what the carving is like.
"After The Storm" first seven impressions
"After The Storm" detail of the sky
I have to say that, at this point, it takes a degree of faith that my plan of using two blocks will work. It took several weeks to just to get half of the print completed. I then started in carving the second block in more familiar territory for me, the mountains and fields. Here are the four stages of the second block leading to the final print:
"After The Storm" impressions 8 through 11
"After The Storm" 12-color linoleum block print, 12" x 9"
And that is how I spent the last couple of months! I'm very happy with these two prints and they have already germinated seeds of future prints in my head. Such ideas mature at their own pace - and that's OK because I'm very patient.
This last print is still drying as I write this and I've been asked by the folks at Gallery In The Woods in downtown Brattleboro to hold a print signing during Gallery Walk, Friday, August 5th from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. I will have the actual blocks I used to create this print along with some illustrations about the process. I also will have matted and framed prints available at that time and I'd love to see you and meed you there!. Gallery In The Woods has an excellent selection of my work on display every day.
Finally, I will be participating for the first time at the annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair at Mount Sunapee resort, August 6-14. This is truly one of the finest craft exhibitions and sales you'll ever see. I'm very happy to be a part of it this year.
Remember, you can purchase my prints and see them in person at the galleries which represent me. If you can't get to those wonderful shops from where you live, you can purchase my linocut prints from this website. Email me if you have questions or comments about my work.
William H. Hays
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