Not Black And White


That last print I completed, "Late Summer Falls", was complicated. I ended up using multiple blocks that were carved and printed multiple times. In all, I estimate that I used about 25 separate colors to finish that print. Along with complicated, it was exhausting. I felt like I needed a break from printing in color. I thought, "I know, I'll do a black and white print! One block, one printing, one color. What could be simpler??

Silly me!

As usual, I made it more difficult by choosing to do a large wood block - 462.5 square inches, 25" x 18.5". Just drawing out the initial composition took me nearly a week. Once I started carving the block I realized that on a good day, I could carve and area about the size of a postcard, and this block was many postcards in width and height. But enough belly aching! Here is what the block looked like (stained purple so I can see it better while carving.) The light areas are what I've carved in each of these four stages.

"Forest Runnel" wood block carving in four stages.

This was more than two weeks work without the benefit of pulling a proof to see what I had done. On pulling the first proof, the wood block went 100%, deep black. I spent another week pulling proofs and then carving more. Here is what the block looked like at this stage while I continued to carve it:

It was challenging to distinguish between what I had already done and what I needed to do. But I persisted. Here is a test proof (l) and the final print (r).

"Forest Runnel" woodcut, 25" x 18.5" (64 x 47.5). Test proof (l), Final print (r)

...and a couple of details to show more what the print looks like in person. 

"Forest Runnel" detail. (Just FYI, a runnel is a very small stream.) 

My desire to simplify for a little while was a resounding failure - but I like the print! It was so exhausting to do this that I ended up finally printing only ten prints - the smallest edition I've done in a long while. Now I'm back to printing in color (and at a smaller scale) and I am looking forward to showing you that print once I'm finished with it.

My work will be featured in Boston at the
Copley Society of Art. This very esteemed institution saw fit to include me as one of their new members - and the only full-time printmaker among the 300+ members. I'm delighted to be a part of this group of fine artists. If you find yourselves on Newbury St. in Boston, stop by and take a look (through February 10, 2024)

2023 was a very good year for me and I very much appreciate the support I've received from all of you. The sales are wonderful but I also enjoy the comments you've taken the time to send me. Thank you so much. I look forward to hearing from you!

William H. Hays