Thinking about the beautiful coast: "Downeast"


William H. Hays Hello and Welcome Friends,

As with many of my linocut prints, I've explored some of the paintings I did years ago for ideas. In my guest bedroom I've had this watercolor painting hanging for many years now. I've always like the painting and decided to translate it into a print.

Watercolor sketch of Mt. Dessert Island by William Hays

"Foggy Morning Surf" 1999, watercolor by William H. Hays

Drawing it out on the block was not terribly difficult but figuring out how to apply and print the colors was much more challenging. I used multiple colors for each impression. Each color is applied to the block with a brayer (roller) and precision is not part of the formula for getting it right. I've likened the process to being like painting with baseball bat. It's crude.

But the carving brings it all together, little by little. Here are the first four stages of the process. By the time I finished these four steps, I had used 16 different colors.

Downeast, impressions one through four. Linocut print by William Hays

"Downeast" impressions one through four

As you can see, at the beginning of the process the application of colors is almost a matter of faith. Faith that I've chosen the right colors. Faith that the colors are applied to the right places on the block. Faith that the colors I chose will work with all the colors that have yet to be applied. And in the second impression (above) you can see that I'm mixing the colors on the block itself. This can make for some interesting combinations as the print continues but each application is a little different from the last and the results have a degree of unpredictability to them. Precision is not part of the process. Faith is. And, to be fair, this faith comes only from the experiences I've had over the past 13 years of printmaking.

As always, the last impression is the one that pulls everything together. Interestingly, I really can't say what the last impression is going to be like when I start the print. I actually don't know what the print is going to be like until I print the first sheet of the edition with the last impression of ink. And here it is:

Downeast, linocut print by William H. Hays

"Downeast" linocut print, 9" x 12" by William H. Hays

In the end, despite my various uncertainties, I was very pleased with the overall print. As I said, each print is just a little bit different from all the others. The particulars are interesting and I hope you agree that they add interest where flat areas of color might not.

As an aside, for those of you who don't know the word "Downeast," the farthest shoreline of Maine (which meets Canada at the St. Croix River) runs east west in the Gulf of Maine. It is also much south of the northernmost parts of Maine. Hence, Downeast.

I finished this print just before the Covid-19 shutdown and it was a good one to take a break after since it took five weeks to complete. If you're interested in purchasing this linocut print, you can do so from this website and (in the near future) you should be able to find them in the galleries which carry my work around the country. 

​As always, I really enjoy hearing from you and hope you'll be in touch. After all, I've been living alone now for quite some time and the isolation from friends is something I don't care for.