SCHOODIC ISLAND, 2017
This is my most recent woodblock print, It is based on a watercolor that I did looking at Schoodic Island, (the edge of Little Moose Island is in the middle-ground on the right) at a lower tide. The clouds were changing quickly and it was quite blustery and eventually it started to rain. I was at the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor Maine, in June of 2016; where I had a very productive Artist's Residency.
A BIT OF HISTORY AND PROCESS
I was a painter for over 30 years, and in 2007 took a workshop in Moku Hanga, Japanese watercolor woodblock printmaking, and fell in love with all parts of the process. Following two years of practice, color woodblock printmaking gradually replaced painting as my primary medium. The process is contemplative and low-tech with distinct steps: designing an image, carving the blocks and experimenting with colors while proof printing, refining the blocks and ink colors, eventually printing the image.
I paint numerous watercolors en plein air, during the warmer months, returning to favorite places each year. I favor the undisturbed landscape, usually nature preserves, state parks, wildlife sanctuaries, or “undeveloped” coastal areas. I am particularly drawn to Downeast Maine; the Schoodic Peninsular, Steuben, Addison, and Lubec. Distinctive trees, crashing surf and rocks, bogs, boreal forests, marshes, and active skies are frequently my subjects. During the cooler months, I study these watercolors and select the ones that best capture the spirit of place to use as designs for woodblock prints.
I usually begin an image with sketches or paintings done on-site, and then simplify the design, focusing on the lines of movement and the essential shapes that define the image. After figuring out how many woodblocks are needed to separate the colors in the design, I transfer the shapes in reverse to woodblocks. On each block, I carve away areas that will not be printed leaving the raised (relief) image. I apply water-based paint and rice paste to the raised areas, mixing them with a brush directly on the block. Then, I place dampened paper on the block, and rub it with a hand-held baren to transfer the impression. Multiple blocks are used, usually one for each color; overprinting two colors creates additional colors on the print. Usually I print the lighter colors first, and the darkest one last. I print some blocks with a Bokashi (gradation.)
I primarily use Rives, a 100% cotton French paper. All matting and framing materials are acid free and archival.
I had a great Artist's Residency for the month of June at the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park last year. I did many watercolors of the surf, coastal views, rocks and views on little Moose Island, and forest scenes in the park, and some paintings at the nearby Corea Heath. I've been working on images from this experience.
I was one of the guest artists at an Artists Retreat at Schoodic Institute during the week of June 18 - 23 this summer. I gave an evening presentation on "The Art of Balancing a Dynamic Composition," showing examples of some of my woodblock prints, explaining the process and showing a Powerpoint presentation on how I design my images. I showed examples of watercolors and how the prints evolved from them. While there, I had the chance to paint for a few days, and some of these may be used for prints.