Tag Archives: white line woodcut

Intern Perspectives: Hannah Phelps

Intern Laura D.’s last post for the summer.   Good luck next semester, Laura!

The solo artist this month is Hannah Phelps with her exhibit entitled Plein Air to Print which includes works done in woodblock, woodcut, and a few oil paintings.

Phelps’ style is mostly colorful landscapes with minimum detail. The colors she uses, and the way she blocks them, gives the audience the sense of the landscape, without the intimate details of the sand or grass.

Out of her works, a piece entitled Surf and Rocks done in oil paints, portrays a darker day at the beach with the tide rolling into the rocky shore. While it may from afar blur into a wad of colors, up close, the detail of the brush strokes shows the foam on the surf and grim on the rocks. Phelps does an excellent job here, and in her other oil paintings, of portraying the landscape and making the viewer feel like they could be standing right there.

“Calm Day at Fort Stark” by Hannah Phelps

Her woodcut and woodblock work is much blockier – as the names would suggest. Calm Day at Fort Stark is a piece done in woodblock, where the blocked colors of blues, browns, and oranges show the intense difference between the water and the rocks. And unlike Phelps’ Surf and Rocks this piece is left to the imagination of the viewer to imagine the light ripples going through the water instead of the intense foam from the tide that is detailed in the oil painting.

Phelps brings a strong sense of style to this exhibit with a consistency that is perfect for a solo artist show here at Washington Printmakers Gallery.

Hannah Phelps on White-Line Woodcuts

We’ve shared our own Printmaking 101 post on White-Line Woodcuts, but here’s an explanation in the artist’s own words:

“Gentle Assault” by Hannah Phelps

Like any piece of art, a white-line woodcut print begins with an idea. Using the natural world as inspiration, I create a drawing on paper. This drawing is then transferred onto a piece of wood. With my lines visible on the surface, I carve an outline of the drawing with a knife. The carved lines will become the “white-lines” in the final print.

The wood left untouched now stands in relief from the lines. I attach a piece of paper to the edge of the woodblock to ensure that it lays on the wood the same way each time I place it against the block (this is called “registration”). I then “ink” one shape with watercolor using a brush, flip the paper down on the block and rub the back with a wooden spoon to print that shape on the paper. I repeat this until all of the shapes are impressed
on the paper.

When I am satisfied with the image, I remove the paper from the block and get ready for the next print. The block can be printed several times, but no two will ever really be alike, so each piece becomes a combination of print and original painting.

Printmaking 101: White-line and Jigsaw Woodcuts

We’ve discussed the difference between a wood engraving and a woodcut and also a woodcut sub-media, color reduction woodcut.  With Hannah Phelps’ plein air to print exhibition coming up next month, we want you to know a little bit more about what you’re looking at.

“Path of the Water” by Hannah Phelps, White-line woodcut, 2009.

Hannah has two woodcut sub-media in her exhibition.  The first is a white-line woodcut.  White-line woodcuts are characterized by exactly what it sounds like: a white outline surrounding each shape of color.  These lines are carved into the wood using woodcut tools.  Then, the individual shapes are inked one by one using different colors (Hannah actually paints hers with watercolors) and run through a press or rubbed with a spoon onto the paper, like a regular woodcut.  The “streaky” quality of the image above is actually the natural wood grain of the block.

“Private Wave” by Hannah Phelps, jigsaw reduction woodcut, 2012.

Jigsaw woodcuts are made from completely separate blocks of wood.   Each shape corresponding to a color is cut out, usually using a jigsaw, and put together like a puzzle after each piece is inked, usually into a mold to hold all the pieces together.  Depending upon the artists’ intention and how tight the pieces fit together, jigsaw woodcuts can also have a bit of a white outline between color shapes, but it won’t be as pronounced as a true white-line woodcut.  The print to above also has some uses some reduction.  Without seeing the plate, we’d guess there were 4-6 main color shapes–perhaps the foreground, back cliffs, water, and sky, that were each printed and then re-carved to get some of the darker colors.

“Ernesto” by Ed McCluney, from his recent Press Room Mini Solo

Some of Ed McCluney’s woodcuts are also jigsaw woodcuts (see his chicken, Ernesto, at left, which was printed using two jigsaw pieces).  As you can see, there’s a lot of aesthetic variety within this media!

More from Hannah Phelps!

“Maine Wave” by Hannah Phelps, jigsaw reduction woodcut, 2012.

We just sent out National Small Works notifications yesterday, and are only six short weeks away from the opening of that show and Plein Air to Print, the concurrent solo exhibition by 2011’s winner Hannah Phelps.  This week she sent us some more prints, which we’ve shared, below.  Mark your calendars to see them in person, and enjoy them online here!

“Private Wave” by Hannah Phelps, jigsaw reduction woodcut, 2012.

“Gentle Assualt” by Hannah Phelps, jigsaw white-line woodcut, 2012.

“Path of the Water” by Hannah Phelps, White-line woodcut, 2009.

“Wave on a Perfect Day at Odiorne Point State Park” by Hannah Phelps. White-line woodcut, 2011.

Upcoming: Hannah Phelps

We’re not quite ready to share show pics from our Ex Libris exhibition as we still have some labels and show lettering to put up.  Don’t worry, it’s coming soon!  For now, enjoy Hannah Phelps’ artist statement, below.  Hannah won last year’s National Small Works and will be exhibiting at WPG alongside this year’s show in August.

“Odiorne Rocks!” by Hannah Phelps

Plein air painting, working outside and on site, is the only satisfying way I know of holding on to a scene – essentially pocketing it for a later time. Working with the motion of the branches swaying in the wind or the surf continuously crashing into shore, I load up my memory with the soul of a place and transport it back home to the studio where I can print.

The simplicity of using plywood and one simple knife to create a white-line woodcut print is a challenge I cannot ignore. Using watercolor, I “ink” each shape and transfer the design to paper tough enough to take a firm rubbing with a wooden spoon. The resulting print is two-dimensional, but paper also digs its way into the white lines, adding a sculptural element. The block can be printed several times, but no two will ever really be alike, so each piece becomes a combination of print and original painting.

The rough woodgrain in these prints mimics their subject – the rocky coast or wild woods. Interlocking shapes create the scene, but they don’t fit together perfectly. The irregular white lines enhance the separation between me and my print, and me and my environment.

Taking this idea further, I started cutting the blocks into segments, inking them separately, reassembling them and running them through a press. These “jigsaw reduction reliefs” also have subtle white-line borders running through them at the edges of the puzzle pieces.

Because I often depict places I have visited my entire life, the work becomes about more than “capturing one moment in time”, as landscape artists often say, but instead capturing all the moments I have spent in that spot and synthesizing them into one painting or one print. Like the favorite painting spots themselves, however, certain compositions and ideas beg to be revisited over and over. The paintings direct the creation of the prints. While printmaking, I discover questions to answer the next time I head out painting.

About the Artist: Hannah Phelps

"Calm Day at Fort Stark" by Hannah Phelps

National Small Works ended on Sunday, but we’re already excited about next year!  Hannah Phelps, our first-prize winner and next year’s solo exhibiting artist sent us her artist statement so we can all get to know her and her work a little better:

As a native of ruggedly beautiful northern New England, my art is the result of continuous exploration of the world outside my window and the forces at work there. I am striving to keep the feeling of the forest, the rhythm of the waves and the warmth of the sun with me, even when I have to return indoors.

The rough woodgrain in white-line woodcut prints mimics their subject – the rocky coast or wild woods. Interlocking shapes create the scene, but they don’t fit together perfectly. The irregular white lines enhance the separation between me and my print, and me and my environment.

The simplicity of using plywood and one simple knife to create a design is a challenge I cannot ignore. Using watercolor, I “ink” each shape and transfer the design to paper tough enough to take a firm rubbing with a wooden spoon. The resulting print is two-dimensional, but paper also digs its way into the white lines, adding a sculptural element. The block can be printed several times, but no two will ever really be alike, so each piece becomes a combination of print and original painting.

Because I often depict places I have visited my entire life, the work becomes about more than “capturing one moment in time”, as landscape artists often say, but instead capturing all the moments I have spent in that spot and synthesizing them into one painting or one print. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t keep my past from creeping into my work.

And in the attempt to depict the present and past experiences, my work contains notes for my future self – “This is where you have been. This is who you were. Remember?”