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Western Imprints: Carving Out the Western Landscape
May 9 October 3, 2010
The woodblocks by Leon Loughridge reflect his affinity for the Western Landscape. In using a more intuitive approach to printmaking and showing just enough disregard for the printing process to allow spontaneity, he is able to capture the vibrancy of his field sketches in the final print. His plein-aire pastels serve as the inspiration for the woodblocks for gallery display and that also appear in hand-printed limited edition books.
Loughridge was influenced by his grandmother's involvement in Northern New Mexico art circles. Later study at the Colorado Institute of Art along with private study reinforced his abilities. Stationed in Germany while in the army, he was able to study painting techniques of the old masters for two years, finishing by copying a Franz Hals at the Stuttgart Stattsgalerie Art Museum. Leon has continued to develop his printmaking skills and currently owns a publishing company, producing his Reduction Style Woodblocks as well as limited edition books. His woodblocks are exhibited nationally and collected by numerous museums
Leon feels that as a printer or graphic artist, he wants to record in printed form the elated feelings he has from his original sketches and paintings. Sketching is a very direct and invigorating encounter with the subject, while creating the print in the studio becomes more methodical. The challenge of translating a painterly image into a block print is to capture the energy of the original in the print, not merely duplicating the image. The artist faces many technical hurdles when in the print studio. When these features of relief printing are treated as expressive tools, and not as limitations, they help to create feeling in a print. The analytical process of building and creating a printed image becomes as invigorating as the original sketch was in the beginning. To know that the passion of the original idea was translated into the print is the artists' reward.
As a printmaker, I want to record in printed form the elated feelings I have from my original plein-aire sketches and paintings. Sketching is a very direct and invigorating encounter with the subject, while creating a print in the studio becomes more methodical.
The challenge of translating a painterly image into a block print is to capture the energy of the original into the print, not to merely duplicate the image. The technical challenges presented by the printmaking medium must be understood in order to be controlled with an intuitive ease. Handling the technical aspects of relief printing with confidence allows an artist to treat them as expressive tools, and not as limitations. When the handling of a medium becomes intuitive, the analytical process of building and creating a printed image becomes as invigorating as the original sketch was in the beginning.
To see that the passion of the original sketch has been translated into the print is the artists' reward.
About wood block processes
Traditionally, wood panels are used to create a relief block, though anything flat that can be carved can be used. The image is transferred onto the block and the areas that do not print are carved away.
The high surfaces or uncut areas are inked and then a sheet of paper is laid over the inked block. Pressure is applied to the paper to transfer the inked areas to the paper.
A block for each color is cut and when printed, aligned to the other color blocks. Usually, the artist prints the lightest color first and the darkest color last. However, Gustave Baumann often printed in reverse, printing a dark first and the lighter colors on top.
One block is used to create a multiple color print. The lighest color and the broadest area of the print is printed first for the entire edition, the block is then carved away leaving the next lightest color, which is printed. As the artist is continually removing material from the block to print the next color, the block is destroyed in the processes of making the image. The edition size is determined by how many acceptable impressions exist after the final color is printed.
Creating a Reduction Woodblock Print
The image "Doorway" was created by using three different blocks cut and printed using the Reduction Print Process. Each block was cut and printed multiple times. The three blocks are title "the Key Block", "The Color Block", and "The Accent Block".
THE FIRST COLOR RUN (fig 1-1, above). The image was broken down to its core abstraction, transferred onto the Key Block and then carved. The Key Block was used to align or register the subsequent color blocks. Once proofed, this first cut was printed over all the paper set aside for the edition, creating the First Color Run. The prints were allowed to dry for twenty four hours before printing the second run.
THE SECOND COLOR RUN A second cut was made to the Key Block (fig 1-2, above left). Once cut, the first printing cannot be reproduced as it has now been destroyed. After proofing, the second cut was printed over the previous color run (fig 1-2a, above right)
THE THIRD COLOR RUN Once again, more of the Key Block was carved away leaving the medium darks (fig 1-3, above left). The third cut was printed over the previous two color runs. At this point, the value shapes in the image become defined (fig 1-3a, above right).
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