Monday, October 29, 2012

Autumn Events

© Hannah Phelps
Pumpkin Perch*
oil on board, 20" x 16"

I am getting ready for a bunch of art exhibits starting this week.

First of all, Keepsake is hanging at the Derryfield School Lyceum Gallery in Manchester. A great time to see that show is this Thursday from 5:30 - 7 pm when Richard Gombar and I will be there for an artists' reception. 

Next, come see me creating relief prints at Art in Action this weekend in Londonderry. I will be at Shady Hill Greenhouses and Nursery on Saturday and Sunday from 10 - 5.

Finally, I have two white-line woodcut prints in the Winter Salon at Soo Rye Art Gallery in Rye. That exhibit opens on November 10 with a reception form 5 - 8 pm.

I am looking forward to seeing you this fall!

* Pumpkin Perch can be seen at the Derryfield School Lyceum Gallery during Keepsake: paintings by Richard Gombar and Hannah Phelps!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Am I Missing?

© Hannah Phelps
Maybe I Should Move My Easel
oil on canvas, 8" x 10"

For over a year now, I have been painting with a limited pallet of the three primary colors - red, yellow and blue. I also use white.

This is partially because carrying four tubes of paint makes for a lighter plein air pack to lug around. I also find it much easier to worry about mixing from just three choices. 

A four tube painting life is not new to me - I have switched back to it often over the past ten years. Then I try a new color my friend is using, find an old tube I remember liking and add it back in, take a workshop with a painter who swears by pigment x,  ... and pretty soon my pack has grown from modest to "I think I need a donkey to carry this for me". So its back to the Big Three again. 

Here's the astonishing thing - when I look at old paintings, I can't tell the difference between those done with 15 colors and those created with just red, yellow and blue. There are a couple of exceptions, I guess, but the exceptions aren't necessarily better. 

So I am down to three colors and I am sticking to it. Almost.

There is a color that I have found myself longing for consistently. I really tried to leave it off my pallet, but I think it is time to get real and admit I need it. It is a "shortcut" color. I can create the same mixes without it. I can even mix it with the colors I am using now. But I don't want to anymore. 

Welcome back Yellow Ochre. I have missed you.

**Note: The painting above will be on display at the Keepsake exhibit at the Derryfield School Lyceum Gallery in Manchester, NH from October 27 - November 17. It is also Mr. April in the 2013 Landscape Calendar.**

Monday, September 17, 2012

2013 Landscape Calendars!

It is that time of year again.....

The air is a bit crisp nowadays and that means fall. We should enjoy autumn while we have it.

At the same time, we know that these colorful days of bright sun and cool air will give way to winter. Eventually. In a few months.

Hannah Phelps' 2013 Calendar, January-March

Winter means a lot of things most of you don’t want to talk about right now. I won’t list them today. I will allow you to revel in your warmer afternoons for a little longer.

But there is one thing winter brings with it that we must mention today - the New Year!

Hannah Phelps' 2013 Calendar, April-June

You know you need a new calendar, and this year’s landscape calendar is a little different than it has been in the past. Because I listened to you!

You still get 12 different high-quality digital prints of original oil paintings. You still get them in an unbound, one-page per month format.

But now you can write on them! I have switched to a premium matte paper so you can circle important days, mark birthdays, pay your bills on time, remind yourself to get the 2014 calendar - anything you want!

Hannah Phelps' 2013 Calendar, July-September

Plus, now you can choose between two sizes: the traditional 8.5” x 11” format or a brand new 5” x 7” desk size!

Hannah Phelps' 2013 Calendar, October-December

Ordering is easier than ever:

You can order through etsy.

You can buy directly from my website.

Or you can contact me to pick one up when you see me around!


$35 for the 8.5" x 11" size 
$18 for the 5" x 7" size

8.5" x 11" plexiglass frames are $12

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Print Goes South

© Hannah Phelps
Private Wave
jigsaw reduction woodcut, 12" x 12"

I know you have seen this print before, but it has a new reason to proudly show itself today.

It is currently on its way to The Plastic Club in Philadelphia, PA for the 74th American Color Print Society Annual Fall Exhibition.

The American Color Print Society has been around for 73 years and I am very excited to be a part of their annual exhibit! Most of the artists in their exhibits are members - non-members, like me, have to be juried in to the show.

If you are in the Philly area in October, stop by and see the exhibit!

74th American Color Print Society Annual Fall Exhibition

held at 

The Plastic Club Art Studio and Gallery
247 South Camac Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

October 7 - 26, 2012
Reception: October 7, 2 - 5 pm

Monday, September 10, 2012

Startling News - Republicans and Democrats Agree!

If you are looking for a partisan post about a presidential candidate today, you are about to be disappointed. There are plenty of places online that you can go for that kind of thing.

Instead, I present to you clear evidence that occasionally politicians from opposing parties have something in common.

These two ladies represent my state in the US Senate. One is a Democrat and the other is a Republican and neither is running for re-election this November. When my very nice husband invited them to my exhibit at the Washington Printmakers Gallery this past August, both of them spent a little extra energy and time writing personal letters congratulating me on my success.

The polling data is in and the message is clear:
Everyone, regardless of political party affiliation, is a fan of my prints!
Thank you Senators!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Looking Ahead - Near and Far

© Hannah Phelps
2013 Calendar sneak peak

Sadly, summer is just about over.
But you're probably too busy to sit around and mope about it. School is starting for kids and parents everywhere. In New England, the leaves are changing and falling and therefore need raking. Some of you are madly canning the last of your garden bounty.

What’s happening here? Quite a lot actually:

The 8th Annual Art on the Common is this Saturday in Londonderry, NH.  I'll be in Booth 10 displaying paintings and prints, so make sure to stop by!

Londonderry, NH Town Common
on the corner of Mammoth Road and Pillsbury Road

September 8th, 10 am - 4 pm
rain date: September 9th, 10 am - 4 pm

In October, my landscape paintings will be in a two person exhibit at the Derryfield School in Manchester.  This is pretty exciting, especially so soon after my solo print exhibit. I would love to see you at the opening reception on November 1!

Richard Gombar and Hannah Phelps

Derryfield School Lyceum Gallery
2108 River Road
Manchester, NH 03104
603 669-4524

October 25 - December 19

Reception: Thursday, November 1st, 5:30 - 7 pm

Autumn Means it's Calendar Time! 
The 2013 Calendar is a little different than calendars of the past. I will tell you all about it in a week or two when they are completely ready.

There is more to talk about, but I'll save it for later. In the meantime, I need to get back to my printer and my brushes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tail Wagging the Painting

Hatrick helping me paint the ocean
detail of a plein air study

Lately, I have had only new prints to show you. My painting time was limited because of the solo exhibit at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. While I painted less than I normally would in the months leading up to the August show, I did keep painting.

As much as I could, I kept my weekly date with the coast. Sticking to a plan feels good, even if the paintings don’t work out.

I love the ocean and I enjoy attempting to paint moving water from life, but I admit that some days it seemed easier and more responsible to stay home. After all, I had prints that I had to start, finish, frame, photograph, sign, number, etc. And it takes over an hour to get there - wouldn’t that time be better spent in my home studio with zero commute?

Luckily for me, I used one of the top tips for sticking to a long term plan - buddies.

I don’t mean the other painters who occasionally join me, though I love it when they show up. I have a more constant support system and they have little patience with me sticking close to home when there is more fun to be had elsewhere.

Whenever I am in danger of choosing indoor studio time on a beautiful day, I look into the eyes of my two Goldens and know that I have one reasonable option. We have to head for the sea. It is good for all of us.

Do you have buddies that keep you on track?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where Did the Time Go?

Three prints and a painting hanging in the Washington Printmakers Gallery.

A lot has been happening in and out of the studio over the past few months. I can’t believe summer is nearly at an end. It's a good thing that I love autumn, so I can look forward to crisp weather, changing leaves, and apple cider. I’ve already enjoyed one cider doughnut this year!
Wait!  Summer isn’t quite over yet!  There are still four days to see Plein Air to Print at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in Silver Spring, Maryland. The reception at the beginning of the month was a success and I spent some time with a lot of great people - new and "old" friends.

The exhibit was ranked a "Hot Hit" by DC's!

Right now I am preparing for the Londonderry Art on the Common Fair on September 8th from 10 am- 4 pm. This is my first time participating in Art on the Common, but the fair itself is celebrating their 8th anniversary! I will have oil paintings AND prints, so if you couldn’t get down to DC this August to see Plein Air to Print, you can see some of the prints there. Come over and say hi!

September 8th, 10 am - 4 pm

Located on the Town Common
on the corner of Mammoth Road and Pillsbury Road

Rain Date: September 9th, 10 am - 4 pm

Thursday, July 5, 2012

More Prints for August!

© Hannah Phelps
August Marsh
white-line woodcut print, 4" x 5"

Here is another print appearing in the "Plein Air to Print" exhibit coming up this August in Silver Spring, MD at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. 

The collection of prints in this show focuses on prints inspired by plein air drawings or paintings OR blocks I carved and inked right on site.

Usually there is a direct relationship between a painting and a print. Evening Wave, Monhegan Island and a little oil study I painted in 2010 are a perfect example of this.

Since I have painted this marsh scene a bunch of times, I used more than one painting to design and create this little print.

The opening of "Plein Air to Print" is coming up FAST and postcards will be going out soon. If you want to make sure you get one, send me your snail mail address!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Small Talks

© Hannah Phelps
Beach Side of Concord Point
white-line woodcut print, 9" x 12"

Last week, I set the final roster for my solo exhibit, Plein Air to Print, at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. The print above is brand new for the show. 

After nearly a year of creating work specifically for this exhibit, it felt strange to tell some of the prints they hadn't made the team. Until the final minutes, I was holding out hope that they would all be ready in time. 

Do I really talk to my prints? Yes. Mostly grunting. A little cussing. Small exclamations of disappointment or pleasure.

This time, it was a gentler conversation: "Just because you aren't going to the WPG doesn't mean you aren't a good idea. There will be more opportunities for you. You just need a little development in the minors to work on some fundamentals." You can expect to see some of these promising pieces in the future.

Soon, you will be able to judge my decision. Did I choose a winning team? A bunch of prints and paintings that will work well together?  That will now become greater in the company I have chosen for them?

Can't wait until August? The WPG has started posting some work on their blog, DCimPRINT, so go take a look.

Remember, the exhibit is from August 1 - 26, with a reception on August 4 from 1 - 4 pm. See you there!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Marsh Scene in Progress

© Hannah Phelps
Work in Progress
jigsaw reduction relief, printed by hand

Last week, I told you I was working on two different jigsaw prints - one at home and one at a printmaking studio with a press.

Of course, I was hoping that both of these prints would be in my upcoming solo exhibit at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in August. I have to admit now that it is not looking good for our friend from last week. What I thought was two more layers has turned into four at least.

The good news is that I am learning a ton from it. Some parts are working perfectly and I think I even know what I did! I will keep working on it, but there is no rush.

What about the second print? Progress is a little slower than I'd hoped, but it still might make it into the show. Maybe. If it behaves. 

If not, it is totally grounded and not coming with me to Silver Spring at the end of July.

I hope you are listening, print....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Man Vs. Machine

 © Hannah Phelps
work in progress
jigsaw reduction relief, using a press

I have got two multi-layer jigsaw reduction woodcuts going right now. The prints are both landscapes and both inspired by plein air paintings, but I am creating them in different ways. 

Most noticeably, I am working on one here at home and the other at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in nearby Manchester. There are large presses at the school, which makes it worth the commute. When I print at home, I use a baren to press the paper into the ink on the block.

More than once, someone has seen me pulling on the press wheel and said, "You must have jacked up arms after using that press." Whether or not my arms are ripped is not the subject of this post. But, if I have any muscles from printmaking, it isn’t from using the press - it's from hand rubbing with a spoon or a baren, trust me.

That might seem surprising at first, but really, it makes a lot of sense. Why invent a huge, nearly immovable instrument like a printing press if printing by hand was perfectly easy?

Printing by hand does have a ton of advantages:

- Printing by hand is cheaper - especially if you use something as simple as a wooden spoon (which I do when I print white-line woodcuts). Barens can cost more - up to a thousand dollars for really nice Japanese-made ones - but it still pales in comparison to the price of nice etching presses which start at a few thousand and go up (and up and up) from there.

- Printing by hand is more convenient - you can use your baren in any room of your house or studio or even take it outside (as I do sometimes). A press weighs a few tons. You go to it.

- Printing by hand is more flexible - a press provides even pressure across the length of the heavy roller, so if the ink layer on your block is even, the color on your paper will be as well. When printing by hand, you can use different pressure at all points of your print, creating gradations. 

- Also, a block needs to be tough to go through a press! The "soft kut" block I am using at home would squish to nothing after the roller got through with it.

At this point you might be thinking, "If printing by hand is cheaper, more convenient, more flexible, and gives you a better arm workout, why drive an hour round trip to use a press?"

The answer is simple: I love the press. 

I like to think it loves me too.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lilac Festival Update

© Hannah Phelps
Wentworth-Coolidge Rock
oil on board, 8" x 10"

Last Saturday, I painted outside in Portsmouth, NH as part of the Lilac Festival at the Wentworth-Coolidge Historic Site.

The weather was perfect - warmth without excessive heat and bright views all around.

Even though the site offers a wide variety of subjects - the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, gardens, marshes, islands, and kayakers to name a few - I painted what I usually paint. A rock.

I painted this same rock on site last year and started a large studio painting of it.  It is kind of my thing - get obsessed by a rock and keep painting it.

While a bunch of artists worked outside, the Coolidge Center for the Arts hosted a dry painting exhibit. That will be up until June 24th (info in the sidebar). I have a few rock paintings in there too, if you haven’t had enough yet.

In the meantime, I've been creating prints. I will show you some WIPs (works-in-progress) next week!

Monday, May 21, 2012

All Dressed Up

© Hannah Phelps
Grey Marsh, Cutts Island, Maine
11" x 14"

The paintings are framed and ready to hang in the Sense of Wonder Exhibit at the Children's Museum of NH in Dover.

Grey Marsh, Sunset from Quincy, Late Summer Marsh and First Beach Day will be joining paintings by Wendy Turner, Soosen Dunholter, Tess Feltes and many others all summer long.

So go visit the paintings now that they are all dressed up - more info in the sidebar!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Naked Paintings

© Hannah Phelps
Sunset from Quincy
oil on canvas, 6" x 9"

Look, another painting for the Sense of Wonder exhibit at the Children's Museum of NH in Dover that isn't framed yet....

It will be in time for the drop-off. And it certainly will be dressed for the opening reception on May 30th. Here is your invitation:

I am also preparing some paintings for the Lilac Festival Exhibit at the Wentworth-Coolidge Historic Site in Portsmouth, NH. That show will be up for a whole month this year! Those paintings don't have to be ready until the end of next week - tons of time to tell you about that later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Places to Go and Nothing to Wear

© Hannah Phelps
Late Summer Marsh, Cutts Island, ME
oil on canvas, 6" x 9"

I need to deliver some paintings to the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in Dover early next week for the Sense of Wonder Exhibit*, so I have been framing today. Framing is not my favorite part of the job. Although, it can feel immensely satisfying when the paintings are all suited up and looking their best. 

I didn't get quite that far today, so this painting is still naked. It is ok to look. Paintings don't seem to care about things like that.

*More about the exhibit in the side bar!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Local Color Pop-Up Open!

photos, paintings, woodworking, and ceramics

Local Color Gallery celebrated its first weekend open on Main Street in Goffstown, NH this weekend. Within two hours of opening, we had visitors and sales!

 prints, photos and superbly hand-crafted children's clothes and jewelry

The place looks great and the work inside is fantastic - you are going to want to come see it for yourselves.

ceramics, collages, woodturned bowls, paintings, more photos, and watercolors

Remember, we are a pop-up. That means we could be gone at any time, so come quickly!

pens with wooden handles, cards (some hand-printed) prints and photos

This Friday, May 11th, is our Grand Opening celebration from 5-8 and you are invited!

Local Color Gallery
35 Main Street
Goffstown, NH 03045

Friday 10-7
Saturday 10-5
Sunday 11-4
and Memorial Day! 

Parking is free on Main Street!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Printing it Apart

© Hannah Phelps
Gentle Assault
jigsaw white-line woodcut print

Here is the first print off the block I showed you a couple of weeks ago. There is only one completed so far, but there could be many more.

How is this different from the jigsaws you've seen before?
The other three jigsaw reliefs were reductions - one block, but multiple layers and I could not go back to any preceding layer once I had started carving the next one.

This print is a combination of two relief methods.  For the top and bottom pieces, I used the moku hanga (Japanese style woodcut) technique and then printed the middle piece as a white-line.  I tried this because I know that Japanese-style woodcuts are artistic "grandparents" to white-line woodcuts and I felt there must be a new way to honor that connection.

Moku hanga is a huge topic - there are hundreds of blogs dedicated to it* - so I won’t go into it too much here. The application of ink is the main thing that I borrowed. For the previous jigsaws I shared with you, I rolled ink on the wood with a brayer and printed on dry paper. For this print, everything started out wet. I flicked pigment and rice paste onto the block with small paintbrushes, mixed it around with different brushes (called maru bake) and then printed.

Since I was making a huge mess with all that flicking and brushing anyway, I made a bunch of prints with no middles:

 Gentle Assault, top and bottom blocks printed

After they dried a few days later, I printed the middle section as a standard white-line woodcut.

Here’s what I liked:

I get some washy effects in the large water areas. I can print washes with regular white-line techniques, but I find it tedious. Once everything is set-up, creating washes with traditional Japanese methods are comparatively easy.

Stuff I need to figure out:

Registering all this is a little tough. I have a template that helps, but it really needs to be checked all the time. It was important that the middle block stay clean while inking the top and bottom, but it had to be there to register the other pieces correctly. I removed it before I inked and replaced it for printing. Not hard, just time consuming.

I love the pigments I used for the top and bottom (Akua Kolor), but I didn’t like them as well for the white-line part. I have some ideas about how to improve this experience, so we will have to see how I feel after I have printed a few more.

What's next? 
More jigsaws, most likely reductions. We'll see.

I wonder though: Is it going to become a problem that when I see a block, I yearn to cut it into pieces? First reductions, then white-line woodcuts, what could possibly be next? Keep your lithography stones locked up....
 * My favorite sites for information on moku hanga:

- Matthew Brown's

- David Bull's

Monday, April 30, 2012


logo design by Jeremy Jones of 603 Media Group

These days there are a ton of vacant commercial spaces in every community. The For Rent signs seem to breed like rabbits, especially on Main Streets in small towns. It can get a little depressing to see so many empty storefronts.

Luckily, some folks are turning their frustrations into action and converting a severe downer situation into a win-win-win. It is happening all over the country and Goffstown, NH is the next town to join in the fun.

This weekend, an unrented retail space right on Main Street with a fabulous view of the Piscataquog River is joining the fashionable “Pop-Up” crowd and becoming Local Color Gallery until the landlord finds a permanent tenant. When that happens, and we all hope that it does, we might move the gallery to another vacant space.

Here is how it works:

We artists run a lovely little gallery in the beautiful space on weekends. While we are open, the citizens of the town can come in to enjoy the art and the not-vacant space. Some of them will buy art. Others will remember how great the building looked and get an idea to move their business there or tell another business owner about it. Some will just feel happy that there is a bit more life in the center of their town.


Pop-Ups are Temporary-Visit Soon:

Local Color Gallery
35 Main Street 
Goffstown, NH 03045 

Hours beginning May 4th:
Friday 10 am- 7 pm, Saturday 10 am - 5 pm, Sunday 11 am - 4 pm




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cramming and Smashing

© Hannah Phelps
jigsaw reduction woodblock print


I made this print the exact same way I created Maine Wave. I am going to do more of these - including using a woodblock, oil ink and a press. Before I do that, though, I am printing some more out of EZ cut blocks using water-based inks and a barren. Soon. I've already done the prep work.

I also have some prints from the block I showed you Monday. Photos coming....

And another white-line woodcut is nearly done and I have been out painting more waves. On top of that, I matted and inventoried a bunch of stuff for a local pop-up gallery. More about that next week, but there is information in the sidebar.

My brother-in-law says that there is always room for a dessert of ice cream even if you think you are too full of dinner, because it flows into all the little gaps left in your tummy. I don't know about that, but blogging around all this art making is feeling that way a little - worth the big creative bite, but a little cramped because I ate all the nutritious stuff first.

Not surprisingly, a healthy diet of painting and printmaking feels pretty good.

Bon Appetit!


Monday, April 23, 2012


© Hannah Phelps
another jigsaw relief woodblock

This may look the same as the jigsaws I have been sharing with you, but it is different. 

Because it is new, I am stalling. It should have ink all over it by now.

But once I ink and print it, I will know whether or not it sucks and right now I can pretend it is brilliant. Not just this block, but the whole idea. 

Right now, it is an innocent newborn who might save the world, but hasn’t had a chance to suck its thumb yet. There is nothing to judge, yet, somehow, everything to fear.

I am committed to this block, this composition and this idea. It has been incubating in my mind for nearly a year.

It is time to discover what it really is. To see whether or not I got what I wanted. It is better not to know.....

Of course, I must know. The only way this print will get made is if I let my expectations and visions go. Then ink the block and print the paper. And turn the paper over and look at it. See what it has become.

Let it go and let it happen. This sounds familiar....

There is more to say about this, but not today. Today I have to print.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Nearing the Finish Line

© Hannah Phelps 
jigsaw reduction woodcut that is almost done...

It's Patriot’s Day!

I wrote about the significance of Patriot's Day a few years ago. There is a lot going on in Boston today, but the main event is always the Boston Marathon.

Maine and Massachusetts take the day off. New Hampshire doesn't, but I watch coverage of the Marathon while I draw or prepare paper or sometimes print a white-line woodcut.

So I witnessed the exhilarating finishes of all four major races. Congratulations to the new champions:
Shirley Reilly and Josh Cassidy won the wheelchair events and Sharon Cherop and Wesley Korir outran everyone else in the heat. Cassidy, who happens to be an artist, broke the world record this morning.

What does any of this have to do with painting or printmaking?
I have a big exhibit coming up and my major goal this year is to make the best work possible. It is a fun task, but it hasn't been easy. I can't help but feel inspired by the elite athletes and the thousands of other people who have taken up the challenge to run 26.2 miles. Watching them achieve their goals helps me stay motivated to work on mine. 

And while I am sharing the athletes' triumphs, I am also remembering how lucky I am. Like fit people who choose to run a marathon, most of my challenges are self-imposed. I was born with working limbs and organs, into a country with clean water and a household in which I had plenty to eat, and I was able to go to school and learn to read.

Cherop and Korir are from Kenya. Korir had to run 5 miles each way to go to school. During the post-race interview, he said that during some hard spots on course, he kept singing and praying. He now has more money to send back to his home community to fund a hospital he built.

Cassidy was born with a disease in his spine. Traveling down a hallway might have seemed like a miracle some days, but now he is the champion of an endurance event.

On top of all that, every year I am reminded of the incredible story of Rick and Dick Hoyt. Today was their 30th marathon. If you don't know about the Hoyts, you should get the story straight from them:

When things get so-called "tough" for me, I'll just start singing. That's what winners do.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Munch and Frankenthaler - not a B-Grade Monster Movie

© Hannah Phelps
another woodblock cut into pieces  

"What made you think to cut up the blocks?"

I've heard that more than a few times in the last few months.  I wish that I could say that I invented the jigsaw technique, but I did not.

As far as anyone can tell, Edvard Munch did, sometime around 1896. He'd been printing lithographs and black and white woodblock relief prints, and may have been looking for an easier way to use color in his prints. If you would like to see some of his prints, visit the Munch Museum website.

While I knew about Munch's prints, it was the work of a different artist, Helen Frankenthaler, that inspired me to make some jigsaw's of my own.  Last fall, I happened upon a book called Frankenthaler: The Woodcuts by Judith Goldman. Not all of Frankenthaler's woodcuts are blocks cut into multiple pieces, but many of them are.

I was immediately transfixed. The shapes stand bold and distinct and the textures from the woodgrain vibrate with energy. Instead of cutting up one block and reassembling it to print, she cut shapes out of different blocks that fit perfectly together. And she didn't reassemble them after inking to run them through the press together, each one was sent through separately. There were two fascinating reasons for this:

-  She could use different types of wood for each shape and vary the effects from the woodgrain

- The printed shapes could overlap slightly on the paper - AVOIDING THE NORMAL WHITE LINE BORDERS FOR JIGSAW PRINTS

With only two and a half jigsaws under my belt, I haven't yet tackled all the possibilities from those two ideas. So there are going to be more of these. Lots more.

Visually, there is little in my jigsaws from Helen Frankenthaler so far. I am making seascapes while her prints were all non-representational. But the fire to create them ignited the day I picked up that book.

Incidentally, she was alive when I read about her prints, but she died before my first jigsaw was finished, in December. Rest in peace, Ms.. Frankenthaler. And thank you.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Expanding Reductions

© Hannah Phelps
One version of "Wisconsin Lake"
reduction relief print on paper, 4" x 6"

I realize that I have been throwing some printmaking terms around lately. I thought we should talk a little more about what a reduction relief is.
In its simplest form, reductions use one block to make a multi-colored print. The block is printed and carved over and over until the picture is complete. In step-by-step format, creating a reduction goes a little like this:
1. Start with one block of wood or linoleum. If your final picture has any pure white places and you are printing on white paper, cut those shapes out first. If you don’t care about pure white areas, carve nothing. In the print at the top of the post, I printed a light yellow first and it is still visible in the sky. Either way, choose your first color, color #1, roll it on the block and print it with a press, a baren or a spoon. 

Now you have a shape of one color on white paper that might or might not have white shapes in it. Print as many of these as you like. I usually print a lot more than I think I am going to need in case some of them get messed up.
2. Decide which areas you wish to keep color #1 and carve those shapes out of your block. Ink the block with color #2 and print as you did in step one. Color #2 above is the greenish color in the sky and the water.

3. Repeat step 2 with colors 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. until your print is done. Using the same print as an example: #3 is a dull middle blue in the sky and water, #4 is light blue in the trees and water and #5 is the purple-blue on the left of the picture in the trees.

Simple right? As you probably know, simple doesn't always mean easy. The fun part is figuring out how to get an image out of one block. Once a shape is carved away, it is "out" and can't be layered any more.

When I did my first reduction, I wanted to get the most out of my little wooden block, so I inked color #1 a bunch of times, washed the block and then inked the block in a different color a bunch of times. I set out to make four series this way. The shapes were the same, but the colors were different. This allowed me to play with more color variations and learn a little more than I would have if I had just made one series. As I went along, I kept adding variety until I had 9 different looks.

Remember the "variable edition" label I told you about? This is a perfect place for it! 

Here are the other prints so you can pick your favorite.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bunny Time

© Hannah Phelps
white-line woodcut print on paper

This time of year is about renewal and growth and....


My mom knitted this stuffed rabbit and gave it to me a few years ago. As many things in my house do, it posed for a portrait one day. 

Happy Easter. Happy Spring. Happy Eating Peeps and Chocolate Eggs.

Happy Bunnies. 

Most of all, Happy Creating.


Monday, April 2, 2012


© Hannah Phelps
white-line block, Odiorne Rocks! 
with three prints attached to it

I have been experimenting with some white-line blocks for a few months. Specifically, I am trying to figure out if it is possible to make a consistent edition from a block - a finite number of prints using the same paper and ink that all look the same.

As the quote from last Monday's post suggests, when the white-line woodcut method was invented in 1915 or so, artists printed as much as they wanted from any block and did not label the prints on the front with impression and edition numbers. Blanche Lazzell, our most famous white-line artist, kept her blocks open for years. Each print was numbered on the back - 2/6 would mean that it was the second print from her 6th block. She said that she rarely did more than about 4 prints from each block and she felt no compunction to make any of them identical.

Limiting editions is more valued now than it was in Lazzell’s time. With that, consistency and accurate labeling and record keeping become very important.  

Now my question is - what do I do with my white-line prints? Contemporary times call for consistent, limited editions. But could an exception be made for white-line woodcuts, since they are created one at a time by hand? The painstaking way white-lines are printed allows for each one to be different. Variety can be a fun part of the process.

At first, I thought I should honor the traditions of the medium - number each block as I carve it and then number each print as I make it.  I would make no promises that any of the prints would look the same.

As I started to enter shows, it became clear that numbers on the front of the print are important in today’s printmaking world. Collectors like the system and it protects their potential investment in the artwork. I like happy collectors. Frankly, I collect prints too and I kinda see their point.

I researched other contemporary white-line artists and they are limiting and numbering editions instead of mimicking Lazzell. 

So I gave it a go - I took one block, taped three pieces of paper to it, mixed colors and inked all three at once. Then I taped three more to the block and inked those from the same puddles of ink. I meant to do this three times so that I would have 9 prints and the one artist proof (AP) that I was using as my color guide.

Here is what I discovered:

If that is what editioning means for these prints, that is the only edition I will ever do. I really didn’t enjoy it at all. In fact, I couldn’t even get to the third set of three!

Luckily for me, there is a loophole. Printmakers can create "variable editions" and label them as such.

After a little agonizing and a lot of thinking, this is what I am going to do from now on:

- Print from each block when I feel like it with the colors I feel like mixing, on the paper I feel like using. 

- Continue to keep accurate records of how many prints have come off each block.

- Label each print on the front: # of the print/ the total number I am allowed to ever do with a little "ve" for "variable edition".

- Have fun with the blocks - that is why I started making them in the first place!

Any thoughts? Questions? Strong opinions?


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reduce Reuse Reevaluate

© Hannah Phelps
Maine Wave
jigsaw reduction relief, 10" x 12"

Earlier this week, I shared a quote about what a print edition is and we talked about reduction methods automatically limiting an edition because the block gets destroyed in the process.*

When I start printing the very first color, I have to decide how many prints I want to make. Say I choose to print 50 in the first layer. As soon as I carve the block, I can't go back and make more because the block is different. Now I have 50 pieces of paper with my first color on them and I will add layers to them as I go - as many colors as I need until the print is finished and the block is all carved away.

If you are thinking that I automatically have an edition of 50, you are.....


If everything goes perfectly during the printing process, I would have 50. How likely is that?

I have to make enough impressions in the beginning that I can afford to lose some to registration problems, uneven inking, a tiny spot of black in the yellow ink I don't notice before I roll it on the block, or any number of other problems.

Mistakes early in the process - just a few layers into it - become "proofs", or test prints I can play with when I mix new colors. Proofs are useful, but they are not part of the final edition.

Now the edition number is 50 minus the number of prints that became proofs. Say we had 5 mistakes during printing, that would mean we have 45 impressions left. But we still don't have our final edition number.

Those 45 survivors have one more inspection to pass: The Conformity Test. Are they similar enough to make an edition?

They won't be identical - I am not a machine. My prints will all be a tiny bit different and I will always be able to point out the idiosyncrasies. But will you be able to tell? Are the differences kinda charming in some way?

The print above is done now, but I will look at all of the impressions and decide how many prints will be offered in the edition. Soon.

This isn't the only edition issue in my studio right now. What happens when the printing process is more intense and the resulting blocks are as beautiful as the prints?

Stay tuned art fans...

*For a great description of reduction relief, read this by printmaker Sherrie York.