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?