We spent a wonderful two days at the Wichita Art Museum absorbing the “Renaissance of the Block Print, 1922-2022” exhibit. What a comprehensive view of block prints and the influence of Japanese and European prints on American printmaking. Two long afternoons at the museum was just not enough time.
Several the contemporary printmakers included in the exhibit were in attendance. Each printmaker had their own process to share and each process a reflection of the individual artist’s character. As varied as the techniques were, the results were impactful when all those prints were shown together.
A common question we all received from collectors and attendees was what motivates a printmaker to work in such a labor-intensive process. As one can imagine, the answers were as varied as the artists.
For me, maybe it is something in my makeup that I enjoy a methodical process. I enjoy building something from scratch (or from a sketch) into a finished project. A lot of the attraction is being in the zone where focus and concentration push away all the demanding distractions of the world. When in the zone, one thought or decision leads to the next with artistic decisions being made intuitively.
When carving a block, I don’t think of it as a hard inanimate object. To me, the blocks are my brushes, an extension my thoughts and decisions about the subject. The time spent carving is time spent exploring the shapes and forms of the image. All too often, problems or questions are resolved during those thoughtful moments of carving where a color shape begins to take on dimension and texture as patterns are carved. Once I think about the blocks as something other than pieces of wood, then the image evolves as any of my watercolors might.
So, it was inspiring to talk shop with the other printmakers at the exhibit and to learn that each printmaker, historical or contemporary, had or has an approach that is their own.
Artists, top left to right;
Carl Moll, Max Kurzwiell
Leo Frank, Margaret Petersen