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Welcoming The Start of Snow

Every year I create a small woodblock for the start of the snow season. "November Tapestry" is this year's contribution to the snowy woodblocks.

"November Tapestry" 5 x 10", Edition of 11

My rule of thumb for these woodblocks is that the process has to happen quickly and spontaneously. I have a watercolor sketch to use as a roadmap, helping me keep track of value shapes and arrangements. I want the actual carving, color choices and printing to happen quickly, with little deliberation. I try not to get caught up in the minutia of the process. I want to be spontaneous in the carving and printing.

This is not my normal approach to creating a woodblock, but an exercise I use to breath some spontaneity into the print process. The goal is to allow my intuition to guide the image towards the faint glimmer of a feeling that I have in my head. It is an exercise in translating or transferring that mental image onto the paper. There is the saying that "the image decides when it is done', well, I guess it is the image in my head that is determining when the paper version is complete.

Problems arise when working this way and that is just part of the exercise. When sketching outdoors, I react to what I see in front of me, making quick editorial decisions of what to delete from the scene or what to keep or add. I can do two sketches of the same scene back to back with each evolving into very different feels. Physical interpretation is variable and sketches are not perfect.

These quick exercises help me understand how to interpret a remembered image. Yes, the watercolor sketch contains all my notes of shapes and color, but the drama and mood are what I remember and that memory can be nebulous and a bit elusive. The exercise helps me learn where and how to exaggerate the sketch to suggest the mood I remember into the print.

Not all of these exercises make it beyond the studio door. Some are collected by the City and County of Denver on Tuesdays, trash day. While many of them end up as small editions, some of them become an inspiration for a larger more involved woodblock. A good example of that was Bear Clouds. It first appeared as the frontispiece in one of the Gorge Songs Folios. I then created a large version of the image which sold out in a short summer.

These spontaneous woodblocks offer a break from the often tedious process of creating larger woodblocks. They also are great sources of inspiration. There is a wonderful joy in painting outdoors. It is an interaction between a scene and myself, the act of interpreting a scene into a process spontaneously. Spontaneous woodblocks bring that creative joy into the studio, keep me excited about what I am doing and help me push my artistic vision.

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