In the past couple of weeks I’ve finally gotten around to experimenting with this technique for the first time myself, so I’m going to break this topic into two posts. Today I’ll show you a few of the original Provincetown white-line wood block prints. Then in another post I’ll go into the method with my own samples.
Next I have two pieces by Mabel Hewit (USA, 1903-1987). Her colors tend to be a little duller, and you can also see in her work a little more influence of cubism or the fracturing of planes. You can see it in the way the tree and greenery are broken up into quite abstract geometric shapes in The Old House, while the lines of the rain in The Storm have a similar effect. Because it’s hard to ink very large areas at a time, breaking up an image into smaller, simplified shapes makes the technique much easier, and I like the way Hewit takes advantage of this property of the medium, and uses it to add interest to her compositions.
This piece below by Mary Mullineux (USA, 1875-1965) has a much more detailed look, with more realistic shapes, less geometrified (if that’s a word). She also uses shading in her colors, instead of simply a single flat color for each area. And in the water she’s made all kinds of different colored shapes without any carved guidelines at all. All the ripples and reflections appear to be painted freehand on the single large area of water. It does make the water look a little more watery than sharp outlines would allow.
I’ve chosen to show you some of the originals, but this is not a dead technique. There are plenty of artists using this style to great effect now. As I said, stay tuned for a future post, where I’ll use my own efforts in white-line printmaking to illustrate more about the process.
[Pictures: Backyards, Provincetown, color woodcut by Blanche Lazzell, 1926-7 (Image from William P Carl Fine Prints);
The Old House, color woodcut by Mabel Hewit (Image from The Cleveland Museum of Art);
The Storm, color woodcut by Mabel Hewit, c 1935 (Image from AEQAI);
Anchored, color woodcut by Mary Mullineux, c 1925-35 (Image from Smithsonian American Art Museum);
The Monongahela, color woodcut by Lazzell, 1922? (Image from wickedlocal);
The Monongahela, color woodcut by Lazzell, 1919 (Image from The Met).]