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Saturday Finds

January 10, 2009

Villard Studios

This week I am devoting my post to artists Kim and Philippe Villard, who have printmaking studios in Maine and in the South of France. In addition to their collaborative printmaking and the creation of hand printed artist’s books, Kim is a painter and Philippe is a sculptor. Because of my background in printmaking, I’m always inspired by the work of artists who are devoted to preserving the tradition of the hand-pulled print.

Their flash animation The White Line Woodcut Print gives a nice overview of their woodcut process.

“Table avec un Verre” 14″ X 20″

This photo shows one of their retired and cancelled blocks that are for sale. Blocks are cancelled by filling in the carved lines with white grout and then the block is sealed with varnish to prevent further use. Their editions are always small, less than 15 prints.

The Villards emailed me from their studio in France, where they work six months of the year, and included the following technical information and history of the white-line color woodblock print, which Phillippe wrote for the Museum of Modern Art:

The White-line Color Woodblock Print
(A.K.A. the Provincetown Print)

Description of Technique

The white-line color woodblock printing technique’s development is credited to B.J.O. Nordfeldt and a group of innovative artists working in Provincetown, Massachusetts, circa 1915. It is considered unique to New England and American in origin.  This method produces a multi-color woodcut from a single block of wood, and is generally printed in watercolor.  The details of this process are as follows:

A design is drawn on paper and transferred in reverse onto a block of wood, cut with the grain. Then, only the lines of the image are gouged away.  The drawn lines of the design are now grooves carved into the block.  Those carved  lines create spaces that isolate each color  from one another during the printing process. Hinging natural fiber paper securely to the wood block, with artist‘s tape, establishes precise registration. The pigment is applied by brush, or cloth dabbers to the wood. The paper is lowered and pressed onto the wet surface, transferring the pigment to the paper with the pressure from a baren or the printer’s palm of the hand.

The paper is lifted again to paint another section. Repeating this process and applying different colors creates a multi-color impression. Being able to see the entire image on one block allows for painterly rendering and overprinting.

Certain artists number editions, while others date their varied prints. The print gets its design element from the white of the paper, created by the original gouged line, seen around the colors.  The whole process has to be repeated with each print.

Philippe Villard 2007 Selected references:

The Complete Printmaker, John Ross, Clare Romano, Tim Ross, The Free Press 1972

The National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1995 p.181

The Provincetown Print 1915-1996, Kathryn Smith, Provincetown Art Association and Museum catalogue June 21-July, 1996

Très Complémentaires. The Art and Lives of Ethel Mars and Maude Squire, Mary Ryan Gallery catalogue, 2000

From Paris to Provincetown: Blanche Lazzell and the Color Woodcut, Torf Gallery exhibit article, Preview/ MFA Boston magazine, January/February 2002

Blanche Lazzell. The Life and Work of an American Modernist, Robert Bridges, Kristina Olson, Janet Snyder, West Virginia Press, Morgantown 2004

In addition to their involvement with the creation of art, the Villards are deeply committed to the environment and the National Forests in France which nurture their inspiration. This commitment has translated into a life that is lived in complete harmony with nature. You can learn more in depth about their conservation work on their Winter Program page.

I hope you get time to explore the Villards’ website, and that you enjoy it as much as I have.

Have a great weekend!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2009 7:15 am

    I have always love woodblock prints. Very interesting.

  2. Sandra permalink
    January 11, 2009 5:40 pm

    Just want to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year, and a satisfying, creative and prosperous 2009. I am loving your blog and really appreciate your sharing your painting processes. I’ve taken up abstract painting at the ripe old age of 62, having never painted since dropping art in high school because I couldn’t draw! Just loving it and feel that I have learned a lot already. Our excellent tutor has arranged an exhibition for her class at a local cafe, and two of my efforts will be going in, so am frantically re-painting as the originals didn’t satisfy me. I shall continue to enjoy the insights of such a good artist as yourself. All the best.

    • January 11, 2009 8:36 pm

      Thank you Sandra. Congratulations on your exhibition! It’s wonderful to know you are finding a new expression in art. I can attest to the fact that art keeps us young and growing.

  3. January 11, 2009 8:44 pm

    I love them too, Jean. I secretly would love to do some.

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