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May 13, 2022
Woodblock Printmaker Leon Loughridge

Leon Loughridge is a Colorado-based painter and printmaker, translating his plein air sketches and watercolors into captivating reduction woodblocks, hand-printed on a 1920 Vandercook Flatbed Letterpress.

Woodblock Printmaking Process

This type of relief print is made by carving a block of wood with a knife or gouge, cutting away the wood surface, leaving the image as the uncarved areas of the block, or relief areas. The relief areas are then inked with a thin layer of ink. Depending on the process being used, the ink is applied with a brush or roller. With paper laid over the inked block, pressure is applied to transfer the ink to the paper. Multiple colors require multiple carved blocks, basically, a block for each color printed.

History of Woodblock Prints

The process is the oldest printing technique, first used in 8th-century China, mastered by Dürer during the Northern Renaissance and famously associated with the ukiyo-e artists of 18th and 19th century Japan. German Expressionists like Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner embraced the medium for its bold, graphic power in the 1920s, and artists continue to explore the process today.

Leon Loughridge artist in studio 2020
Artist Leon Loughridge, printmaker, in his Denver, Colorado studio.

What brought you to work with woodblocks, and what do you enjoy and appreciate about the medium?

Maybe it is something in my makeup that I enjoy a methodical process. I enjoy building something from scratch (or 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. In the zone, one thought/decision leads to the next, and artistic decisions are made intuitively. 

How do you achieve the soft, fluid, atmospheric quality of your prints from the rigidity of the wood? 

I don’t think a woodblock as a hard inanimate object. To me, the woodblocks are my brushes, an extension my thoughts and decisions about the subject. Once I think about the blocks as something other than pieces of wood, then the image evolves as any of my watercolors might. 

Leon Loughridge - Ascension - 1 A.P. 3, UNF
Leon Loughridge, “Ascension – 1 A.P. 3, UNF,” Woodblock Print, 11 x 11 in

Tell us about the process of translating what you see before you to watercolor to woodblock? 

Watercolor and woodblocks have one major element in common in that they are both built using multiple layers of transparent color. Creating a watercolor almost becomes a precursor to developing a woodblock with the layers of color used to build value and chroma. Where a watercolor is very spontaneous and quick, a woodblock becomes more thoughtful and deliberate, building upon the spontaneity of the watercolor.

Leon Loughridge "Buttermilk," "Ajax Morning" and "Highlands" Watercolor Series
Leon Loughridge’s “Buttermilk,” “Ajax Morning” and “Highlands” Watercolor Series

What do you hope a collector notices about your work?

I don’t presume that I can tell the viewer what to think or feel when looking at my work. I hope that my arrangement of shape, value and color elicit an emotion from them, maybe a sense of the beauty that is around us waiting to be seen.

The woodblock prints and watercolors of Leon Loughridge are featured in Carved, Etched, Painted along with the work of Linda Lillegraven, Joel Ostlind, and Sherrie York.

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