Friday, July 9, 2010

Frances Gearhart-Brilliant Color Block Print Artist

Austerity 1936
11.75" x 11"
Image Courtesy Harold Leitenburg PhD

This is another in a series I call My Favorite Artists, and in particular my fascination with the color block printing process.

Frances Gearhart (1869-1958) was an American artist born in Sagetown Illinois and was the eldest of three sisters all of whom were artists. When her family moved to Pasadena California, she attended the State Normal School (now UCLA) got her degree and spent much of her adult life teaching elementary school for several years.

Although she was a self taught artist, she spent a number of summers studying art with Charles H. Woodbury, and Henry R. Poore. In the early years she spent most of her time working with watercolors, but later on she mastered the art of the color block printing process and continued with that for the rest of her career.

The most interesting aspect of her color block printing for me is that she used oil paint as the pigment for printing which I find fascinating. Each color was painted on the block (one block for each color) with a dry brush, and then the impression was taken, and the block had to be repainted again and again for each subsequent print. Although she used wood blocks for some of her prints, it is documented that she favored the linoleum block over the wood for most of her print runs.

She was a very prolific print maker, and was considered a pioneer in the American color printing movement. I can only imagine how she painted the oil paint on the color blocks in the above example to illustrate the blending of colors in a very soft and mellow manner. I find her work to be not only exquisite, but very inspiring and very pleasing to the eye.

For a free ebook on the color block printing process, you can view it in a previous post of mine titled Japanese Watercolor Woodcut Print-Free Ebook.

If you have any information on using oil paints for color block printing, please email me, and I will gladly update this post with the information.

You can view more images of her work on the Frances Gearhart Website.

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