Accomplished artist, 85, creates woodcut prints
on RiverPoint fine art paper
When Aline Feldman made her first wood cut print, as a young artist, the Beatles hadn’t been to the U.S., America hadn’t landed a man on the moon, and no one had heard the term “oil shock.” It was 1962, and Feldman was studying with Japanese master Unichi Hiratsuka. She had studied art at Washington University in St. Louis and done master’s work at Indiana University, but as she worked with wood cut printing, she found herself powerfully drawn to the art form, the feel of the wood, and the act of carving.
It was an attraction that would last a lifetime. A half-century later Feldman, 85, is still making wood cut prints. Now an accomplished artist whose work is displayed in numerous collections, she works in a studio in the lower level of her Columbia, Maryland home. Natural light streams into the spacious room through numerous windows and a sliding glass door that doubles as her light table.
In a recent phone conversation, Feldman talked about her work and about her latest print, which she completed on RiverPoint fine art paper. She had learned about RiverPoint art paper from an email offering a sample packet of 10 free sheets. After trying the samples she ordered 30 more sheets.
“Your paper is lovely,” Feldman said. “It is beautiful paper, and it’s wonderful for drawing on, it’s wonderful for doing just watercolor painting.”
But she really wanted to see how the paper performed with her woodcuts.
“I do pastels and I do watercolors, but I’m known for my woodcut prints,” Feldman said.
And she had an idea for a new project, one that would require larger paper than the standard 20”x30” sheet.
“I got this bug in my head that I wanted to try something totally different,” she said. She called WIST to ask about other sizes.
The paper machine at UW-Stevens Point has a 20-inch web, so that is the maximum width for RiverPoint art paper. But because RiverPoint is machine-made, longer sheets are possible, and WIST staff cut a number of sheets at 50 inches in a custom order for Feldman.
Although Feldman had first learned the Japanese style of woodcut printing, she subsequently learned a technique called white-line printing, and has used that technique for decades.
Japanese woodcuts use multiple blocks of wood to form the complete image but in white-line one piece is used. Many steps are needed to go from sketch to finished print.
“First of all I make a drawing, and usually that’s just a sketch but sometimes I might do a full-color pastel,” Feldman said. “I put the drawing on my sliding glass doors. Then I put tissue paper over it.”
She traces the lines of the objects in the scene, such as buildings or trees. The tissue is then glued to the wood, face down.
“Then I take out my tools and I carve,” Feldman said. “Wherever I’ve carved, that’s going to appear white in the print.”
After carving she removes the tissue and cleans up the wood for printing. She paints one shape, lays the art paper down, and burnishes the back of the paper in order to pick up the color. She will do perhaps two or three thin veils of color for each shape, rolling back the paper each time to paint and then placing it over the wood to print. She secures the art paper with weights to make sure it is back in the same place for each step.
“I use these beautiful rocks I find when I go on walks,” she said. “And it functions, because when your hand gets hot from working you can just put it on the rock and it cools off.”
The white line is the carved line, which doesn’t pick up color because it is cut into the wood.
“It describes the shapes and forms of your image,” Feldman explained.
(The image at left is from the artist's Grove Series.)
For her first print on the 50-inch RiverPoint sheet, Feldman created a vertical wood cut of New York City at night. It is one of a series of three cities she is doing. However, she was using a new wood, and it had a “wild kind of grain” and it didn’t pick up the paint evenly. She had to print four times for some of the shapes.
“But then I tried your paper on my old wood and it came out beautifully,” Feldman said. “I really like it. I think it’s versatile. I like this size and I have already planned – I’m going to do a whole forest that’s going horizontally on it, I’m going to do water, sort of like the ocean, going horizontally, and I don’t know… one thing leads to the other. So I do like the paper very, very much. I love the feel of it.”
Feldman said she typically has used a Japanese paper by Okawara for her wood cut prints.
“Okawara is thinner than your paper, but I am very pleased with your paper,” Feldman said.
As part of an economic development incentive grant recently awarded to WIST, the institute plans to develop other grades and weights of RiverPoint fine art paper. Decisions haven’t been made yet about what those new grades will be, but if a thinner version is created, we’ll be sending a few sheets to Feldman to try.
Aline Feldman has shown her art across the U.S. and around the world, including in China and Japan. Her work is in collections including the Baltimore Museum of Art and the National Museum of American Art, as well as numerous corporate collections.
You can view Feldman’s work online and buy her work at a number of online sites: