“For nearly all of my art career, I have explored landscape as my subject. Starting with almost twenty years of depicting the broad views of the sort that most characterize landscape painting, I began, about thirty years ago, to concentrate on “landscapes-within-landscapes”. For nearly twenty of those years I painted rocks: single massive boulders on the broader landscape like a large still-life; the rocky landscape of the American west.
In 2010, on a trip to Japan, I became interested in the carefully contrived temple garden landscapes. In these gardens were many trees that had been pruned in fantastical twists and turns. Their roots spread through carefully tended beds of moss. I photographed these “root-scapes” and back in my studio did drawings of them, plus trunks and bark, using brush and ink. This has become one of my major subjects in recent years, while I have also continued exploring other parts of the landscape in other bodies of work.
Several years ago, I got the idea of realizing some of the images from my brush-and-ink drawings in print media, in large part due to the happy event of the opening of a membership print studio, Second State Press, in my studio building in Philadelphia. The first of these prints was a suite of eight small aquatints in which I transferred my drawings to copper plates using computer scans and silk-screened etching resist. About two years ago, I was researching the possibility of creating woodcuts that were two or more diameters larger than my drawings to create an image that was denser, more graphic and more tactile, by printing the resulting blocks on damp paper on an etching press.
Again, a great resource became available to me: NextFab, a superb ‘maker space’ in Philadelphia with a huge resource of equipment and expertise available to artists by membership. I scanned my drawings, enlarging them and transferring them to a program that could produce vector files that, in turn, could be used by NextFab’s laser-etcher to cut woodblocks that preserved all the details of the drawings. I have produced twenty woodcuts that I have printed in small editions. Additional prints are material for experimental works in which I am cutting up and restructuring them.
John Woolsey received his BFA and MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, studying with Neil Welliver, Alex Katz, Elaine de Kooning, and Yvonne Jacquette. He has shown widely in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and New York, and his work is in many private and corporate collections.