Wood engraver and printmaker Eric Bealer

Arts profile

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2000

Cutting a negative image: Eric Bealer carefully cuts fine lines into small blocks of rock maple, carving his images in reverse to create landscapes and wilderness scenes with depth, shading and detail. Bealer then rolls ink on the blocks and uses a hand-operated press to make the prints.

``I limit them to 400, but sometimes get only 200,'' he said. ``Originally they used Turkish boxwood, which held up for thousands of prints,'' he said.

Bealer's woodblock prints evoke illustrations from books of the 1800s. The style was at its peak at that time, before photography replaced engraving as a means to illustrate books and newspapers, he said.

``I like the idea of keeping something old alive,'' he said.

Some background: Bealer, 39, grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He's been a professional artist his whole life. He used to work in watercolors and do color printmaking, and said he's always favored landscapes. He said he lived a gypsy life for many years back east, traveling around selling his work at art and craft shows.

He moved to Haines 11 years ago, then out to the fishing town of Pelican in the mid-1990s.

Never leaves Pelican: Bealer and his wife Pam live on a homestead a couple of miles up Lisianski inlet from Pelican. They have 15 chickens, two horses and a big garden.

Bealer is a full-time artist, and Pam handles the business end, as well as the matting and framing. Fishing and hunting supplements the garden, and Bealer said they don't need a lot of money to live on.

His trip to the Alaska-Juneau Public Market in November 1999 was Bealer's first time out of Pelican in two years.

``I just stay here. I'm having too much fun. I just send art out through the mail. I'm in heaven out here,'' he said.

Just a half-dozen each year: Bealer's prints are available in Juneau at Annie Kaill's, and throughout Alaska at galleries in virtually every community in Southeast and South Central Alaska.

``I do five or six blocks a year, and pretty much sell them out,'' Bealer said.

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