Rebecca Poulson: Working from black to white

Arts Profile

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2000

Carving pictures: Rebecca Poulson is a printmaker inspired by the scenes and life of Alaska's outer coast. She lives in Sitka and most of her artwork is created by engraving wood. She uses carving tools to cut away the areas that will be white in the picture.

"It's backwards, like every kind of printmaking. Everything is a mirror image and I'm working from black to white," she said. An artist drawing with ink is working from white to black.

After she carves the wood block, she uses a simple printing press, something like an oldfashioned laundry wringer, to make the print. She produces limited editions of 100 or fewer from each block. The block is inked by hand each time and the rollers press the paper on the inked block. It's not like a rubber stamp.

"With a rubber pad, it's so soft, you don't need a press," she said. With printmaking, the carved block is so hard pressure is needed to push the ink into the paper.

Strong designs: She likes the graphic quality of prints made from a wood engraving, with the emphasis on the design.

"With the black and white and strong contrast, you get a design you can see from across the room," she said.

It's possible to get subtleties as well, by using different carving tools to create a variety of textures in the wood block. That can create the illusion of depth of motion in the print.

"With wood engraving you get this interesting vibration or sparkle going," she said. "It can all work together.

Shipwrightturnedartist: Poulson, 36, grew up in Sitka. She earned a biology degree from Reed College in Portland, Ore., in the early 1980s and returned to Sitka to work as a shipwright. She fished and repaired wooden boats for about 10 years.

In the early 1990s she began studying wood engraving and block printing from artist Dale DeArmond, a respected Juneau wood engraver who had moved to Sitka. A few years later, as feedback from galleries on her art became increasingly positive, Poulson decided to move out of boatwork and put more emphasis on her art. She put out a calendar called "The Outer Coast" that features her artwork. Her 2001 calendar is her sixth. It features landscapes and images inspired by the Sitka area, and includes poetry and gardening tips.

Her calendars are available in Juneau at Hearthside and Observatory bookstores. She is a regular at the Alaska Juneau Public Market. Otherwise, her prints are available in galleries in Sitka.

She just returned to Sitka in May after completing a master's in fine art degree from Tyler School of Art. She's already started work on her 2002 calendar.

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