In this month's FOUND we talk with Loren Kantor, a Los-Angeles based woodcut and linocut artist. He's been carving original block images for a decade. Loren is inspired by classical noir imagery found in 40's noir cinema as well as black & white photography of old Los Angeles. Read our interview below and be sure to check out and support Loren's work via his blog, Woodcuttingfool.
How did you get introduced to woodcutting?
My interest in woodcuts began in the 80's when I attended a German Expressionist art show at LA County Museum. I encountered the woodcut prints and paintings of George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. I was mesmerized. I loved the stark lines and bold imagery. I was also blown away by the dark subject matter. Characters expressed emotional angst and internal conflict not typically seen in fine art of the period. In those days I was writing screenplays and playing acoustic drums. I never envisioned attempting woodcut carving myself. But the images remained in my subconscious and whenever I saw a woodcut print I felt a sense of excitement.
Are you self-taught or did you learn the trade?
In 2007, my wife surprised me with a woodcutting set for my birthday. I checked out a few online tutorial videos and I dove in, head first. The carving process was difficult at first. I cut myself often, the blocks were ragtag and I felt like a kid with his first set of fingerpaints. Before long I got the hang of it.
Who or What inspires your creative work?
I've always been attracted to vintage film noir classics like Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. I fell in love with the black & white photography, the ominous dark alleys and sinister shadows. I soon realized film noir imagery was a perfect match for the carved lines of a woodcut. We needed art for our walls at home so I began carving block print images of my favorite noir personalities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Next thing I knew, a vintage theater in Hollywood asked to display my prints. This was my first art show and I was off and running. In the past few years, I've turned to creating block image portraits of friends and modern-day personalities whom I admire. I love portraiture carving but I also enjoy carving an image from scratch.
Can you describe your process?
The woodcut process begins when I find an old photo or image I'm attracted to. From this image I make an initial pencil sketch which I transfer to a wood or linoleum block. I use standard woodcutting blades and gouges and other odd tools (awls, dental implements, sewing needles). Once the image is carved, I clean the block, apply a thin layer of ink and hand press the image on archival paper using a Japanese Baren (a bamboo tool that looks kind of like an air-hockey paddle). The entire process takes 40-50 hours depending on the size and complexity of the image. If I make a major mistake I have to start over. Minor mistakes I live with; they add to the organic nature of the print.
What is your favorite part of the artistic process?
The process is slow and meditative. I'll put on music, immerse myself in the carving and hours will go by in a flash. In these days when everything is moving so fast it's nice to have an activity that forces me to relax. I guess woodcutting has become my own personal yoga.
How did you hear about Original Fuzz?
A musician friend of mine, David Garfield, uses Original Fuzz guitar straps. This is how I encountered your company's creations.
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All work by Loren Kantor can be purchased on his blog, Woodcuttingfool.
FOUND is a monthly series by Original Fuzz Magazine. We aim to discover visual artists from every corner of the world, no matter the background or creative vision. We believe that all art is as important to our culture as music, words, news, science, even religion. FOUND celebrates the visual and those who create it, serving as a platform for the creative pioneers who embody Original Fuzz and our products.
FOUND is brought to you by Liz Earle, a freelance writer and purveyor of curiosity and imagination in the arts.