Loren Kantor on the Carving Process
I’ve always been an old-school guy. I prefer tattered books to e-readers, vinyl records to MP3’s and classic black & white movies to modern 3-D dreck.
I fell in love with woodcuts in the 80s when I attended a German Expressionist art show at the LA County Museum. The exhibit featured the work of Kathe Kollwitz, George Grosz & Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. I was mesmerized by the stark lines and brusque images. The images were simple yet immensely powerful.
About four years ago my wife gave me a woodcutting set for my birthday. I viewed some online tutorial videos and I dove in headfirst. At the time, I was immersing myself in Bogart & Cagney Film Noir flicks. We needed art for our walls at home so I began carving images inspired by film noir. I later learned the roots of film noir came from German Expressionist movies so this provided a nice link to the woodcuts.
I’ve always been a fan of Beat Generation writers. I first came across Kerouac as a 16-year old. I was camping in Big Sur, a bit drunk and high, and a guy in a nearby tent was reading aloud from Dharma Bums. The passage was about Kerouac running down a mountain at full speed and In my elevated state, the words inspired visuals of the foggy mountain air and the glorious trees all around me. The moment was transcendent and when I reached San Francisco a few days later, I bought a dozen books by Beat writers which I devoured in quick succession.
I recently embarked on a series of woodcuts featuring Beat writers. I’ve completed images of Kerouac & Charles Bukowski and soon I’ll dive into Ginsberg, Burroughs & Neal Cassady.
The woodcutting process is slow and tedious and each image takes 40-60 hours to complete. This is what I love about the process. It slows me down and forces me to relax. I learn to live with the small mistakes which often yield “happy accidents.” It’s all about letting go. It’s fair to say woodcutting has become my personal yoga.