This is a great question and a long answer because it is very important:

Digital reproductions, sometimes called giclees, come from specialized computer printers loaded with archival inks. They take a bit of work to produce.

You have to start with a great photo of the original art and then tinker with the file to make sure the colors print correctly. Several proofs are required before you reach the stage when you can just hit a button to get a reliable product.

But once you get a print that looks good, it is that easy - press a button and a beautiful print emerges from your printer. You can even create multiple sizes from that same digital file. The inks must cure for about a day and then the print is ready for framing.

Hand-pulled prints are different. They start with a matrix. In this case, let's choose wood.

A design is transferred to the block somehow - rubbing with a spoon from tracing paper, using a lithographic technique, drawing directly on it - there are many ways to do this and they all take time.

Once the drawing is on the block, you need to carve away any areas you don’t want printed. Depending on how many white shapes you want and how big your block is, this takes hours or days.

If you are creating a black and white image, you now roll some black ink out, apply it to the block and print with a baren or a wooden spoon using a lot of elbow grease. You can also use an etching press or a platen style press if you have access to one.

You peel the image off the block and judge your inking - are there lighter areas where there isn’t enough ink, do you want to add one of a zillion modifiers to the ink for any reason, are there weird smudges anywhere and if so, what could have caused them - do you need more pressure or less? Did the print slide? 

Make some adjustments, roll more ink on the block and examine your second print. Repeat as needed.

You print enough at this stage to get a “clean” image and then decide if you want to continue carving or start the edition.

If you want to carve more, you have to clean the block and let it dry before you can cut into it.

Then start the proofing process again.

If you are satisfied, you can go ahead and start your edition, examining each print carefully as you peel it off the block.

Print as many as you want, lay them out to dry for days or maybe weeks. Then count the good ones, hand sign and number them. Now you have your limited edition of a black and white woodblock print.

Now, say you want color....

There are numerous ways to create color prints.

You can hand color the black and white prints you just finished by painting them, one by one, with watercolor.

If you know ahead of time you want a color print, you can make a white-line woodcut. I have described this process many times and you can read about it here. Depending on how big your block is, getting one print will probably take several days and each subsequent print will be hours more.

You can use a different block for each color you want to use. That means you have to carefully carve the correct areas on each block. Follow the steps for proofing a black and white image until each block is “clean”.

Then pick one of your blocks and print the appropriate color on however many pieces of paper you want. Repeat with the next block and color, making sure they line up correctly on the images you have already printed.

Then keep going until all your blocks have been printed in the correct colors.

You can do the same thing with just one block if you carve successively between layers.

You can also cut the block in pieces and ink different pieces with different colors reassemble them and then print one layer. That is called the jigsaw method.  I have written about combining jigsaw and reduction methods, here.

Sounds like a lot of work, eh?

This explanation is not meant as giclee bashing. There is nothing wrong with digital reproductions. They are a great alternative for people who want to own fine art with limited budgets. Artists still had to create some sort of original either with a photograph, a painting or something on their computer in the first place.

But PLEASE don’t confuse them with handmade printmaking methods that take months of days full of busy hours to create start to finish by hand.

I happen to make woodblock prints, but other handmade printmaking methods include:


The next time you see these labels on a piece of art, admire the skilled craftsmen who create these wonderful prints by hand.

Probably not. Woodblock prints are handmade from a block. All the prints that come off that block are the same size.

See the question/answer above about digital prints verses handmade prints for more details.

Most of the time, I use oil studies that I completed outside and on-site as references for my studio paintings and prints.

Appledore Island is one of the Isles of Shoals, a small group of islands off the coast of the border between Maine and New Hampshire. Even though they have a group moniker and share history, some of these islands are in Maine and the others are in New Hampshire. Appledore Island is on the Maine side. 

While most of the country has no clue what or where they are now, they have a rich history. Settlement on the Isles began in the early 1600's. The cod caught and salted there was world renowned in its heyday.

Later, Appledore Island became the home to Celia Thaxter whose father had built a hotel there during her childhood. As an adult, she hosted famous artists and writers on the island, including painter Childe Hassam. Hassam completed dozens of rocky seascapes and pictures of Celia's flower garden.

Now Appledore Island is the home of the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) which hosts high school and college students every summer while they learn about marine biology, ecology, engineering and other ocean related sciences. 

For years, I titled my prints in a straightforward way. “Green Wave”, “Bright Day”, and "Appledore Evening” all describe the subject of the print.

But how many [descriptor] Waves can I think up?

Well, not many before I accidentally use titles previously used by other seascape artists. Or even by my past self.

This wasn’t something that weighed heavily on my mind - when it was time to title a new print or painting, I'd settle on a simple phrase that would be easy to sign 20-60 times depending on the edition size.

Eventually, I got bored. But what to do instead?

The inspiration came from the Navy. Not the American Navy, but the British Navy from their glory days.

And not really that British Navy from their glory days, but the space navy adventure novels based on that British Navy. And those stories are mostly based on the C.S. Forester novels about a fictional sailor, Horatio Hornblower, whose life closely parallels that of the real-life British hero, Horatio Nelson.

The first series of these contemporary stories that I read was David Weber’s "Honorverse". Instead of battling at sea, Honor Harrington’s character becomes a master at space war and she personally suffers the same famous injuries as poor Nelson as the novels progress. (I won’t spoil this, in case you don’t know about Nelson’s traumas.)

Several years later, I discovered Jack Campbell and Captain “Black Jack” Geary of the Lost Fleet series. Instead of describing them to you I encourage you to look them up and read them. They are written well and the characters are delightful.

You’ll love them, if you like science fiction space navy stuff.

It’s ok if you don’t read space operas, because the reason I’m telling you all this isn’t to give you a reading list (though, you’re welcome....).

In the front of each Lost Fleet novel, Campbell lists all the ships in the story by name.  Here’s a taste:


It goes on and on. My absolute favorite is Indefatigable

The first piece I named using this list was, Vanguard, because that is what the first force of a military action is called. The word now also means the leading edge of anything new - ideas, projects, missions, adventures.

Hoplon, Intemperate, Encroach and Dauntless soon followed and I expect there will be plenty more.

This is my number one most frequently asked question.

The answer is no, sorry, but I am a fan.

I did used to live in Baltimore, MD back when he was a baby swimmer and had just made his first Olympic team and only people in his hometown had heard anything about him. But I never met him myself.