Loren Kantor is a passionate, curious Woodcutter/Writer living in Hollywood with a love for movies, music and old Los Angeles. Check out his blog for more information. All woodcuts are for sale.
Loren Kantor: Film Noir Woodcuts
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, Kathe 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 images focused on the violent and unpleasant aspects of society. I was writing screenplays in those days and 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.
The idea to carve images from Film Noir Movies came about because we needed art for our walls at home. I realized the stark imagery of black & white films was a perfect match for the carved lines of a woodcut. The roots of film noir cinematography came from German Expressionist movies so this provided a nice link to the woodcuts.
I was first exposed to film noir as a child. My father was a film editor at Columbia Pictures and in the early 70's he borrowed 16mm film prints and screened them in our living room for the neighborhood. This is how I saw my first true film noir, DOA. From the moment Edmond O'Brien walked into the police station to report his own murder I was hooked. There was something twisted and mysterious about the film, an edge I couldn't find in the boring Hardy Boys books I was reading.
During my college days at UCLA, I took a film noir class and immersed myself in the classics: Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Laura. I fell in love with the stark black and white photography, the sinister shadows, the cynical heroes and enticing femme fatales. My favorite film noir was Fritz Lang's The Big Heat. Police detective Glenn Ford takes on a syndicate boss and his evil henchman Lee Marvin. When Glenn Ford's wife is killed by a car bomb intended for him, you realize you've entered a film world that does not play by "happily ever after" rules. Lee Marvin's character takes pleasure in burning women with cigarette butts and throwing hot coffee in his girlfriend's face. The movie is ruthless and intense and the hero is only able to carry out justice after resigning from the police force and living by his own moral code.
|Edward G. Robinson|
When carving the woodcuts, the process begins when I find an old photo or image that I like. From this image I make an initial pencil sketch which I then 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 look 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.