Alan Work sees the world in multiple layers of color: The dark rocks of a distant mountain might form one layer. The dark green of a tree's shadow could be another. A third might consist of white wisps of morning fog or sun glinting off of water.
Stack all the layers together, under Work's guidance, and you soon have an image of Yosemite's Half Dome, say, or of the Three Sisters under lacy clouds.
Work is one of several dozen artists whose art will be for sale at this year's McKenzie Arts Festival next weekend.
His serigraphs of Western landscape scenes look a bit like Japanese woodblock prints, with subtler gradations of color. They are built up, layer by layer, from areas of flat color printed one on top of another.
That sounds like it would result in a hard-edged, blocky picture, something like Andy Warhol's pop-art soup cans.
Work's prints, though, involve so many different layers of color - typically a dozen or 20, though he's done prints with more than 40 layers in a single picture - that the final image can be as soft as a Cascade summer day.
"I like the serigraph process," he says. "It lets you do things you can't do in any other way."
Work's prints, which he typically makes in an edition of 200 or so, are not reproductions of a separate original image. He doesn't make an oil painting, say, and then copy it into a series of prints as do so many makers of limited edition lithographs. Rather, his prints are artistic originals that only exist once the printing process is complete.
Starting with a rough pencil sketch, the artist carefully creates silk screen stencils for each color that goes into a print. To do the blue of a sky, for example, he lays a clear sheet of acetate over the pencil sketch and painstakingly paints India ink over the area he wants to print that shade of blue.
Then he paints the gray of tree trunks onto another sheet of acetate, and so on. Each sheet is used to make a new stencil, which puts a new color on the final prints.
Work doesn't ever see the final image until he's printed it - and, usually, adjusted its colors several times.
A print of the Three Sisters, for example, turned out to have a too-simple and too-purple sky on the first run, so Work went back and redid the clouds, then made adjustments to several trees in the landscape for a better composition.
"I let the process dictate to me what the final product is going to end up looking like," he says.
Serigraphy is just a fancy term for silk-screening; the term was coined by fine artists wanting to separate their product from the artistic world of T-shirts and rock-concert posters made by the same process.
Work's art isn't likely to be confused with T-shirts and bumper stickers. His landscapes have great delicacy, the result of determined work on his part. Clouds, for example, don't naturally lend themselves to the flat blocky color of silk screen images.
"In a landscape there is nothing hard-edged," he says. "There are no straight lines. Clouds are a very tricky thing to do. They take a lot of little dots. I'll also use a transparent ink, so that when you overlap things you get an extra color. That way you can go from a darker shade to a lighter shade."
Work, who is 60, grew up in Cleveland where he studied art and graphic design at the Cooper School of Art. It was there that he first encountered silk-screening, a process used in those days mostly in the graphic arts.
``I was pretty intrigued by it,'' he says.
But silk-screen inks were solvent based, meaning the artist had to use gloves and a respirator while printing, and still suffered headaches at the end of the day.
Work moved to California, where he had his own graphic design business and provided art direction for a firm that worked with museum exhibitions.
In the 1980s he discovered water-based acrylic inks - much easier and safer to use - and began making silk-screen prints, though in the blockier, more graphic look of the time.
Soon he began selling his own artwork on the art show circuit, driving around the West to shows such as the Salem Art Fair and Festival.
There he met his wife, artist and biologist Nancy Holzhauser. Work moved to Eugene in 1996.
Last year, they bought a small log house near McKenzie Bridge, where he plans to build a printing studio.
"This is the type of stuff that means something to me," he says, gesturing toward the fir trees and ferns that dot the land just off his back porch. "I know, a lot of people think I'm just making pretty pictures. But this is something that means something to me."
McKENZIE ARTS FESTIVAL
What: Two days of art, music, wine and food to benefit McKenzie School District art programs
When: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Tokatee Golf Club, just east of Milepost 47 on Highway 126, in McKenzie Bridge
Among Alan Work's silk-screen prints is "Storm Sisters," a view of the Three Sisters in the Oregon Cascades.
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|Title Annotation:||Arts & Literature; Eugene artist's subtle, complex silk-screen landscapes are among the highlights at the McKenzie Arts Festival|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Aug 28, 2005|
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