Wednesday, July 15, 2009


For Sharon, if she wants to be a printmaker!

Jack Perlmutter, Washington, DC. painter and printmaker, pioneered the first printmaking course at the Corcoran School of Art in 1964. The first class was all about woodcut because, at that time, an investment had not yet been made in a fully equipped workshop. For woodcut, all that was needed was a set of 12 cutting tools (99c), a piece of hard wood, and a magic marker for sketching. No fine art drawing expected here!

Briefly, a revival of interest in printmaking by artists in LA had begun to spread across the country, compelling universities and workshops to offer instruction. Perlmutter was Professor of Painting at the Corcoran and a professional lithographer at home. He soon developed a Department of Printmaking, one of the first on the east coast to pick up on what became a popular, inexpensive form of making art. For the next few years an explosion of experimental prints emerged, utilizing many different materials and papers.

Perlmutter was the first innovative art teacher that I had ever met. He liked to break the rules! Drawing to scale, as I had learned to do, painfully, at night schools in London, went out the window.

One day, visiting the Potomac Boat House: while husband John went sailing, I made a few clumsy looking sketches with my magic marker

Being new to the country and to Washington, DC. I did not know that I was sketching famed Key Bridge, spanning the Potomac river!

I loved the boating scene. The Sun Fish was a boat we enjoyed. But, first, he had to build his own catamaran! It took months.

Boat slips were expensive. We decided not to join a club. Eventually, we found Hains Point, a 300+ recreation park, located between Washington Channel and the Potomac river on the south side of the Tidal Basin. In those days it was a friendly area where you could launch a boat, sharing make shift facilities with others.

My detailed sketch for the bridge did not end up on the woodblock. The wood was so hard to gauge that cuts and blisters were all I could boast about. The steamboat was enough already! From that day on I used soft woods, having found out later in class that hard wood was a fetish of the old school!

So this woodcut is just, AN UNFINISHED BRIDGE. End of first lesson!

Jack Perlmutter, 86, died in 2006. He called himself an abstract realist. A Washington Post article once described him as, "a man of tremendous vitality, with the kind of alert, inquiring mind that extends the frontiers of the creative process".

He certainly did that for me.

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