Charles Beck: The Master of Woodcut Prints, Fergus Falls MN

Charles Beck: The Master of Woodcut Prints, Fergus Falls MN

Voiceover: At 90 years of age,
artist Charles Beck is still finding inspiration in the
rolling hills, lakes, trees, and farmlands surrounding his home
in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Often described as abstract,
his woodcuts depict his appreciation for
nature and its many colors. We visited with Beck
about how he sees nature and how his vision
resonates in his art. (inspiring piano music) Charles: You gotta live a while before you can make a
living as an artist. A lot of times a
woodcut print up close doesn’t look like much. It looks just like a
series of different colors. You sort of have to
get back a distance so it gets to be in focus. I’ve been doing
woodcuts for 60 years. I usually will see something when I’m driving
and see some payout, it could be a woodcut or it
could work as a work of art. I don’t photograph it or sketch
it or anything like that. I just remember
the general idea, and from my experience
of looking at nature I’m able to improvise it
and by doing it that way it has the tendency to be
a little more creative, a little more original. Joyce: I think he captures
so much in his prints. The scenes of the outdoors
where he gets the landscape. He’ll get the rolling hills
and he’ll get some trees, and you might even get
some cows in the picture. It brings such a reality of
what is out there for you to be looking at, and sometimes
you don’t always see it. Charles: There’s
nothing better than to be able to create
something that you look at and someone will
say “I’ve never seen “anything like that before.” Well that’s the essence of it. It’s new, it’s
enlightening and exciting. I was born in Fergus Falls. I seem to remember drawing
ever since I was very young. I remember in grade
school I used to draw pictures of Indians
and cowboys and things that interested me at that time. Then in high school I
drew pictures of athletes. I had no idea about art at all. When I went up to
Concordia College and got a good connection
to a Cy Running. He took me out sketching
and drawing farm scenes and things like that,
and that got me started to be interested in
the environment and
the things around me or something of that matter. An artist needs an idea if
he’s going to do a painting. He has to be interested
in something. That was my interest
and it never left. Joyce: It’s a thrill
to know that people really like it well
enough so that they’re going to buy it and hang it
in their homes and enjoy it. It’s a beautiful day. Charles: I don’t think
I’d make it without her and all the things she does. Joyce: We had good
lives together. We appreciate what
each one does, mostly the business
part of it that I do. Sometimes he’ll ask me for a
little advice in something. Charles: She’s gotten
to be pretty perceptive about what makes a good print, what makes a poor one. Joyce: I’ll tell him
maybe I’ll like it mostly but for certain areas
I think I’d change this or that, and whether
he accepts it or not, that’s up to him. Charles: There’s a
satisfaction of ending up with an image like this. You say, if it weren’t for me, this would not have existed. With woodcuts you have
to be pretty specific about what you’re going to do. A woodcut is kind
of like a painting except you carve your
image on a piece of wood. The main thing is
just have sharp tools, and the things that I don’t
usually have are sharp tools. So I get kind of a rough
finish, but sometimes that’s a plus, then you
roll paint on the wood. It isn’t really a
paint that I use, it’s called Cutter’s Ink,
and it’s a relief ink. It’s especially for
woodcut printing. The paint adheres to the
area that is not carved out. In this case I’m just
rubbing it with a spoon, which is how I did all my
carvings back in the early days. I now have a press, so you
run this through a press and it saves a lot of time. So what you need is an
image that’s kind of opposite of what you
want to do in painting. Here’s where you get
this texture of the wood, and sometimes that’s a bonus. You carve it all but you’re
still not sure what you’ve got until you print it, and when
you print it you find out that the image is much different
from what you had planned. So you either change
it or carry it into another direction based
on what you’ve already done. I like to think that my
main concern is to create decent art and be myself
as much as possible, and create work
that are based on me and my reaction to nature. Voiceover: Prairie
Mosaic is funded by the Minnesota Arts and
Cultural Heritage Fund with money from the vote
of the people of Minnesota on November fourth, 2008, the North Dakota
Council on the Arts, and by the members
of Prairie Public.

11 thoughts on “Charles Beck: The Master of Woodcut Prints, Fergus Falls MN”

  1. This is a wonderful immodest artist,who, is without doubt a Master of his craft & I, for one am going to seek out his work .

  2. Oh my. This gentleman is my hero now. Thank you so much for the interview.
    Watching this in 2016.

  3. He became a master after only six years ? … did he say six or sixty ? … there seemed to be an abrupt edit after he said what sounds like "six"

  4. Absolutely STUNNING work, I love it – especially the wide sea one, what a genius talent! Thank you very much for putting this up = a feast for my eyes.

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