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Definition of a GESTALT par Marie Noëlle Salathé-Granès, Mars 2016


Une expérience que je crée à partir de la forme qui émerge de mes perceptions et de mon ressenti. A cette expérience, je donne un sens précis qui m’est propre dans l’instant présent et qui peut être partagé.


An experience that I create from the form that emerges from my perceptions and my feelings in an instant. To this experience, I give a precise meaning that is clear to me in that moment and can be communicated.


Of Teaching the "White-line Woodblock Printing Technique "

Physiologic and Psychological Influences

An Existential Perspective


The low–tech color medium of white-line woodblock printing (WLPs) focuses on the individual’s distinct being and depth of persona, regardless of age and level of artistic knowledge. Students aged four to those well into retirement can benefit from this technique as a stepping stone to artistic expression.


Many people, who do not regard themselves as artists would look at this art form saying to themselves: “I would not be capable of such self expression, art is beyond my capacity “. This common lament could extend to "I don’t even know how to draw, use a chisel or sculpt. I don’t know how to paint "… "this is not for me. "


What is the basis for such a mindset: preventing individuals from envisioning themselves as artists and having the requisite creativity for success?


This initial expression reflects personal experience tainted by negative feelings and beliefs in the area of self-image with regard to one’s own potential and abilities within the absence of recognition and integration of a creative personality.


It is necessary to have the proper disposition, desire, motivation and willingness to engage in the learning process and access the experiential openness to this new insight.


One needs to enter into the opportunity despite fears of being unable to master the process of which they have only started to understand:

- Feeling unable to rise to expectations of self and instructors

- Fearing an encounter with a novel technique

-A general fear of the unknown and its consequences

These can create an obstacle for some individuals who have not yet known the potential gratification and sense of accomplishment in artistic expression.


As a student of the WLPs, one is no longer in a process of doubting or judging one’s intrinsic skills, or the capacity to develop what it is we do not have or do not yet know. The starting point for a beginner is not to do but to be what we are, allowing ourselves to be immersed in the creative process.


Initially, the student must select a template from which to work. The choice will be made intuitively by selecting a "woodblock", a previously carved piece of wood into which an image has been delineated by use of a cutting tool by the instructor.


The choice is made from a collection of single dimensional images such as a fruit with its leaf and it’s flower, a boat, a whale, a seashell or a landscape.

Consider the choice of a strawberry. The connection with something familiar occurs, not only on a cognitive level but also in a sensitive way. We are familiar with the strawberry’s appearance, taste, smell and surface texture. These characteristics allow us to reconnect with this sensitive part of our memory. The strawberry exists in our world. How it will be represented is a matter of choice and a product of creativity.


By beginning the process with a connection to something familiar and simple, the student is placed in a comfortable environment where reconnection to one’s instinctive capacities and inner self can occur. Their choice of an image from a collection of pre-carved woodblocks is a gestalt. The chosen image and its eventual coloration is a reflection and representation of the student's perception and method of expressing the former.


The woodblock design represents a goal as an image, while the print generated is the mirror image created by the individual as a unique creation of the whole.


At this stage of the process the level of anticipation can be without stress, as the invitation does not place contingencies that would limit spontaneity and creativity. By choosing a pre-designed image certain challenges have been put aside.


The student feels actively engaged in the process through the connections and identification, with physical awareness that arises in an alert curious consciousness. As the breathing pattern of anticipatory excitement settles down, the respiration deepen and exhalation becomes more audible. The attentiveness transcends the cognitive state and becomes manifest in the work of the student now in a comfortable state of mind, eager to engage with the surrounding environment.


In wake of being put in contact with and stimulated by the availability of pigments on the pallet, a creative vision is opened and focuses on the surrounding environment. Being on somewhat familiar ground with the woodblock onto which watercolor is applied by a small paint brush, the student personalizes the process of sequential application of pigment to carved segments of the image. The element of surprise is expectantly found in the eyes of the student observing the outcome: generated by the repetitively simple actions of painting the compartments within the woodblocks’ imagery, pressing the paper onto the painted area, transferring the pigment section by section by rubbing the paper with the palm of the hand before it dries. Step-by-step, minute-by-minute, the printing paper is transformed into an image that lies between what was hoped for and an often un-expected outcome.


Feeling safe within the structure provided by the pre-carved and formatted design, students discover and find access to a colorful representation of their own to the once blank paper.  Curiosity and surprise gives way to a sense of wonder resulting from the described process, sourcing feelings connected to one’s being. The connection to the impression is either simple or complex depending on the students' level of development, engaging all the different aspects of cognitive, affective, emotional, and spiritual being as well as the driving force, emphasized when the pigment is imprinted by the rubbing of the students’ hand.


The representation and symbolization of the image becomes the concentration, feelings of relaxation and contentment surface during this artistic endeavor.

This experience gives birth to joy as one realizes that, « yes I am familiar with the process ». The integration of the knowledge that has been attained through the alliance of perception and sensibility empowers further efforts at representation. All components of awareness of capacities and strengths are individual, conscious of success and the remaining day is vitalized.


What follows is a natural progression. One realizes that it is possible to achieve. This state of mind then gives rise to the enthusiasm of sharing the understanding of the process with others, followed by the confidence and empowerment to discover further the capacity of broader application and enhancement of this art form. This progression of emotional involvement furthers unlimited possibility of expression.


The technique allows opportunity for different sensations and emotions to be merged in the creative process through the materials that are used: the printing paper, the wood, color choices as well as the various instruments used, i.e.- pencil, chisel and brush.


In summary, it is fair to say that this watercolor printing technique’s primary focus is on nurturing what the person is and not what the person should be, by targeting personal perception and self estimation. Within this rubric, sensation, emotion, and realization of capacity and ability are integrated. It is of ultimate importance to let go of negative beliefs and fears and to embrace the ability of immersing oneself in a creative and living process,  with recognition and acceptance of who the person is at the present moment of practicing this  unique form of expression.


The experience provides perspective into the process of discovery of self and the awareness of our involvement with nature, in concert with our innermost values.


In this context, the teacher is aware that all students develop very different relationships with the process of learning. Some are inquisitive as to the process used by more experienced artists and will seek instruction and guidance. Others will proceed intuitively and learn by trial and error. For some the status of being an apprentice provides security, a necessity for self-discovery. Some apprentices struggle with letting go of their egos when faced with a technique they have not yet mastered, which appears as a new challenge. Intent on working outside initial instructional boundaries, they will proceed in a self-determined fashion, often realizing that the resulting experience wasn’t quite as gratifying when not achieving the expected results. Subsequent attempts with this technique likely will engender a greater willingness to follow primary instruction and be less threatened by the initial dependence concerning guidelines, which is, after all, necessary in the learning process.


The existential experience unique within this discipline opens up new perspectives, insights and self-discovery. Nevertheless as new sensations and emotions are experienced, some participants experience a difficulty in surrendering preconceptions and expectation allowing for an unrestricted experience… consequently the value of instruction escapes them. We have here the archetype of the creative process on two levels, artistic and personal, allowing for the integration of nature and the individual’s perception of its beauty. What is remarkable about this watercolor printing technique is the “ah-hah” that one quickly navigates, and takes ownership of, due to familiarity. The unlimited opportunity of manipulating color and contrast maintains engagement of the artist within. The interest and desire to create is perpetuated by each new hand rubbed impression onto a formally blank piece of paper, the result often more satisfying than expected, furthering the pursuit of greater outcomes and an identity as an evolving artist.


Beyond the technique, the process brings us deeper into our essence, allowing us to find connection with our origins, culture and personal references.


The evolution of the students’ self-recognition process is followed closely by the instructor and the understudy is given respectful encouragement of their individual singularity of feelings and artistic representation. Students immerse themselves in the fullness of their being, nurturing the emergence of the primal joy from their inner child, which is allowed to shine in all its intensity.


The process of discovery opens up perspectives enabling a better understanding of self, one’s interests and manner of interacting with nature in accordance with our innermost values. 


As further experience is achieved using unfamiliar colors and woodblocks, one soon moves on to being adept at wanting to handle the carving tools required to create one’s own woodblock design, the next gratifying experience for the neophyte.


And now, let’s do it again, the effects of this technique are surprising!



       Marie-Noëlle Salathé Granès


       Boothbay Harbor

       October 2014

English translation by Alexandre J. Salathé and Andre E. Benoit




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