Walter Padgett Biography

Walter Padgett




Walter Padgett, sculptor, painter, printmaker, photographer, and teacher, was born in North Carolina on August 4, 1945 and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He first studied architecture at Clemson University in South Carolina before turning his attention to fine arts at Florida State University, earning his Bachelors and Masters of Fine Arts degrees in the field of sculpture. Padgett taught art at the high school level as well as at Florida A & M University at Tallahassee before moving to Oregon. In 1971, he joined the faculty of the newly opened Rogue Community College in Southern Oregon, where he was head of the art department for eleven years and taught full-time for over thirty years.

During these years Padgett continued to produce work in sculpture and painting but increasingly focused his attention on printmaking. In 1983, he took a two-year leave of absence to pursue studies in Japanese woodblock printmaking which included a month of intensive study at the Yoshida Hanga Academy in Tokyo. A pivotal point in his career was a two-month bicycle trip across Japan, documenting the famous Tokaido highway, and the associated prints of Hiroshige and Sekino. Padgett employs Japanese handmade chisels, brushes, and paper for his color woodcuts. He creates in the Sōsaku-hanga tradition, carving his own blocks and hand printing his woodcuts, and he has led many workshops on these techniques and has given demonstrations.

Padgett’s oils, watercolors, sculptures, and woodcuts have received many awards. In September of 2008, he was awarded the Takanabe Town Mayor's Prize for a woodblock print exhibited at the Takanabe Museum (Japan), in a traveling exhibition of prints from the prestigious Kyoto International Woodprint Association’s permanent collection. His work is featured in the current exhibition at the Wichita Art Museum and related catalog The International Block Print Renaissance: Then and Now.

Walter Padgett’s work is represented in the collections of the National Museum of Jordan, Amman; the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, Oregon; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; and the Yoshida Hanga Academy, Tokyo.

In response to a query regarding his editioning process, especially with regards to his "s/p" editions, Walter Padgett provided this response:

'The "s/p" notation on many of my prints stands for "state proof," indicating that a final edition has not been initiated. The few Tokaido prints that I have actually begun editioning have all been set at 200.

'Because of the beautiful nature of this medium, and the complexity of many of my prints - requiring many blocks, layering of color - and my nature as an artist, I enjoy exploring many possibilities in color scheming and am reluctant to decide on a "final" version requiring no further revisions or improvements. I like to study the prints, see how others respond to them, try them out in the marketplace, so I will print ten or twenty at a time indicate an "s/p" on them and show them. I keep records of my printing.

'Nonetheless many of the stages of my prints have been quite collectible, even the very early versions which in some cases may even be "one of a kind." A good example of this is the b & w version of "Sakanoshita, Keeper of the Shrine" printed entirely in greys and black. I think I only printed four or five of them, and wish now I had printed a lot more. Of course I could print more, but it would be very difficult to clean the color out of the blocks enough to return to the colorless scheme. And of course I have more printing to do in full color, so I don't wish to remove the integral color that has been established in the blocks. I worked on my print in the Tokaido series, "Miya Canal", for several years, printing it in four major different color schemes of radical variation; each version had its' own development, and the final version developed through the first three. In order to make up my mind how I wanted the entire Tokaido series to look, I wrestled with it and did a lot of experimentation. And, at that time I was still somewhat of a novice at carving and printing, having been learning for only six years...

'Philosophically I prefer the traditional Japanese approach to publishing prints in unlimited editions, the publisher reserving the right to make changes at any time, and to print as many as the market demands. I find the restrictive practice in Western culture of being expected to decide upon a final version and an exact and limiting number for production to be difficult and frustrating as an artist. During the Edo period of course the artists didn't even do the carving or the printing or the marketing, only providing the conceptual drawings. However, I am doing all of my own work, and in reality I may never reach the 200 mark for any of the prints, so the actual editions may yet to be determined by my life span. An edition of 200 in a world market seems like nothing, especially since the Japanese woodblock method is capable of producing far more prints from a set of blocks - hand-inking with brushes, watercolor pigment, printing by hand with the baren: these methods have little deteriorating effect on the blocks.

'Another consideration for me has been the desire to get as many of my prints started as possible, so as to have a body of work to exhibit. It has never made any sense to me to try to complete one print at a time, blocks, edition, numbered, done and final, before starting another image. Plus it is quite expensive to print a whole edition at once--the paper I use costs $22/ sheet now. Over the years my prints and the series of images have all evolved through my own growth as an artist and as a printer. The skills required are quite subtle and sophisticated, a wonderful medium of great potential for the artist. In my long range thinking I allow the possibility that I might employ assistance in printing at some point if the success of my sales reaches a level of necessity; but for now, I am the artist and the publishing house.'