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Cool Things - Dust Storm Print

"Dust Bowl" by Herschel Logan

This dramatic print, entitled "Dust Storm," was produced by Kansas artist Herschel Logan in 1938. Logan claimed recollections of "Dust Bowl days" as his inspiration for the woodcut. The talented artist captured the moment just before billowing clouds of dust engulf a serene farmstead.

Herschel Logan was born on April 19, 1901, in Magnolia, Missouri. His mother died shortly after his birth and his father took the remaining family, including grandparents, to live on a farm near Winfield, Kansas. Logan spent the rest of his formative years there and found ample time to draw and whittle with a jack knife. In high school he became the staff cartoonist for the school newspaper. His interest in art continued after graduation and he studied commercial art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1920. Although Logan's father consented to his going, he asked that Herschel not take up "cartooning" as he did not think it a respectable field.

After a year of studying art in Chicago, Logan accepted a job as a commercial artist for the McCormick-Armstrong Lithography Company in Wichita. It was there he had a fateful meeting with C.A. Seward, a well-known Kansas printmaker. Logan and Seward struck up a friendship and Herschel often visited the latter's workshop. This friendship put Logan in contact with other printmakers such as Lloyd Foltz, Charles Capps, Clarence Hotvedt, and Leo Courtney and painter Birger Sandzen from nearby Lindsborg. It was through these friendships that Logan learned the art of printmaking. Herschel left Wichita in 1929 to work for Consolidated Printing and Stationery Company in Salina, becoming its director in 1931. He stayed there until 1967.

Prairie Print Maker

A major influence in Logan's life was fellowship with other artists. Logan was a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers (PPM), organized in 1930 to further the interest of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting. Its activities included commissioning limited prints from members and sponsoring traveling exhibits featuring members' work. These low-cost exhibits were sent all over the country, exposing the printmakers to a wide audience. The group's goals were much in line with the WPA-inspired Kansas Museum Project, which strongly emphasized that art should be available to all classes of people. Unfortunately, by the 1960s several PPM members were dead and others were no longer active. The last prints were sent out in 1965 and the organization disbanded soon afterwards. PPM's popularity was due in part to the fact that its art was non-threatening during a time when uncertainty--wreaked by an economic depression and a major world war--shook American confidence and security. Changing tastes and better economic conditions eventually drew Americans to more controversial subjects in art.

Other interests and the death of his good friend C.A. Seward in 1939 caused Logan to give up printmaking. While his career as a printmaker spanned only 18 years, Logan's work won much acclaim and praise, and was frequently shown at the Midwestern Artist's Exhibitions of the Kansas City Art Institute and the International Print Makers Exhibition in Los Angeles. In 1939 some of his works were selected for the New York World's Fair print exhibition.

Logan retired to Santa Ana, California, where he passed away in 1987. His oeuvre can be found in the collections of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the University of Kansas, and the Kansas Historical Society, among others.

Print making

To create a woodcut, the artist carves a picture in relief in the surface of a printing block made of wood, linoleum, or other suitable material. Ink or paint is then applied to the raised parts of the block. The artist lays a piece of paper on the block surface and rubs it, transferring the ink or paint to the paper. The parts of the block that have been carved down do not touch the paper, and show up as white space on the finished print. To produce multicolored prints, the artist carves one block for each color. As children, many of us have experienced this same technique while using a cut potato as a printing block.

Logan concentrated on this method of printmaking almost exclusively, producing 140 prints from 1921 to 1938. Such proliferation earned him the nickname "The Prairie Woodcutter." Most of his subjects depict everyday Kansas scenes, however, he did find inspiration in Southwestern themes and from national figures and events. Working from photographs or sketches made in the field, Logan discovered beauty in common things. He made a preliminary design on the block and then studied it further for two to three days before continuing. He occasionally switched to rubber or linoleum if he was doing portraiture. His completed prints include the monogram "L" inside a square, and are signed in pencil below the image with a title on the left and the artist's name on the right.

Logan's woodcut "Dust Storm" can be found in the main gallery's 1920s and 30s section of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Dust Storm Print

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2002

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.