Featured Artist Janet Lefley

Printmaker Janet Lefley shares an intriguing collection of woodcuts inspired by travel and life experience. Find out more about this artist by visiting her website.


Rat on the Tiber by Janet Lefley

“Rat on the Tiber” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 26” X 16”


I was born in Chicago, lived in New Orleans, got my MFA in Rome, and am now living in Amsterdam. I have lived in many interesting places which have informed my artwork over the years.


woodcut of houses at night by Janet Lefley

”Shotgun Houses After Dark” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 13.5” X 13”


My woodcuts are like visual journals. I want to express something personal through them. They are not totally abstract, but not realistic. I consider them expressionistic. I don’t follow the “rules” of perspective or anatomy. I’m interested in creating an emotional response in the viewer that echoes my own feelings about my subject.


Colorful woodcut by printmaker Janet Lefley

“Castroni” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 19.6”X 26.7”


I have a Master’s degree in Fine Arts in Printmaking, and have always loved printmaking. Particularly when making woodcuts, I love how the elements of sculpture and drawing come together. I have to work the wood with a saw, a drill, or a knife while wearing goggles and ear protection. It’s very physical. I run the inked wooden plate through a press and I get to turn the big press wheel like a ship captain steering a ship.


Woodcut of a rat on a wire by Janet Lefley

”Tiny High Wire Act” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 24.5”X 21.5”


Then a print magically appears! There’s an element of surprise in printmaking that is exciting. I never know what the final piece will turn out like, because there are so many possibilities during the process to make “mistakes” (or, if you are feeling positive, “opportunities”). It never turns out how I imagine it and I like that (most of the time).


woodcut of rats in a print shop by Janet Lefley

“Rats in the Print Shop” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 53.3” X 53.3”


My woodcuts are about me and where I’ve lived, so sometimes they are like love letters and sometimes they are like hate mail. But they are all interesting. My time living in New Orleans and Rome have had the biggest impact on me.


woodcut of New Orleans by Janet Lefley

“New Orleans Heat” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 23.5” X 23.5”


You could think of these pieces as travel journals, where I record my experiences in a foreign land. What did I see? How did I feel? What stuck out in my mind? If you look closely, you can discover little details about the place. For example, in New Orleans Heat, you might notice the Mardi Gras beads that drape over the railing of the French quarter balcony or the wisteria vines that climb up and strangle the light pole.


Woodcut print of a cat in Rome by Janet Lefley

“Percy in Rome” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 22” X 32”


Or perhaps you can sense that the majestic cat in Percy in Rome is a portrait of my own cat (named Percy, of course) and reflects how much I loved him, setting him in one of my favorite places in Rome, in the midst of a Roman ruin that doubles as a cat sanctuary. (Largo di Torre Argentina, if you were wondering.)


black and white woodcut by artist Janet Lefley

“Louisiana Avenue Drummer Boy” multicolored woodcut print, ink on paper, 25” X 35”


Everyone experiences place differently. That makes me wonder about how people view my art. What does someone who’s been to New Orleans or Rome see when they look at my work? What memories or emotions does it call up for them? I hope that whatever the viewer sees, it evokes some emotion in them, because it means I’ve succeeded in sharing something close to my heart with them.


Janet Lefley invites you to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.



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