Monday, January 23, 2012

Prints, Prints for Everyone!!!!

Yin Yang Dragon by Elaine Cheung after Hokusai

All's quiet on the... I've been incommunicado for awhile.  For good reason.  I have been rethinking and reworking my approach to art.  I have been so long a stickler for one of a kind pieces that I think I've been blinded. I could not see beyond the original work of art.  I still of course believe in the original and feel that there never could be a replacement for working in oils on canvas, but there is this whole other side to art as well.  And, that is the concern for reproducibility.  That certain types of art are meant to be reproduced, like the book (discounting calligraphic manuscripts).  With that in mind, I spent the last few months thinking about how to reproduce beautiful books.  But, before I go any further, above is a graphic  I did, completely (and I mean completely) digitally.  There was no paper or pen involved.  I made it for my Cafe Press shop.

Back to what I was saying, the concern for reproducibility. I used to make linocut prints so my first thought was to make either woodblock or linocut prints.  These could work for small print runs before the block deteriorated.  There is no need for a printing press which is very costly.  The problem, though, is that if you wanted a design with many colors, each color would represent carving another block and then the printing of them would necessitate having the blocks and paper in register.  Again, all doable, but downright tedious.  Certainly it is an option, but one that I do not personally relish.

My second thought was to make black and white drawings which would then be scanned, printed on a laser printer, and finally transferred to the final paper with xylene, a neurotoxin.... again, not something I relish working with since I don't really want brain damage.  But, if there were a better transfer method, I think this one could work out.  The black and white image could then be hand-painted in watercolors, pencils, etc. and the final product would be an original work, yet be somewhat reproducible.  In other words, it wouldn't be a clone, but more of a multiple.  Kind of a monotype, but kind of not at the same time.  Ultimately, I think this is the best approach for reproducing original works, if I may.  But it was at this point that I had a revelation.

It occurred to me that there are many reasons for art and often it is not for that original.  In fact, most often it is for mass production.  Even the prints that we admire so much today by the artist Hokusai were nothing more than that.  They were prints made for the masses to enjoy.  In fact, that was the whole purpose of printmaking, of woodblocks, of lithography, etc.  It was to widely distribute the image itself.  But, now that we have computers, images are instantly accessible. Woodblock printing seems to the modern mind like a quaint method that is now considered only for the production of "real" art, when in fact its first and main purpose was a utilitarian one.  One could almost say that printers today are the modern equivalent of the woodblock.  But, I wouldn't go that far!

And so on and on about woodblocks and monotypes and transfers.... my mind was spinning... 'til, being unable to let any of this go, I had to teach myself vector graphics for the very sake of its infinite reproducibility in any medium to any scale without pixelation!  My god.... the possibilities.  This time, as opposed to the last time I tried my hand at anything digital a couple of years ago, I liked it so much that it brought to mind an exchange I had once long ago about snail mail versus email.  I had said at the time that I could not imagine using email to correspond with anyone. I insisted that snail mail was far better.  One could hold a letter, feel its weight, appreciate the handwriting, ink blotches and feel that you were receiving something of the person.  While I still wholeheartedly love letters, I do not write letters any longer.  Email and texting is my preferred mode of communication.  I even despise telephone calls... to the point where I will glance at my phone and maybe even turn it off if it so happens to ring. But, I digress...

My final point is that even though I use this program to generate art, it did not change my aesthetic in the least bit.  I still like wildly intricate drawings.  I still obsess over seemingly inconsequential lines and colors that to most people probably wouldn't even see and probably wouldn't make a difference on the whole.  I do notice, though, that it has made me even more meticulous when I am doing non-digital work... for instance,  I've just spent three months painting a landscape that is still not done... dab, dab, dab.  That's it in a nutshell: the medium matters not, only the artist.