I will be teaching a class in Digital Printmaking from January 24-February 28th at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven. This class will explore a variety of experimental processes combining the precision and control of digital imaging with the unpredictability and surprise of traditional printmaking. I will provide a thorough explanation of the software, hardware and skills necessary to integrate digital and traditional printmaking techniques. Methods covered will include transfer printing to non-printable surfaces, direct printing to pre-treated alternative substrates and the use of wet and dry media to create multi-layered hybrid prints. Through a series of software demos and hands-on labs students will develop artwork using a combination of materials and methods.
The class has grown out of my experience working with artists at the Yale University School of Art between 1998 and 2015. When computer-assisted printing became a reliable, archival and predictable practice in the early years of the 21st century it was predominantly the domain of photographers looking for a way to escape the oft-times toxic environment of the wet darkroom. One of the first aspects of the medium to evolve was the value range of inkjet printing. Due to the relatively large size of a single drop of ink in early CMYK printers light colors would be printed by increasing the distance between individual droplets of pure process colors. This would cause the pale colors to look grainy and "pixelated," and limited the dynamic range in high key areas of photographic images. Drops could only be pushed so far apart before an optical mixture designed to produce the desired light tone became impossible. To combat this problem printer companies expanded the standard CMYK inkset to include Light Cyan, Light Magenta, and a Light Black. These dilutions of the primary process colors served to extend the range of the light colors available and allowed for smoother gradations. This was the tipping point for most photographers as the increased dynamic range in the high tonal range allowed the skin of the print to be preserved across the entire picture, with lighter values that looked as dense and color rich as darker tones.
Eventually, designers, painters, and sculptors began to turn to printing as a way to document their work, sketch, and research. For many of these artists, the final output is often seen as merely a step in the artistic process and not as the primary artifact, as it is in traditional photography. Painters started painting and drawing on inkjet prints, Designers started printing on translucent materials and layers prints much like they would work on a project in a layer-based computer application, and Sculptors cut prints up and applied them to dimensional surfaces. As digital cameras evolved to capture larger images prints, likewise, started getting bigger. With an increase in size came a widening of the CMYK color gamut. Printer manufacturers introduced secondary colors (orange and green) or alternate primaries (blue) to the traditional CMYK process colors. Additions to the grayscale range with extra light dilutions of black ink, smoothed gradations further and allowed photographers to rival the tonal range of platinum and palladium printing techniques. One company offers, in addition to two different kinds of black ink (one for matte paper and one specifically formulated for glossy paper), a range of grays called “Light Black” and “Light Light Black.” One can only guess at the nomenclatorial acrobatics that would result if an even lighter dilutions of gray were to be introduced!
This class will explore several different technical and artistic approaches for creating unique artwork with inkjet printers. Photographers, painters, printmakers, sculptors and designers are all welcome and should find some aspect of the process that dovetails with their particular practice. I look forward to sharing these ideas with you.