I made a special miniature, reversed and adapted version of my new “Lost Rainbow” print just so I could send it into this year’s edition of Postcards from the Edge. Which means that someone with sharp eyes will take it home for $85 and support a good cause to boot. But even if the little rainbow I made stays lost, they’ll wind up with something fantastic; there’s a lot of beautiful stuff in this fundraiser.
Postcards From the Edge offers a rare opportunity to acquire original, postcard-sized artwork from internationally renowned and emerging artists for only $85 each. Offered on a first-come, first-served basis, over 1400 works are exhibited anonymously, and the identity of the artist is revealed only after the work is purchased. With the playing field leveled, all participants can take home a piece by a famous artist, or one who’s just making their debut in the art world. Nonetheless, collectors walk away with something beautiful, a piece of art they love!
These are unusual prints. When you see them in person, it’s obvious immediately. They are shiny. Like silver-leaf shiny. They shimmer. When you reach out to touch one, they suddenly reflect the color of your own hand. When the sunlight streaming through the skylights here at the studio is interrupted by a passing cloud, the change is startling. Words fail, so here’s a video:
How’s that possible? Well, because The Wanderer prints are made over aluminum leaf. The entire image area of each piece is covered with aluminum leaf by hand before they are printed with an archival, black-ink only digital image. Aluminum leaf is great because it doesn’t tarnish rapidly like genuine silver leaf would. And we use a black-ink-only printing process because we’re a little bit Amish like that.
The images in the prints were generated while working on one drawing over a period of about a year. Each “state” is a kind of snapshot of this one drawing at a point in time. As time progresses, the drawing gets darker. So the progression through the five prints is a progression into a twilight of sorts. To nudge that idea a little further, two of the prints contain additional touches of gold leaf. State 3 has flecks of gold that roughly correspond to the position of stars in the night sky surrounding the constellation Ophiuchus, or the serpent bearer. The last of the Wanderer prints, State 5, is accented with a thin crescent of gold– a waning crescent moon.
The aluminum-leafed image area of each print measures 6″ by 8″ and the outside dimensions of the paper are 8″ by 10″. It’s the perfect size for looking at up close. Each state is part of a very limited edition of fifteen prints. The nature of the hand-applied aluminum leaf means that there are small differences between each of the 15 prints of any given edition. I think you’ll find that these imperfections are lovely and add value.
In this case I’m referring to an obsolete 24″ Epson Stylus Pro 7500 that I picked up for free about a year ago. Once a commercial printer sporting 5 colors plus black, it’s still a sturdy machine, if a little cranky and low-res by today’s standards.
But this printer has been set up to do something that was never intended. The original inks have been replaced with a set that I mixed up myself, using examples others have posted online, and using special software created by an enthusiast. This custom inkset is made using a commercial carbon black ink that has been diluted with a home-made base solution to create five shades of grey. The result can only print in black and white– but the output is very light-fast and chemically stable. And since the printer can now use shades of grey instead of dithering to to make a printed area less dark, the effective resolution has gone way up.
How’s that Amish? Well, a little background: A few generations ago, one part of my family was Old Order Mennonite. If you saw them, you’d call them Amish, as they dressed plain and drove horses and buggies. But if you looked carefully you might have noticed that they used tractors on the farm, instead of just horses. Gasoline tractors were just becoming widely available, and promised better quality of life. So they were allowed– with a restriction: the tractors could only use steel wheels. You see, steel wheels worked fine on the farm, but were unwieldy and slow on paved roads. And this clarified the the difference between a gasoline tractor and the automobile, which already symbolized all that was “englisher” or outside to the plain Mennonites and Amish. The steel wheeled tractor was a way to adopt a technology while maintaining their emphasis on small communities and separation from the world at large.
So for me, there’s a funny resonance in crippling this old inkjet printer by replacing it’s bright color inks with grays. There’s a separation from the world at large– I can no longer go and buy ink cartridges from the store if I run out. Instead I have to mix dilutions of ink and refill the ones I already have. And in a virtual sense, a community is reinforced, as I learn from the group of people who have made this same conversion and who share their successes and frustrations via the internet. And I’m working to produce prints with carbon pigment and quality cotton rag paper, true archival materials. In art market terms, that’s kind of like the moral high ground that my ancestors thought so important. And it feels right.
Of course, as with any technology, this is all changing very rapidly. The specific church that I refer to here has split many times, as new decisions had to be made and things got murky. I’m sure that my decision to use this particular set-up in my studio will be just as unclear in the long run.
But for now, I’m just excited to see what it can do!