A client recently asked me about my artistic process. This client is an avid collector of serigraphs, lithographs, pastel drawings and original acrylic paintings but my work is the first photo-based mixed media print work in their collection. I thought I would share some of our discussion.

First, a little background. I was trained in stone lithography which involves creating an image on a stone, etching and inking, and then pulling the print. These steps are followed for each color used. For multiple colors, typically the stone is either ground down or further etched to alter the image, then re-inked and printed. The image is slowly built up by laying down coloured shapes.

I have essentially taken this process and moved it digitally. Instead of ink, I use the color from photographs I have taken. I isolate pixelated shapes in my photographs that interest me and use them as compositional elements in making the artwork. Instead of successively etching stones to create layers, I use multiple computer files in layers. I use a digital version of layering colour upon colour, shape upon shape, just the way I used to work in traditional stone lithography.

The benefits to me from working this way are numerous. First of all, I can employ many more layers than would be practical in stone lithography. A hand-pulled litho with 8-10 colors would be a technical achievement; many lithos have fewer colors and are beautiful pieces of art (I’m referring to hand-pulled prints – not offset lithos, which are machine-printed). However, in my process, I can easily employ 30, 50 or even 75 layers to create my images.

After I have completed working on my image digitally, I print it onto a fine art paper or fine art canvas. At times I continue working the image by painting on top of the surface.

The immense improvements in archival inks and the affordability of computer equipment and printers in recent years have opened a vast arena in which artists can experiment. Whereas at one time inks from inkjet printers did not meet archival standards, pigmented archival inks are now available which are rated for 100 – 200 years permanence. Such well known institutions as the Museum of Modern Art in NYC has inkjet prints in its collections. Inkjet prints still should be handled as fine art prints and cared for as such.

Last summer, I was also back in the print-making studio creating prints that married my digital image-making with traditional stone lithography. I look forward to exploring more these hybrid processes.

I hope that helps clarify my artistic process and materials and provides some insight into my working methodology.

Further reading:

I recommend the International Fine Print Dealers Association for more information about inkjet and digital processes and fine art prints in general.

I also talk about my process at the Cross-Pollination Art Exhibit in San Diego in my September, 2010 blog post.

Image: “Awash”, Ellen Scobie, pigmented inkjet print, 48×48 inches