printers and scanners

In the comments to yesterday’s post about my experiments, virtual friend and artist-blogger in Alaska, Elise Tomlinson asked some very interesting questions, which have inspired me to write today’s entry.

So, do you have your own printer and scanner for doing giclees? I am so intrigued with the whole process of them. Right now I get them done by a local print shop, they are reproductions of paintings I’ve done…but I’ve heard of other artists with their own printers/scanners who use the new technology to produce what I would consider to be original fine art prints (using your definition) conceived of originally as a print, where they control the amount of ink, the paper, etc. What are your thoughts on that? Also, if you do have your own equipment, would you mind sharing what brands you own?

I first wrote nearly two years ago about the tools that I use and later about the studio where I make my prints – you might start reading these first for a background.

At home I still use my old (1997) Umax Astra 1200S scanner though it’s SCSI and has to be connnected to an old Mac G3 which I can access at my Mac G5 via the network. It’s slow and a bit inconvenient but I haven’t wanted to spend the money on a new one with a fast Firewire connection because I do like its 8.5 by 14 inch bed.

When I need to do some high resolution scans for my large printworks, I use the studio’s scanner, an Epson Professional (I’ll check the precise model tomorrow), which allows slide and film scanning too. (It’s 1680.)

I still use my HP Deskjet 1220C 13″ printer at home, one I chose because the studio has one, as does the technician herself in her home studio, and it’s proven to be a real workhorse. It uses water-based dye ink, which is not fully archival ie. more than 80 years, though still very good. I use it for small projects and proofing my work in a smaller scale before printing at the studio’s 42″ HP 5000UV which is fully archival with waterproof UV pigment inks. The experiments that I wrote about yesterday were done with this studio printer.

It is a high end professional machine that has been very durable, reliable and gives excellent results. It’s just that some artists like yours truly are pushing the medium further and expecting it to do more than it was designed for!! Newer models offer more features of course. One of the Institute members recently bought himself an Epson 7800 (I think) that is 24″ wide, with adjustable heads to allow thicker materials and with a straight feed for rigid surfaces. So for my problem with the organza, his printer might work better!

And my thoughts on giclee printing? Please read prints vs reproductions.



Yesterday I had the urge for some creative play so I gathered several small objects – a piece of ammonite, a dried piece of root or lichen, curled bark, shells, dried flowers, and dried pomegranates. I placed an object on my scanner and covered it with either a black or cream cloth, selected a high resolution and magnification and scanned away. The results were very exciting with good depth of field and great detail. The ones with dark cloth remind me of old Dutch paintings.

Above is one with a piece of root or lichen, a bit smaller than the palm of my hand that I’d picked off a beach long ago. Isn’t it amazing? Of course you can’t see it here very well in this low resolution and small size, but when I looked at it full screen size, guess what I discovered there – a tiny dead but fully intact insect with its wings spread out. I’ve cut out that portion and blown it up some more – can you see it in the image below?


I had fun and felt a surge of creative energy and even learned some new scanning tricks. Sometime I may post some more of these scans. I may never use these images in my art work, but you never know. The mind processes these experiences and images over a long time and out they may appear much later, perhaps incorporated in a new way in new work. What was that saying by Picasso about being open to everything one sees and feels and that may become a painting… or something like that?

That reminds me, recently there was some discussion of whether scans are photographs. What do you think – are these not essentially photographs?

“Massive Change” exhibition

Image Gallery – Actual photograph of installation in the Vancouver Art Gallery
Photo: Robert Keziere/Vancouver Art Gallery

I finally made it last week to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s blockbuster exhibition Massive Change. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I left it this late – it ends on January 3rd.)

Massive Change: The Future of Global Design is an exhibition by Bruce Mau Design and the The Institute without Boundaries. It was commissioned and organized by, and premiered at, the VAG. Accompanying this traveling exhibition is an extensive website and a monograph.

This is a huge and impressive exhibition. It is not an art show, and not strictly a design show, yet it is about design. Mau states,”We are not interested in the visual. We are focused on design capacity – what design makes possible.”

“The exhibition unfolds in a series of eleven general themes that address the fundamental role of design in all aspects of human life, from manufacturing and transportation to health and the military. In each area, visitors will encounter the objects, images, ideas and people that are reshaping the role of the world of design.”

The installations reveal a tremendous amount of work, and much of it looks like it may not be moveable to the next exhibition site. One room, on the theme of Image Economies, has the walls, floor, and box seats, covered in photographic images that are sealed to their surfaces (see the above photo).

The statement here: “The human nervous system evolved in an environment where seeing change – the slightest difference in the surrounding environment – could mean the difference between life and death, so it is not surprising that our most developed cultural forms are practices of the visual… Now we can see beyond with radio waves, infrared, x-rays, gamma radiation and cosmic rays.”

There is an immense amount of reading with large walls of text (and I’d read a lot beforehand) so that at times it felt too overwhelming, even if very fascinating – information overload, if you will, like in a science and technology museum. One elderly lady near me expressed the same overwhelming feeling and said “It seems like the wheel was just invented yesterday.” It seemed also that the younger visitors were less impressed because they grew up in this era of “massive change” and do not know how different the world was just a few short decades ago! It was very noteworthy and gratifying to see the crowds here, people of all ages. We came early and when we left after three hours, the lineup was out the door!

My main criticism of the whole concept is of the little recognition given to a basic human need to feel some connnection to the earth, to the natural world. I wrote many pages of notes as I viewed everything, but I believe the website for Massive Change, and some of the related links below, will do a better job of information sharing than I can. It’s a very thought-provoking topic and well worth the time!

Reviews and announcements:
the Straight
CBC Arts
Art Daily

Massive Change will be showing next at the Art Gallery of Ontario March 11 – May 29, 2005.
Massive Change, the book, is available at Abe Books

photography and art

Coincidences posted an interesting article about “Big Prints, the Art-Making Impulse, and Time-Motion Panoramas” that has prompted me to add some comments on his blog and here.

The extra large digitally printed photographs that we now see in galleries have become possible with the growth of very large, high quality archival inkjet printers at a more reasonable price (though still not cheap) compared to the original giclee printers of a few years ago. It has really opened up immense possibilities for artists as well as photographers.

As mostly a photo-based printmaker, I find I am more interested in the photographers that have a unique way of “making” their images, whether it’s with an unusual camera technique or with PhotoShop or something else. While I don’t question the artistic vision of many realistic photographers, my own personal aesthetic, perhaps now a little old-fashioned, is to see the hand of the artist at work in some way, using the camera as a tool amongst many others.

Hmm, this has led me back to some recent discussions about “true” vs. manipulated photography.

Thanks to Coincidences for mentioning my blog regarding conversations about the art-making impulse.

ADDENDUM April 25.04:
Talking about Big Prints, Caryn Coleman wrote a great commentary in The Art Weblog about whether big prints are better….recommended reading!

Hockney again

Over at studio notebook*, on April 5/04 Carolyn wrote about her reaction to David Hockney’s book Secret Knowledge.

The book is about Hockney’s research into how the Old Masters utilized optics as a tool to create their works. “The thesis I am putting forward here is that from the early fifteenth century many Western artists used optics – by which I mean mirrors and lenses (or a combination of the two) – to create living projections…to my knowledge, no one has suggested that optics were used as widely or as early as I am arguing here.”

Hockney experimented with these processes himself (“The camera lucida is not easy to use” he explains).[…] Over and over he states the use of these tools by no means diminishes the talents of the masters that painted them.

Still his theories have some critics out of their minds. [..] Chuck Close agrees with Hockney though and says of course an artist would take advantage of the available technology. [to] “Close, who paints from photographs of faces, it was self-evident that any artist would use every tool possible to make the job easier even if art historians don’t want to believe it.[…] some people are amazed that their artist heroes have cheated.”

“Good food for thought” indeed. It’s not a new subject though it’s still hotly debated, especially now with the advent of digital technology in photography and other art media. In fact, recently Hockney was in the news complaining about the “death of photography”, which, to me, rather contradicts the statements in his book.

* studio notebook no longer exists, sadly, so link is removed

A New Digital Art Center

This is good news for digital artists. At Caryn writes “Bring on the Technology”:
“I like digital artists, those who are utilizing digital tools as the sole medium to create their artwork. It has stirred up valuable conversations as to how comfortable people are with this form of making work, authenticity issues, and talent questioning (so help me if I hear the “I could do that” one more time…). And though it’s all lumped under “digital” this type of medium is actually quite diverse […]
Because I think that digital art is valuable, I’m so pleased that Los Angeles will now have the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. Their mission is “Mission: Los Angeles Center For Digital Art is dedicated to the propagation of all forms of digital art, supporting local, international, emerging and established artists.”


Viewers and readers are often interested in knowing what tools artists use in creating their artworks. Today’s technology has been embraced by many artists, as artists always have done over many centuries in their search for new ways of working.

For many years I worked in various techniques of printmaking including drypoint, collagraph, linocuts, woodcuts and etching. In 1998, I began my first digital explorations with a Power Mac 6500 computer, Umax Astra 1200S scanner, an Epson inkjet printer and Adobe PhotoShop 4. Up until then, the darkroom was where I prepared film for photo-etching plates. Now, I could scan in my photographs and manipulate them as I wished, only limited by my knowledge of the software, then print out inkjet film transparencies. Even the new photo-sensitive film, ImagOn and later, Z-Acryl photopolymer emulsions used on the etching plates came from the computer industry.

Since then I have upgraded to an Apple G4 Cube with OS X (Panther), PhotoShop 7, and a wider-format (13″) HP Deskjet 1220 printer. For very large prints, I print at the Art Institute (Printmaking) at Capilano College* where they have a large format HP 5000 PS-UV printer. The printer inks and papers available today are archival, so the technology now truly supports artists’ needs.

I still like to combine etchings with digital prints for the textural, heavily embossed handmade feel. Many of the digital art papers and the waterproof inks allow for the soaking that is necessary for printing etchings.

The immense possibilities in digital image capturing, transformation and the potential for accidental aesthetics are very exciting!

*UPDATE: now University

more on prints

In yesterday’s entry What is a Print?, I asked for suggestions from readers for any good online lists of printmaking techniques.

Thanks to Jason DeFontes for responding with a link to Pace Prints’ list.

Addendum (Mar.25): See also Spencer Museum’s ‘The Printroom’ which has technique maps. Thanks to Anna!

What is a Print?

I have been searching online for some years for a good list of definitions of the many different types of printmaking, for the benefit of viewers unfamiliar with prints. None seem quite satisfactory, often covering older techniques and not the newer ones being used in the past decade. If anyone reading this can recommend one, please let me know. There is a good one in Finnish though, if you can read it, at Finnish Printmakers Association.

Browsing today at East London Printmakers, I found in the extensive links What is a Print?. This is a rather unique presentation done by MoMA, in the form of an interactive Flash animation showing the principles of woodcuts, etching and silkscreens. A glossary of terms covers other techniques.

Added: There’s a decent list at Pace Prints. Thanks, Jason.

Hockney on photography

Yesterday I wrote about the Death of Photography debate sparked by David Hockney.

Today I came across MAeX Art Blog’s entry on this same subject and the link for the Hockney interview in Guardian Unlimited.

It really is an interesting debate that concerns all artists who work with photographs, including myself. As a printmaker, I have used dark-room or “wet” process to prepare the negatives or positives for the photo-etchings I created. Later the computer replaced this process and allowed a greater ability to manipulate the image even further. Artists in every medium have always “manipulated” their imagery to portray their own visions.