Above: Two Toilets Facing Lincoln Through the Cherry Blossoms by Dan Wood, 9 3/4" x 13", letterpress, 2001. Click on image to magnify.
The above image is a recent letterpress print by Dan Wood. Using process color letterpress, the print evokes the color feel of souvenir postcards of the early twentieth century, while taking a new look at those color printing processes, and merging them with later twentieth century computer graphic techniques. Part of an ongoing series of offset and letterpress prints (see artist's statement here) simultaneously exploring the history of public toilets and color reproduction, this print is available in an edition of 125 copies.
On the technical side, the image is printed using four color process letterpress printing, at a 100 line screen, with various tinted varnishes on top. This means the base image is made up of four printing plates, each comprising of a halftone image, and printed in one of the the process colors, also known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black - the K stands for "keyline"). As the eye cannot see the individual halftone dots, the merging of the four different dot colors creates the illusion of a wide spectrum of color. In essence, the inability to focus on the individual dots allows the four dot colors to visually mix the other colors for you. The quality of this color varies from one printing process to another, but each has its own unique color range and "feel" to it. In addition, as we all interpret color somewhat differently, our brains often fill in the blanks in badly reproduced color (see graph). The image is printed on an acid- and brightener-free paper, specially manufactured by Scheufelin, inc., for the Vatican, and is specified not to age or change color in 600 years (assuming proper precautions are taken). The smoothness of this coated paper is especially important to letterpress printing, as it is a relief printing process, in order for the individual halftone dots to print evenly. The ink pigments used, Tough Tex LR, are also specially designed for extended light resistance. The photograph was originally printed in another Dan Wood artists' book entitled Portojohns of the Million Man March, as a black and white duotone. The original black and white photograph, also by Dan Wood (which can be seen here), was scanned and colorized in photoshop, and then the cherry blossoms (from a 1935 Washington, DC postcard) were added. The file was then output to film on a high resolution imagesetter, breaking the image into 4 sets of calibrated halftone screens. This film was then exposed onto a magnesium plate, etched (to create the relief image), and mounted on wood, type high for letterpress (.918"). The subsequent four plates were then printed on a Chandler and Price 10x15 press, in single passes. Additional varnish plates were added, and the titling information printed in Copperplate Light. Numbering was also done on press.
By clicking on the above image, and repeating to click on the subsequent images, a new window will pop-up and the halftone dots in the image will begin to appear. This was the standard technique for printing color images up until the Nineteen fifties and sixties, and was then supplanted by four color offset lithographic printing, which is the standard process used in most newspapers, magazines, and books today (still the same colored dots!).
Remember: The colors you see are not an accurate reproduction of the actual print color. When looking at color on your television or computer monitor, you are experiencing additive color, the specific color lightwaves are being created directly from a photoelectric process, and sent from the screen into your eyeballs, in an RGB color space (beams of red, green, and blue light do the color mixing). Printed matter uses a process called subtractive color, with its own color palette of cmyk (see above), using a reflected, outside light source and "subtracting" the color from the white sheet of paper it is printed on. More on this later... In addition, the print has been photographed onto slide film (another limited color spectrum), scanned again, and then put up on the web (a 256 color system) - yeesh! Maybe this graph will help allay the confusion.
For a price list of this, or any other artwork seen on www.longesturinal.com, click here.
Any thoughts or questions? Contact email@example.com.
Here for Printing? Information on custom printing here.
©Dan Wood 2001.