About Lynn Bower's color prints
To produce one of my color prints takes many days of work. Unlike some other artists who use a computer, I do not import scanned material to produce a collage effect. Instead, I use my computer as a fine-art tool to create completely original works of art "from scratch." While my finished work may appear to have been created with watercolor, ink, pencil, or pastel, or to look like a block print, much of my work is achieved by using advanced drawing-and-painting software. The results are prints unlike anything you will see anywhere else.
To create my artwork, I use a desk-top iMac computer with a sophisticated art program called Painter. In conjunction, I utilize a Wacom drawing tablet with a 9" x 12" working surface, and a wireless, electronic, Wacom stylus. With the stylus, I am able to draw on the pressure-sensitive tablet and see, instantaneously, the effect on my computer screen—as an oil-painting brush stroke, pastel chalk mark, pencil line, or whatever medium I select. The stylus makes no marks on the tablet itself.
The Creative Process
When I begin a new piece, such as "Mermaids Taking a Break from Luring Sailors to their Death," I open Painter and create a new "canvas" of a particular size. I usually work with a resolution (dots-per-inch) of between 300 dpi and 700 dpi, a range that gives me a final print with good color saturation, high definition, and smooth, fluid gradations.
Next, I open an "Objects" window and create my first layer—which I may title something like "Shape Mermaid One." As the work progresses, I'll create a new layer for each basic element or detail (e.g. "Scale Outlines Mermaid One"). By working on a single layer at a time, I have amazing control in altering the orientation, tonal qualities, scale, texture, and opacity for each component. To add very small details that would be difficult to draw by hand, I simply enlarge the view on the computer screen. I can hide (temporarily or permanently) any number of layers by turning them on or off, which simplifies many of my creative decisions.
Eventually, a print, such as "Mermaids," will be composed of dozens of different layers. Because so many layers can get cumbersome to sort through, I often "group" them, but can later "ungroup" them to work on a specific detail.
When a piece is complete, I save the file and make a copy. Because printing multiple layers can take a great deal of time, I'll "collapse" all the layers within the copy into one single layer—the "canvas." This also makes the file smaller, so it takes up less memory. The collapsed file is electronically sent to an Epson 2200 Stylus ink-jet printer, which uses archival-quality inks and archival-quality watercolor paper. The long-lasting nature of these materials means that the print will last for many decades without fading. The printing process itself requires a few minutes, after which the print is ready for signing, mounting, matting, and framing.
In some ways, working on a computer is quicker and easier than working with conventional art materials, but in other respects it is more challenging. For example, because the size of my computer screen is smaller than many of my finished prints, when the scale is such that I can see the entire "canvas" on-screen, I can't see the finer details. And, when I enlarge a portion of the image to work on a detail, I can no longer see the whole. Also, some things are simply easier to do by hand—drawing a line with a quill and India ink is much easier than drawing a similar line on a computer. On the other hand, the tremendous range of computer-generated effects, and the cleanliness (no odorous solvents, inks, paints, glues, etc.) makes producing computer art very enjoyable, and much healthier, for me.
People occasionally ask why I don't number my prints, as is sometimes done with traditional print-making methods. This practice originated years ago when artists realized that, by using a lithography stone, etched plate, or an incised linoleum or wood block, the stone, plate, or block would degrade over time. Because of this, some artists decided to only make a certain number of high-quality prints, then they would destroy the stone, plate, or block rather than produce any inferior prints. These were true limited-edition prints, and they were often numbered accordingly.
With computer-generated ink-jet prints (which are sometimes called giclee prints), there is never any degradation from the first print to the last, so it makes no sense to destroy the file in order to prevent inferior prints from being made. So, I don't number any of my prints, but I do keep an accurate count of how many of each print I make. Once I've made 25 prints of a particular image, I will make no more. Thus, all my prints have a maximum, limited edition of 25.
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