My friend Anders Thyr is an extremely talented illustrator and designer, and I’m quite a fan of his work. His ongoing Weltschmerz Bears series, for instance, manages to be both whimsical and deeply thought-provoking, and it has gotten me pondering the ways humor can open a subversive back door into my intellect.
I have also wondered about the technical process he employs, though. I know absolutely nothing about print making, so how one gets from idea to the actual work of art hanging on the wall has been an utter mystery. Until now. Anders has produced a video walking us through that very process, step by step, in fascinating detail, and it turns out that the methods he uses are far more involved that you might have imagined.
So this ArtSunday, we offer a note of gratitude to Thyr for pulling back the curtain and revealing how he produces these wonderful works of art.
Categories: Arts/Literature, ArtSunday
This was fascinating to watch: the merger of new and old technologies, yes, but I appreciated even more witnessing the meticulous attention to detail. Thanks, Sam.
Sam, thanks for showing my art 🙂 Last week, we had an exhibition at the print shop, and as part of the exhibition, I worked in the shop, showing the process for visitors. I realized I left some information out in the video: There are various techniques of making the printing plates, and traditionally, copper plates are used. You can apply dry point on a copper plate, or use a tiny chisel. The latter technique was used for engraving stamps, and allowed for far more prints. You can also apply a protective coating on the copper plate, then draw the image in the coating, exposing the copper wherever you apply the lines – and then etch the copper plate, using a mixture of acid with a particular property: The acid only etches straight down into the copper plate, not spreading the corrosive effect sideways. Then you just wash off the coating after the etching. Using copper plates is a far more elaborate process: The plate needs to be heated, for the color to interact with the copper plate properly. You also need to file down the edges of the plate, making them smooth. The printing press applies about 1,3 tonnes of pressure on the plate and the paper, and if the edges of the plate are sharp, they will cut through both the paper and the printing cloth covering the printer’s cylinder. (The printing cloth costs about $800, so any damages to it would be highly impopular – since damages in the cloth would be visible as indentations in the printed paper, and could cause the color to become uneven in the print.)
Plastic dry point plates, which I use, are a rather recent invention, they’ve been around for the last decade or so. They have lots of advantages – first of all, one copper plate is about 20 times as expensive as a plastic one. A plastic plate of the size I use, costs about £1. A copper plate of the same size, $20. And, obviously, transferring an image to a copper plate isn’t as easy as with the transparent plastic. Plastic is easy! And considered as cheating, according to the grumpy copper graphic veterans 😉
People were asking how the heck I could get the second, black plate to fit so precisely over the red print. Well, when the red plate is printed, there’s 1,3 tonnes of pressure on it, leaving a clear indentation from the plate in the paper. So, fitting the next plate is easy. Just put it in the shallow pit in the paper.
Fuck the copper plate veterans. There are plenty in my world who turn their nose up at the kinds of technological fuckery I employ, too, but let’s be clear about something – pretty much all of the greatest artists throughout history have made use of the best tech available. Go read up on the evolution of paints, for instance, right?
Yep, agreed 🙂 (Although, my “grumpy” veteran friends weren’t altogether serious…) There are several colleagues who have used plastic longer than I, and then some others who’ve been inspired to start using plastic at the print shop. And yes, artists have always adopted new technology when creating art. When I studied at the art university, during the first year I did quite a lot of bronze casting – with a completely new tech, developed by the car industry, which meant we can build a bronze casting studio in the garage for about $1200. An oil barrel was used as a furnace, coating it inwards with a new insulation material, resembling rockwool. It’s amazing – it is less dense than rockwool. You can get it red hot on one side, with a cutting torch – you actually see the flame through the material – and still, you could safely put your hand on the wool on the other side, only two inches away from the flame. Then, instead of plaster, you build the cast with a ceramic material, which is incredibly strong – it only needs to be about half an inch thick. And there is no oxygen reaction with the bronze, so there is no need for air ducts, which otherwise is one elaborate process when making a bronze cast.
The more you explain, the more I realize that it’s even more complex than I thought.
When it comes to pure technique, we used to joke about it, when I studied at the sculpture dept at the art school in Gothenburg: We were basically educated to go straight into the construction business. Wood work, all different kinds of concrete works, welding and other metal works, also studying strength of materials and monumental construction at the University of Architecture, as part of the education. But all that was the easy part 🙂 Creating good art was the real challenge.