I first was introduced to computer graphic software in 1993 when I took a graphic design course in grad school (I was a late bloomer). I told my fellow students that this was wonderful, when I was young we scratched on rocks. Previously I had to program my own software to do anything. Adobe Illustrator, miraculous.
Summer 1995 I took a course in Photoshop. It was wonderful, I scanned old photos and combined them with generated images. Through the years Photoshop moved into the background as I began to be more interested in the final output, "The Print".
In 1996 I received my Masters Degree and began teaching at a nearby university. Among the courses I taught were photography and 2D design. I wanted my students to have experience with the tools they might find on entering the workforce so I worked in some units on computer graphics, digitized photographs and print output. Teaching Intro to B&W photography, I also discovered a great introductory experience for my students, pinhole photography. While my graduate studies were primarily in sculpture and drawing and I taught those courses also, I began to get more immersed in photography.
Whether sculpture, drawing or photography, I liked working large; so with my photos, I would break up my images into small sections, print them on 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper then reassemble and glue them to large sheets of masonite. There were some large format printers available but the prices started at about $10,000. That changed in a few years, in 1999 I bought my first large format printer, an Epson 3000. By "large" it meant it could print up to 17" wide. That was enough to print my photos for an exhibit that came out of a pinhole photo residency that I did in Maclovio Rojas, Baja, Mexico, Dec-Jan 1999-2000. These were all B&W photos. I wasn't thrilled with the very light grays from the Epson 3000 printer. Too many small but visible dots; though it might be comparable to the grain in enlarged silver prints. I started looking for other print options and found QTR quadtone printing from Cone Editions Press. This was a set of four shade black inks and new printer software for the Epson 3000 that eliminated visible dots. I started to work with this, then purchasing a second Epson 3000 printer for color, got distracted by color photography. I could now control my color images from film to print.
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One common problem with inkjet prints in the late 1990s was ink fade. A print exposed to sunlight for very long could fade to nothing. Ilford came out with one solution, a coated inkjet paper that sealed the inks in a protective resin layer. Another solution was pigmented ink. All of the inks available from the printer manufacturers were dye based. The dyes, while bright to start, would fade very quickly. In 2000 I discovered third party pigmented inks and that ink cartridges could be refilled with these inks. The resulting prints were very fade resistant. Now I could print large, fade resistant color photos.
In 2001 I was at an Art & Framing trade show in NYC and saw several truly large format printers being demonstrated. One of them, an Epson 9600, could print up to 44" wide by nearly 8' high. At $5,000 it was getting into the affordable price range, though not mine. Spring semester 2003 I was temporarily given the assignment of Art Dept liaison to the IT Dept. I made a proposal to IT to purchase the Epson 9600 for the Art Dept's computer lab and it was granted. It would be there by fall semester. Unfortunately my teaching contract was not renewed for 2003-2004 so I would not be there.
Facing the likelihood that I would not get another teaching position I decided to open my studio/gallery to the public. I also took the plunge and in October 2003 bought an Epson 9600 printer for myself and offered reproduction services to local artists. Now I could satisfy my desire to produce truly large photographic prints and reproductions of my drawings and paintings. I have since then been commercially doing digital and Giclée printing.
Now what's your story and how can I help you? Do you need photos (jpg, tif or psd) or prints of your artwork? Thinking of trying experimental digital prints? ...on fabric, a different paper, metal or acrylic sheets? Just need advice or suggestions on any of the materials or processes I've worked in? Give me a call 320-275-3403, email me Robert Wilde Studios or message me on facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.
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