Process: printing paintings / by Laura J. Lawson

Sometimes I print my river-based or border-based landscapes on metal using a process called dye sublimation. This process, often employed in commercial photography, is an image transfer technique that applies gaseous inks into the surface of the aluminum, rather than laying them on top like a printer. Beyond that, I'm not an expert-- this is something I have fulfilled by a print company after I scan my paintings at a high resolution. The result is a large, high-gloss image that reflects light and color in stunning detail.

So as a painter, why use this process at all?

First, it's important to understand the painting process of these works. Essentially, I work with pigmented ink on a nonabsorbent surface, and the settling of that pigment creates the textures of my landscapes. These tiny mounds of pigment are smaller than grains of sand. The images at the top of this post, in their original painted format, are all eight inches or smaller. Even if I paint larger sheets of plastic-- say, 20 inches-- the settling of the pigment does not appear any larger. If anything, the larger I go, the more they get lost in the composition.

At close range, the specks of pigment can feel monumental, like observing the landscape from an airplane. Unfortunately, an eight inch painting on the opposite side of the room does little to amplify that concept. By treating the painting like a photograph and enlarging it into a print, the minuscule hills and valleys can be seen at a larger scale.