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.

Process: Marnay by Laura J. Lawson

Marnay , 200" x 80", acrylic ink on polypropylene, 2016.

Marnay, 200" x 80", acrylic ink on polypropylene, 2016.

Marnay, the piece pictured above, is one of my "atmospheric view" paintings. Totally abstract, the piece narrates what my summer in Marnay-sur-Seine, France, felt like as an immersive experience. This was a two month artist residency at the Centre d'Art Marnay Art Center (CAMAC).

Each morning, I woke early in my comfortable but cell-like room, crossed the 16th century priory through the library, and greeted the Seine on my walk to the kitchen for breakfast.

My Junes were always sweltering and oppressive, but these mornings were chilly, wet, and quiet. The Seine was murky and impatient, much like my Mississippi back home. Even when the sun reached its zenith, its rays were gentle, warming, and meek.

As the days passed, the Seine's flooding subsided, and river's sediments settled enough to restore the water to jewel-like brilliance. Wildflowers popped up in gardens and in gravel. The sun visited for longer and longer, with impressive sunsets past 9pm.

Everything about this place felt enchanting. The light felt more diffuse and sparkling. The persistent grey sky made every leaf and flower pop like an hallucination. There was nothing rugged or tough about the rural way of life-- even the cows were polite and content.

All of this went into my work. I matched my inks to what I saw-- the changing river, the plants and flowers, the cobblestones and tiles, the soil and sand-- and began to piece together how it feels to be wrapped up in all of these sensations at once.

The lightweight Yupo-- which I bought specifically to be plane-friendly-- was the perfect choice for representing this place. It flutters when viewers walk past it, and there is some hint of an iridescent sheen to it, even when saturated with ink. Compared to my other atmospheric paintings, it is weightless and unabashedly colorful.

This residency had the dépaysement I was looking for. CAMAC gave me the space and time I needed to work with a clear mind, and Marnay-sur-Seine gave me a landscape unlike any I had seen before.