Wire and Wood; two families of materials found on opposite sides of the tracks, yet both co-existing and relying on one another for thousands of years. Where one begins being alive, the other ties the living together; protects the living, and advances the living.

Wood on metal, or metal on wood; that is my “Wire and Wood” goal.

This co-existence has been fueling my artistic vision. Not all of my pieces have ended up abiding by my limitations, however, they all have started with them as a foundation.

I wanted to create a depiction of this relationship at the first “Imaginarium Artcademy” hosted by Roland DGA in Irvine, California in January of 2017. Thanks to Bonny Lhotka for inviting me to join a handful of creatives for three days to explore how their machines could be used by fine artists.

Nature’s precision (with common abnormalities) combined with the man-made mechanisms seemed like a proper focus for this event.

My fascination of mixing mother nature with man’s inventions has required that I question the subject matter and material of my artwork and photography, and what they should ultimately reside upon. I question when using commercial printers and computer-operated laser cutters:

“Where is the human’s clumsy touch?
Where is the happenstance; the opportunity of the variables of the moment?
These machines create and recreate exact replicas—each product made to match. How will my art not perpetuate this cookie-cutter replication?
How will my unique moment in time and place be any more intriguing by using the human-engineered printing machines?”

My answer?

Make the canvas a one-time opportunity. Make it as individual as that fleeting moment. I chose to do this at Roland by bringing six retired film movie reels of various diameters and thickness to print on.

With the technical expertise of Kitt Jones, Garret Smawley, and Jay Roberts, we were able to make my Wire and Wood theme come to life. This is a technical explanation of the creation process of my final piece made from the reels called, “Sliced”.

The Image

The image was captured during a visit to Northern California in April 2016. Traversing through the rolling green hills, I stopped to marvel at the expansive oak trees that canopied the lonely road. The ice blues of the sky and lush leaves shimmered in the California sun. I recall positioning my camera to capture the lens flare and sun bursting through the branches. It reminded me then, as now, as a movie projector piercing a darkened movie theater.
Screenshot: In Adobe Illustrator, using a placed photo of the configured reels, one clipping mask per reel shows the tree photo placement.

The Canvas: Film Reels

The reels were gifted to me from my parents, who acquired them from a yard sale. The previous owner had been an employee at the Alexander Film Co., which in its heyday was the largest movie and animation studio in the U.S., (supposedly larger than Disney Studios). They specialized in advertisements and intermission films, but the invent of the television shifted the wind for the studio’s future. When given the reels, I had visions of all of them being configured together in an overlaying asymmetrical display.
We first printed a draft version of one of the six reels’ image area onto scrap paper. I positioned the reel manually over the draft.

The Process

At Roland, careful consideration was needed for aligning the area to be printed with each different sized reel. The happenstance of the rotation of the reel with the printed section of the oak image for each piece created varying print difference.

Wanting to protect the inside metal surfaces, I cut scraps of paper and taped over the holes of the reels with painters tape.

The first couple of reels were printed without a white ink base. My thought was to allow more of the reel’s distressed texture and metal base to shine through, however, the blue from the sky needed some encouragement. The remaining four reels had a base layer of white applied.

Thanks to the resourcefulness of Garret, recycled cardboard puzzle pieces helped to level the uneven reels to maintain a clean print from the Roland LEF-200 ultra-violet printer I used for this project. The inks used with these printers require an ultra violet curing to solidify them. Without the UV light passing while the printer works, the ink would just become a puddle mess of colors.

White printing is achieved by creating a new color channel in Adobe Photoshop. The layer needs to be named precisely for the VersaWorks rip software to recognize the need for the white ink. Within the channel, I created a flood of white over the printed area to make sure that all colors would pop more. The variation of color from reel to reel helps to differentiate each as and individual part, like leaves on a tree.

My initial intent was to have the tree image precise enough to reconfigure the reels like a puzzle, forming the larger tree image. Although I attempted to “Humpty Dumpty” them, the natural randomness of color and shapes did not require such desired precision, and in fact, related more to the randomness of nature.

“Sliced” — 18" x 24"

Once home, a revived kitchen cabinet cutting board was used to support the nailed and screwed overlapping reels to finalize the Wire and Wood piece, “Sliced.”