Robert MacKenzie’s “Goodly Creatures”

From time to time we get requests to do contract printing for artists; on rare occasions we accept. Robert MacKenzie approached us with a drawing that we couldn’t refuse:

This drawing contains multitudes: a myriad of personalities, vignettes, and tiny details to discover.

Robert had this to say about it:

The characters and spaces in my art are a product of the patterns and stimuli I encounter every day in the architecture, food, and people of my two cities, New York and San Francisco. I am always trying to take these disparate elements that relate to my experiences and repurpose them to create inhuman characters that are culturally and emotionally ambiguous, yet still struggle with very human issues like isolation, interaction and cooperation with one another.

The print process, as it so often does, turned out to be a bit more complicated than we’d anticipated. The way the drawing was separated into two colors left zero room for error in the alignment of the plates, which required a little trickery and a lot of care to nail down. Robert ended up patching a few of the gaps by hand and, while he was at it, added some subtle colored pencil embellishments.

Having spent so much time with the image, when we saw it printed in its final (unusual) pair of colors (it’s a subtle thing, but the orange + blue = faintly oscillating grays plate-tone is beautiful), in the end we decided to ditch the “contract work” label and make this a full-blown Pressure Printing edition. We’re proud to add Robert to our roster of exceptional artists; the print (which is frankly a steal at $350) is available from both Robert’s (brand new!) online store and from us at Pressure Printing.

Gold Bug Identity Design

the box and business card

We recently had the chance to do some identity design for our friends at Gold Bug, whose LA store is a wonder and an inspiration. A self-described “21st century cabinet of curiosities” — mixing contemporary art, biological specimens, and a singular eye for the unusual — Gold Bug is a joy to visit and they were an absolute joy to work for.

You really can’t go wrong with shiny gold, matte black, and an embossed beetle, but this curvy box came out quite nicely.

And how about this ovular business card?

A rewarding project for an amazing client. Gold Bug!

25%-Off Holiday Sale

vintage turkeys and some large white type proclaim the 25% off sale

(Turkey photo via the Denver Public Library)

Happy holidays! Happy Friday! We don’t hold sales very often; we haven’t held a proper one in over a year. ’Tis the season! We’re discounting everything in the store 25% from now thru the end of the day on Monday, December 1st when you use the code “HOLIDAY” at checkout. Take a gander at what’s available and gobble up hand-crafted editions from our decade+ back catalog at a rare, deep discount.

Lucky ’13 has been a great year for Pressure Printing — full of amazing collaborations with some of our favorite artists — friends and associates both old and new. Sincere thanks to all of them for their trust, hard work, and for being daily sources of inspiration… and sincere thanks to all of you who have supported us with your time, money and attention this and every year.

We feel like we’ve built something pretty special here at Pressure Printing, where we can be a bridge, bringing great art by great artists to great people. Thanks.

Femke Hiemstra’s “I Think of Thee When Far Away”

We love Femke! One of our favorite things about her paintings (a couple of which we’re lucky enough to have around the office) are her amazing color palettes, which somehow manage to feel modern, old-master-y, cozy, and creepy, all at the same time. These colors were absent in the edition of intaglio prints we completed from Femke’s intricate graphite drawing in 2009.

And we were just as sad as everyone else that Femke’s only book has been out of print for ages.

How to fill these gaps? By publishing a set of 16 eminently affordable, full-color postcards, of course.

They’re cheap; they’re gorgeous.

We approached Femke with the idea earlier this year; she hand-picked a selection of images from across her career and gave the set its evocative name. A cover design and a few press checks later, and we’re proud to announce that we have fresh stacks of postcards to share with the world.

It has been a while since we’ve published an edition like this under the Pressure Printing moniker. But witnessing the perennial popularity of the micro-portfolios we produce whilst wearing our other hat as Porterhouse Fine Art Editions, and watching James Jean’s Parallel Lives catalog fly off our shelves last year has us thinking about publishing more affordable editions going forward. Our roots are in commercial print design and we’ve never stopped designing books. So while traditional fine art printmaking will always be the core of what Pressure Printing does… watch this space. And pick up some postcards!

Audrey Kawasaki’s “Eien”

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Our first collaboration with Audrey, Okimiyage, was released five years ago in June. It sold out immediately and has gone on to become our most-requested print of all time.

The project was such a huge success (artistically, financially, and critically) that we immediately began work on a second series of frames — in dark walnut this time, rather than light maple — that would one day house a companion print. That day has finally come.

We sent Audrey the first walnut prototype back in ’08; I like to imagine that, inspired by its deep, rich color, she spent the intervening years figuring out how to work her effervescent lines into appropriately black & bold compositions. Whatever the inspiration, that’s certainly the direction that her work has taken as of late. The drawing, when it arrived, was a perfect fit.

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She called it Eien, which looks like this: えいえん (and this: 永遠) in Japanese and translates to “forever,” “eternity,” or “permanence.”

It was time to fire up the presses.

And the foil stampers!

I should probably mention, too, that we built these frames from raw lumber, completely by hand. They’ve been a fixture in the studio for so long that I almost take them for granted; the hours that went into their hand-rubbed finishes, delicate joinery, paper-thin tolerances, and innumerable coats of finely sanded-down finish are now but a distant memory.

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Before we could frame anything we needed to send the freshly printed edition off to Audrey for signing, numbering, and some exquisite hand-tinting in pink:

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All that was left was to put the pieces together:

Worth the wait.

Due to high demand, we’re taking the unusual step of pre-announcing this sale. Eien will be available for purchase at noon PDT on Tuesday, July 23rd, on pressureprinting.com.

Marco Mazzoni’s “Santa Lucia”

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Our whole business is built on collaboration. But every once and a while a project will surprise us, highlighting what a gift it is to be able to work with the most talented artists alive. Marco Mazzoni’s Santa Lucia (produced for and sold by Hi-Fructose Magazine) was just such a project.

We ♥ Hi-Fructose! We love Atta and Annie; seeing their magazine grow from the obscure little gem that we first found eight years ago into the beloved, huge deal that it is today has been a joy. When they suggested working together with the crazy-talented Marco Mazzoni on a project we said, “of course!”

It all started with some comps:

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We rather fancied that one in the middle, but Marco and Hi-Fructose both had other ideas. Black ones:

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And you know what? Seeing Marco’s neon colored-pencil embellishments pop out of the final, velvety-black prints — they were right! But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we had to print the things:

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We were a bit worried about printing all of that black, and things got off to a rocky start. But once we brought some heavy-duty wiping tarlatan to bear on the inky plate, the edition printed like a dream.

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What we should have been worried about were the customs hoops we would have to jump through to send a fully-insured stack of prints to Italy. After a few horrible calls with UPS1 and hundreds of extra dollars, the prints finally arrived in Marco’s hands.

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We knew that he’d be be hand-coloring them all in colored pencil; knowing Marco’s work, we also knew that these embellishments would be something special. What we did not know until we opened up the return shipment — because of distance, because of language — was that they would all be different:

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Surprise! Beautiful!

We’re not used to giving up so much control on a project, but each time we loosened our grip on this it turned out better for it. Working with talented people is a gift.

A little embossing and a little hand-framing and we were finished.

These prints wouldn’t exist without our friends at Hi-Fructose, and we can’t wait to work with Marco again.

Santa Lucia will be available for purchase on Wednesday July 10th at 12 pm PST through the Hi-Fructose Store. They’ve written a bit about the project on their blog, too.

1I believe the words “abandoned,” “after 30 days,” and “the package will be destroyed” were all used

“Parallel Lives” iBook

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We’re excited to release a new sort of thing today — an ebook!

Or, rather, an iBook.

We released our first, proper, dead-tree book a couple of months ago: James Jean’s “Parallel Lives” exhibition catalog. The limited edition of 1,000 signed & numbered books sold out in a day. We’d been pondering the idea of a digital release since before the paper version came out and we’re happy to see that idea come to fruition today.

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Despite the explosion of a new-fangled ebook market over the past few years, and the resulting head-scratching and teeth-gnashing about what such a development might mean for the future of books and publishing, the possibilities of digitally distributed books full of pictures, rather than words, remain untapped. The reasons for this are in part technological: the first ebook readers and the first ebook formats were all about text. There were no tools to make digital picture books, there wasn’t a place to sell them, and there were no devices with which to view them.

These things are changing. But more fundamentally: you lose a few precious things when going digital. There’s no way for James to sign these digital books. They’ll have no real weight, or presence on a shelf. Whereas the printed edition is emphatically material—touched by the artist’s own hand!—this ebook is an ephemeral stream of bits. And as “tactile” as touch interfaces have become, we have a long way to go before swiping a greasy finger across a cold slab of glass feels as natural, pleasant, quick, or efficient as thumbing through a neatly bound stack of paper.

There will certainly be no crazy resale market for the ebooks. They have no smell.

But they offer their own possibilities.

First of all, let’s talk about how great it looks. We’ve built it specifically for the iPad and it the images contained within are frankly wondrous on a Retina screen. Tap any image in the book to make it big:

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On a Retina screen, you’ll see far more detail than you would in the printed book. The images are bright and crisp; the color is fantastic — they glow. Outside of getting a good look at the originals, I’ll go so far as to say that there’s currently no better way to see these pieces of art than in this Retina-iBook form. Here are some 100% crops to give you a sense of the level of detail we’re talking about:

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The images look better than they did in print. There are also a lot more of them.

When we started talking to James about a digital version of Parallel Lives he sent us an incredible email, something along the lines of, “hey so do you think these would be cool to include?” with a link to 179 in-process photos which laid bare the creation of most of the pieces in the book.

Needless to say, we thought that they would be pretty cool to include.

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The iBook is a perfect place for these. There are so many photos, none of them really “print-quality;” they feel more like intimate snapshots than official documentation. Taken straight from James’ iPhone, most shot in low light, at off angles, right on the easel, surrounded by buckets and milk crates. We’ve tucked them into an appendix; twenty-one slideshows that you can pop open and swipe through to see a painting’s journey from start to finish.

They’re fascinating. I mean, look:

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There’s a whole other painting underneath that painting! That no one but James had ever seen! We can’t thank James enough for opening his process up like this and letting us see how these amazing pictures were built.

So those are the blockbuster features of this iBook when compared to its paper sibling: better images and (a lot) more of them.

But It is not without it’s subtler charms. For one, digital things are eminently portable.

For instance, you’re probably already taking your iPad many more places than you would ever take a signed, mint-condition, printed book. Browse on the subway, any day of the week! Show your friends at the bar, or whatever!

But these images are also portable within the iPad. This has been my home screen for the last couple of months:

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and here’s my lock screen:1

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And we’ve gone out of our way to ensure that these newly digital images are portable across the internet. See an image in the book and want to +1 it on a Facebook or Instagram it to your LinkedIn (or maybe just email it to your mom?) We’ve set up web pages for every plate in the book; tap the share button in the top right to get or share a link to the image. Like these: 1, 2, 3

Finally, while we were (of course) overjoyed to see the print edition of “Parallel Lives” sell out so quickly, it’s crummy to have to turn people away. Oh, did you want to own these images in a meaningful way? Do you want to see and share them? Were you thinking you might like to support us, and James, with your hard-earned money? Sorry! You can’t, you’re too late, there were only so many, we’ve plumb run out. Digital publishing solves that problem: it feels great to be able to put this amazing book back out into the world.

The digital version of James Jean’s “Parallel Lives” is available now—for $7.99—in the iBookstore.

1But how!? Open the book and tap an image to make it fullscreen. Tap the home and power buttons at the same time to save a screenshot to your photos app (if you’re particularly tricky, you can even initiate a pinch-zoom with a couple of spare fingers to get the upper-left close-button to disappear). Find the screenshot in your photos app, select it, click the share button in the top right, and say “Set as wallpaper.” Boom!

Coop’s “Hemi-Powered”

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The cut & dried, razor-sharp linework and simple blunt impact of this image don’t lend themselves to much in the way of considered reflection, but when rolling out my fifth or sixth pad of ink of the day, I found myself gazing upon the giant steel plate, catching a whiff of mineral spirits, my hands stained in oily black… the studio filled with the satisfying clanks, hisses and smacks of the rubber brayer… and I thought: this fits. Just based on the materials alone, this is perfect. What better way to reproduce this exquisite drawing of this beast of an engine than with steel, rubber, oil, and a whole lot of elbow grease?

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Following up on the success of both 1949 Mercury and Memento Mori we’re very pleased to present our newest large-scale collaboration with the inimitable COOP, “Hemi-Powered.”

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It reproduces a Chrysler 426 Hemi (aka “The Elephant”) and COOP tells us that that’s a Cragar blower rigged up to it.

The print is big!

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We get a little bit better at solving the myriad problems that such a large relief print will throw our way every time… light blacks and sloppy linework are always a problem, and to get a decent punch we end up hitting these hard enough that the (sizing-free!) paper (Arches 88) starts to buckle, crease, and generally deform in bunch of unhelpful ways. Luckily we’ve invented some tricks to cope with all of this; here’s a glimpse at some of our custom-cut maskwork, which we use to build up the shallow areas of the plate and distribute the immense pressure that the press applies just so:

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Shipping giant prints presents problems of its own… we ended up just driving the prints out to LA ourselves for the signing. COOP rolled up in this:

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and got to work:

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A quick trip to get an embossed printer’s chop and we had another big, beautiful edition on our hands. “Hemi-Powered” is available now on pressureprinting.com!

Daniel Martin Diaz’s “Atomic Man,” “Soul of Science,” & “Self-Aware System”

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In 2012, I became immersed in scientific and philosophical theories. In particular, I was obsessed with scientific diagrams, which explain theories and properties though drawings. Although these rudimentary drawings were without any leanings towards aesthetics, I found them to be beautiful, though that is clearly not their intention. I was inspired to create my own interpretations of the concepts of consciousness and other theories on a scientific, philosophical, and spiritual level through a simplified means such as drawing. All of the projects I have created begin as drawings, which I feel have a beauty and intimacy that paintings cannot capture. The subtle lines that graphite creates and the quickness in which one can capture an idea makes this medium alluring.

— Daniel Martin Diaz

Daniel Martin Diaz is self-publishing a new art-book entitled ”Soul of Science;” he funded it (three times over!) on Kickstarter and it’s going to be great. Daniel is one of our favorites and we hadn’t done a project with him in forever. Upon seeing the Kickstarter we immediately saw these wonderful images as the perfect opportunity to work with him again. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there is no finer way to reproduce a graphite drawing than via an edition of hand-pulled intaglio prints. From the rich blacks to the grainy, feathery lights, the two processes were seemingly made for each other.

Luckily, Daniel was as excited about the idea as we were and we were off to the races.

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Save for a few requisite rounds of test plates, the printing went smooth-as-you-please. We did however take these editions as opportunities to teach ourselves some new hand-staining & paper-aging tricks. Our “paper aging” process now involves three stains and dozens of steps, but the results speak for themselves:

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Never content to leave well enough alone, we borrowed some imagery from Mr. Diaz’s book—a Penrose triangle—to create a decorative embossing chop. We wondered: can you make a three-dimensional sculpted die of an impossible object? It took a few paper models and a couple of rounds of refinement, but the answer, happily, was yes!

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Finally, we sent them off to Mr. Diaz to sign…

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… and ended up with a superb trio of editions, available today!

James Jean’s “Parallel Lives”

Front cover

James Jean’s “Parallel Lives” solo show opens tonight in New York City; anyone with half a chance of making it to the Jack Tilton Gallery before eight should seize the opportunity see this wondrous group of paintings in the flesh.

James asked us if we would be interested in publishing the show catalog and we jumped at the chance. For those of you can’t make it to the show tonight, the catalog is the perfect way to bring a piece of the show home. It comes signed and numbered by James and has been printed in a limited edition of 1,000.

It’s only $38.

We take as much pride in an offset piece like this as we do in our hand-pulled editions, minding every detail. The paintings speak for themselves, and the catalog — thanks in large part to James’ stellar design — feels crisp, clean and exactly right.

Pick one up today at pressureprinting.com!