Lisa Firke
Artist & Illustrator

Weekly Posts

Getting the “thingness” right

I have been making a lot of prints with my art printer lately. Most are failures and go in the pile of “that’s NOT the way to do it.” (Thomas Edison would understand.) I am not terribly surprised to discover that I’m a very picky printer. The color must glow. The lines must be crisp. The paper has to have the right thingness.

Um, the right ‘thingness’? Yes, the right thingness. One of the qualities that led me back to tangible art is that tangible art is tangible. It has thingness. A thing has thingness when it glories in being a thing.

Thingness often starts with the materials of creation. Some brushes have better thingness than others. Right now my favorites are the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin brushes, which can make very lovely marks but also stand up to scrubbing over rough gessoed substrates.

Thingness starts, too, with the paper. I have two favorites, which I mentioned in an earlier post—Fabriano Artistico and Sennelier, both in the hot-pressed variety. (I find Arches too stiff and Lanaquarelle too soft. I am the Baby Bear of paper connoisseurship.)

Daniel Smith watercolor has a lovely thingness, particularly the cobalt teal. The texture of this paint is perfect.

The postcards I’m having printed by Moo have a great thingness. (One of the Rabbit-Rabbits is available now sold out and another is on the way also sold out. For October I’ll also have some with owls and cats on them. Just saying.)

So I think you can understand that when I’m going to print a fine copy of one of my drawings or paintings, the copy has to have a thingness in its own right. It must be worthy!

I found the right paper and printer settings for 'Somebody’s Cousin’, which is available as a print now in my Etsy shop. This picture (which a happy reader and buyer describes here) wanted something called Baryta Warm Tone, which is a lovely, creamy, heavy-weight paper with just a touch of luster to it. The prints I’m getting look as good (possibly better) than the original painting.

Now I’m trying to find the right paper for 'Sky Bear’, which you can see in my art folios, here. 'Sky Bear’ wants to be a large print, on a 13 x 19 sheet, but it needs a cooler tone than the Baryta, which otherwise would be perfect. A glossy photo paper would be wrong. The matte paper I have isn’t quite right. The search continues…