In my current research I am using the laser cutter to engrave into prints, building up marks to create color and line variation in the printed surface. The images are developed using an improvisational approach that engages the idiosyncrasies of the machine.
The process begins by creating a printed surface of six or more layers of different colors of ink. The ink surface must be thick enough to prevent the laser from immediately burning through to the paper. Since the energy of the laser can alter the color of a pigment, building up the ink layer allows not only for lower layers of color to be revealed but also for physically changing the color of the ink.
The images are developed by working from several digital drawings at a time. Before starting I spend time watching the laser cutter engrave each of the digital files. Laser cutters are idiosyncratic in how they transfer information from the file. They often start in one area of a drawing and then move to another before completing the first portion. By watching how the laser cutter skips and adds information, I learn how to anticipate its behavior and use that to produce multiple variations in a single drawing.
I begin by selecting a portion of a drawing to print. By altering the power, speed, and focal distance I can choose from a pallet of vector lines that vary in color and line quality. Once that portion of the drawing is printed, I respond to the image by selecting another piece of drawing information from the same or different file, selecting new settings, and repositioning the print. The composition is built up by responding improvisationally to each layer of printed information and working multiple prints at a time.
For me, the act of printing is not simply the final step in executing an image but an integral part in the exploratory process of developing the image through a collaborative dialog with the laser cutter. My working process balances precision with the precariousness of seeking resolution by respond-ing to the image as it develops.
About the Artist
Sarah received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has been an artist in residence at the Frans Masereel Center in Belgium and Steindruck München in Munich, and has printed with the master printers at Keystone Editions in Berlin; Stein_Werk in Leipzig; Hole Editions in Newcastle, United Kingdom; and Steindruckerei of Ernst and Erika Hanke in Switzerland. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in North America and Europe. Sarah is the founder of FreeFall Laser, a laser cutting studio providing custom and experimental services to artists and designers.