By Joanna Warmin
I had the pleasure of visiting Poehlman Press, a fine-art printing studio in Downtown Los Angeles. Jalal Poehlman, artist and founder of Poehlman Press, works closely with each individual for every printing job. His clientele ranges from artists around the world, galleries, photographers, exclusive hotels, casinos, and more, many of which continuously come back for multiple projects. Some of his favorite projects include photographer Hannah Collins for the Ford Foundation and John Baldessari in 2002. Jalal showed me around his printing studio and a few of his wonderful prints. He also shared some insight on printing with paper and profiles. This led into a collaboration project we are working on with Jalal to print on washi for people to see at our retail location. Here is a little Q&A with Jalal Poehlman on printing:
How did you get into the profession of printing?
As an art student in the 90s, I became interested in ways to output digitally created artwork. After reading Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility”, I became fascinated by the potential of reaching a larger and more diverse audience through digital and mechanical reproduction. At that time, there was only one type of printer that came close to producing similar image quality of a traditionally exposed color photograph. That printer was the venerable IRIS inkjet printer, which had the unique advantage of the ability to make those prints on a large variety of art papers, including washi. Very few people had done the engineering necessary to convert these $126,000 complex and finicky pre-press proofing systems to produce fine art. One of those pioneers is a man named Jack Duganne who is the owner and master print maker at Duganne Ateliers in Santa Monica. After leaving graduate school and landing in Los Angeles I asked around about who was doing the best digital printmaking in Los Angeles and I was told a number of times that it was Jack Duganne. Because I could not otherwise afford to learn and use the technology I needed in order to produce my artwork I knocked on Jack’s door and asked him for a job. Jack is a great teacher and lovely human being and 15 years later and with much thanks to him here I am.
What are some differences with printing on washi compared to other paper?
Washi papers offer much more variety of texture, weight, tone and color as compared to other papers and especially to other fine art quality inkjet papers. Washi papers also tend to be much stronger than western cotton papers and like gampi for example, can remain strong as a very thin and translucent material.
Ideally when printing fine art and photography, custom profiling including sophisticated ink-limiting and linearisation should be performed for each ink/paper/resolution combination. When that is done, the maximum imaging potential of each paper is achieved. I use professional profiling hardware and software as well as a third party RIP to maximize print quality and accuracy.
Short of the professional approach, I have a few tips for printing washi on a high quality inkjet printer such as offered by HP, Canon, and Epson. Generally, the brighter white the paper is, the better color and contrast you will be able to achieve. Ironically, the dominant inkjet printer technology is Japanese and I have never seen a washi printing preset in any print drivers. Perhaps that is because of the huge variety of hand and machine made washi papers available. The paper settings in your print driver among other things controls the amount of ink that is allowed to go onto the paper. Coated washi papers can accept more ink than uncoated papers, they will give the best results. Experiment with fine art paper settings when using coated washi paper. When using uncoated papers, I’ve found that picking a plain paper setting often works best. When an image doesn’t come out as brilliantly as we want sometimes the first instinct is to lay down more ink. Quite often we are overloading the paper giving us muddy looking prints. Better results may be obtained from laying down less ink.