Johanna Basford's sabbatical diary, week 9: Digital print is my saviour

This week Johanna discovers that digital printing is better for producing larger-scale artwork projects than screenprinting.

Johanna Basford is on a four-month sabbatical from paid work to concentrate on making herself a better artist, illustrator and all-round creative person.

Every week Johanna aims to publish a diary entry, which we'll be running on Digital Arts so you can follow the ups and downs – hopefully mainly ups – as she pushes her creativity and vision into new areas.

Week 9

Week 9 began with a visit to the DCA to discuss all things exhibitiony:

  • Can we screenprint a forest?
  • Is tattooing a dog ethical?
  • How much beer do art lovers drink?

These are the kinds of questions that fill my meetings with Graham, curator of the DCA, Richy of Owned & Operated who is designing my book (another DJCAD grad) and Annis who heads up the DCA print studio.

I arrive with armfuls of A3 printouts, sketches and possibly the world's most rubbish technical drawings. I find a flock of Post-it notes aids the explanation of any complicated concept – my own verbal communication of such things is usually particularly lacking.

A few minutes of collective head-scratching, eyebrow raising and frantic measuring of printbeds later and we come to  a fateful conclusion. There's now way I can screenprint the paper forest. At four metres high and almost the same wide, the trees are just too big.

We consider vinyl cutting, but the phrase "we'll auto trace your drawing" makes me recoil with horror. You'll do nothing of the sort. Vectorising a hand-drawn work is one of my pet hates.

So we turn to my old nemesis, digital printing.

I spent the first few years of my practice denouncing the evils of digital print and all who accepted its bland offerings. I was a screenprint purist and the view from my high horse was spectacular.

Then a funny thing happened: I was fooled a few times. I saw digital prints so beautiful, so crisp and wonderfully printed that I had to climb down off my proverbial horse and take a closer look.

Digital print (some of it) had got really, really good.

The final epiphany came when I discovered Rik at Ripe Digital via the wonders of Twitter. Put simply, you'd be a fool to let anyone else print your work.

A few beautifully executed jobs later (above), I was a digi-convert. It turns out, if you find the right printer, it's actually pretty darn good.

So now that I've accepted my forest of supersized trees won't be screenprinted, the search begins for the best large format digital printer to tackle the job (sadly these are outwidth the realms of Rik's wonder printers too). Yeah, I'm a bit disappointed but I know that they'll still look crisp, inky and that we can print them at the scale I had envisaged.

There's no point loosing sleep over a squeegee.

Meanwhile, my Kickstarter project continues to tick over, and the pledges are steadily climbing towards the golden £4,000. I made a few updates relating to name tagging & multiple pledges (vital info if you want to make a few different suggestions for your donation or you are an undercover agent...)

There are just six days left to be part of the inky adventure and help me create this super sized co-creation artwork!

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