Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Art For Art’s Sake

I was recently invited to submit a piece to an upcoming group art show at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks. The gallery specializes in animation art, and their shows usually feature a cartoon-related theme to be interpreted by each of the 100 or so invited artists. I have participated in several of these art shows over the last year, and it’s always interesting to see how others interpret the same theme. Some of the artists paint, some sculpt, some make multimedia installations, and one even creates unique figurines out of peanuts. So far, though, I am the only one who has created lenticular 3-D prints. 

My first attempts at lenticular 3-D happened many years ago, when a now-defunct company called Orasee released a digital home lenticular printing kit. My earliest attempts included 3-D business cards, some promotional materials, and a few photos. The kit worked okay, but my inkjet printer left something to be desired as far as image quality.

A few years ago, Jon Schnitzer, of The Brain Factory, hired me and Ray Zone to create 3-D invitations for the opening reception of the Tim Burton exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Jon provided a digital image of one of Tim Burton’s paintings, and Ray did a 3-D conversion, creating an extreme stereo pair from the single image. My task was to determine a method to extrapolate the mutiple in-between images required for a glasses-free picture, and I figured out how to do this using Adobe After Effects. The finished invitiation turned out great, and Jon, Ray and I made several more lenticulars together, including two creepy presidential portraits that hung at the White House Halloween party. To produce the final artworks, Jon sent the images out to a specialized lenticular printing service, and while the finished prints looked fine, the quality control and customer service at the printing company wasn’t very good.

In early 2014, when the Van Eaton Galleries asked me to come up with something to include in their tribute show to animator Jay Ward, I decided to try my hand at making another lenticular, entirely by myself. Ray had taught me a lot of his conversion techniques, and I had developed many of my own while working on 3-D projects for The Simpsons, so I created an image, converted it to 3-D, and interlaced and printed it myself. I was satisfied with the end result, but I ended up going through so much ink and lens material before getting a print I was happy with, that I decided that I would find a printing service for my future lenticulars.

Last winter, I used the online service SnapilyPro.com to print one lenticular piece of for a group art show of cartoon villains and another piece paying tribute to the Rankin-Bass studio. Again, while the finished pieces were acceptable, there were issues with the printing service during production - scratched lenses and misalignments - and generally poor customer support. 

So when this latest invitation came along, to create a tiki themed cartoon mash-up, I needed to find a new, reliable printer. Some exhaustive searching led me to Z-Axis Prints, at zaxisprints.com, and I can’t say enough about their work.  Harvey Jewett, at Z-Axis, provided high quality, fast turnaround, and great online communication. I emailed Harvey a sequence of 18 images, and a few days later I was holding a beatiful 11”x17” lenticular print. Perfect the first time!