Mega Press/Panayiotis Terzis Answers...
What's your favorite riso color or color combo?
I don't have favorites! I think it depends on the context-but the more unusual combinations sometimes hit the spot-orange and violet, yellow and cornflower; bright red and cornflower are pretty nice too. One combo I tell my students to avoid is pink and blue-everyone wants to use that combo! It looks amazing, but whatever you make will blend into the background because it's so common.
Share 1-3 things about your technical process. (ie. how do you color separate?, how do you decide which colors, binding method, or paper to use?, is your process traditional, digital, or both?, if it's collaborative what does the back and forth look like?)
My background is in traditional printmaking-photo lithography, screen printing, etching, and letterpress. When I got my first chance to use a Risograph in 2010, I applied all of the techniques and skills I had built up with these other mediums to Riso printing! At first, I continued to make color separations by hand, in black and white, and marking which colors would go where by make quick scribbles and notes in colored pencil on a printout or photocopy of the "key image" (drawing, lineart, or main graphic elements, usually printed in the darkest color in the last print run). I wouldn't know what the final result would look like until I printed it! For photo based images, I would have to experiment with different halftone dot sizes to see what my EZ 390 would reliably reproduce and how small I could go. Luckily I had access to a "postscript" laser printer, which would add a halftone dot and screen angle to a grayscale image without using bitmap (bitmap is garbage for any halftones smaller than 35 lpi, people!). I did this for my first five years of Riso printing, as I had a machine that was not networked to a computer and had to make all my work from the glass scanner. After I was hired to start the RisoLAB in 2015, I was able to print from a computer for the first time, which was absolute heaven compared to what I was used to. , , Since then, I've developed a variety of techniques in photoshop and illustrator to create color separations that simulate the final print color while allowing for grayscale layers that function as print plates. For photo based images, duotones, or work that is already in full color-including full color artwork in addition to photographs-I use photoshop to create duotone or CMYK files, and then split the channels into separate black and white files. , , I keep each color as a separate black and white layer in a photoshop file and turn layers on and off before sending to the Riso. I've been in a friendly, years long debate with friends and comrades in the Riso world over what program is best to send files from-many swear by Adobe Acrobat. But since Riso printing is variable, and it is extremely common to have images turn out quite differently from what the file looks like, I find Photoshop best to make quick adjustments-lights and darks, etc. to a file in response to how the Riso is interpreting the data. Some say that Acrobat is better for Vector images and type, but I have not seen much of a difference printing the same file with both methods. For books, Acrobat also makes no sense, as I'd have to work with, for example, 150 separate files instead of 24 for the same publication, since you have to have each color as a separate file when printing from a pdf vs. a .tiff file in photoshop with all the layers you need. , , I print from Windows running on a Mac-the PC print driver is far, FAR superior to the Mac driver. That way I can set very small halftone dots and alternate angles that are applied by the Riso. The result is uncomparably superior to bitmapping a photo and adding a halftone that way, as then the halftone would be further degraded when the Riso applies the grain touch texture as it interprets the file. I've also used multichannel mode for color separations, and recently started using a technique where I can work in a black and white layer in photoshop but tint it with any color I want. But basically, any of these 3-6 methods of working, on their own or in combination, might be appropriate for a different artwork. , , When I work with other artists, I try to work hard to make the Riso interpretation of their piece equal to if not better than what they initially send me. I take a varied approach based on what their print or printmaking knowledge is. Some artists send me color separated files in layers, sometimes in color-which will mean I'll have to make them grayscale and darken them so that they'll print at the right value-and some just send me flat, full color images which I'll figure out a way to separate, often with a combination of color selection, CMYK and duotone techniques, and occasionally using one of those amazing color profiles made by Color Library-although that feels a bit like cheating, and yields mixed results.
Share 1-3 things about your creative/conceptualizing process.
It really depends on the project! For my solo books, I tend to work in a series of images. Sometimes the work is created specifically with Riso reproduction in mind-so I'll make an ink drawing and then scan it in and create the color separations digitally, or print out a cleaned up version of each drawing and create color separations by hand on vellum, scan them back in and assign colors to each of them. , , Each issue from my Megalith series of zines is essentially a curated collection of paintings and drawings from the year it was published. Some of the work has also been exhibited in gallery or museum shows, or has popped up in other forms in commercial illustration jobs. , , , I'd describe my work as the ancient past and the far future collapsing together into a chaotic present. , , In everything I do, from Riso publications, to drawings and paintings, to commercial design and illustration work, I tend to work in forms, ideas, and themes that have interested me for years- science fiction, the classical world of ancient Greece and Rome, archaeology, evolution and devolution, the far future, the infinite, the unknown, science and technology, mysticism and the occult, mania, hallucinations, and altered states, political theory, mass psychology, color and form. , , Some of my biggest influences- Eduardo Paolozzi, Hokusai, Gary Panter, Max Beckmann, Adolf Wölfli, Howard Finster, Nancy Spero, Bridget Riley, Heinz Edelmann, Gretchen Bender, Paul Thek, Paper Rad, Leon Golub's Sphinx and Head paintings, Robert Mapplethorpe, H.C. Westermann, Huma Bhabha, the Hairy Who, anonymous Aztec sculptors and craftsmen, the Classical Greek sculptor Polykleitos, Ryuichi Sakamoto, early Cronenberg, Hilma af Klint., , If you look at the artists who I've published via Mega Press, they all somehow relate to my interests, and curating and publishing their work is almost a sort of collage process, as if Mega is a gigantic, ongoing, collaborative work. I've been lucky to work with some incredible people since 2013! ,
What did you have on your mind when you were working on this project/piece (or in general)? (ie. Does your work (this or other) relate to a particular current movement or concept?)
This book was originally conceived as a catalog for an exhibition organized by Cullen Beckhorn, an artist and publisher who runs Neoglyphic Media out of Bellingham, Washington. I was one of the artists to be included in the show, and Cullen reached out to see if Mega Press would be able to collaborate with Neoglyphic on the publication. He had already gotten an all star list of artists who had agreed to participate-including, among others, Matt Lock, Ron Rege Jr., Margot Ferrick, and Kari Cholnocky, and I immediately singed on as co-publisher, reaching out to my own network of artists I had published in the past, such as Robert Beatty, Leon Sadler, Nichole Shinn, and the Animal Press crew-Baptiste Virot and Jinhee Han. As time went on, the concept for the book became more and more elaborate and the artist list kept growing. When we finally met up in May 2019 to curate the submissions and plan out the production for the book, it had swelled to 22 artists and 100-150 pages of material. , , We cut it down to 104 pages, but pushed the edition size up to 500 with 25 artist copies. It would have to be some form of perfect binding at that page count, but we opted to go with sewn signatures rather than a block of pages that would be glued into the spine. What that meant was I was essentially printing five pamphlets that would then be bound together before being glued into the cover. It was an insane amount of printing, and ended up being one of the three enormous and seemingly impossible projects I had saddled myself with that summer-along with a series of paintings I was finishing for a solo book with Nieves and a set of Riso prints for Harpy gallery. But I surrendered to the grind, not without a good deal of lamenting and complaining, while mourning my reduced beach time in order to meet the deadline and get the book ready for the NY Art Book Fair in the fall. In the end I calculated that it ended up being over 100 hours of printing, and probably another 50 hours of design and pre-production. , , We had committed to outsourcing the binding and laminating the covers since this was much too big to handle with a few interns. That was interesting in itself, as I had to keep reassuring the binder and the laminator that it was normal for the ink to rub off-it was never going to dry! I was concerned that they would refuse to continue the job due to the Riso ink smudging all over their equipment, or that the books would be horribly smeared and disfigured by Riso marks, let alone the possibility that my careful math was wrong, or that they'd mess up the page order, since the binders were going to do all the collating on their own! But in the end everything was fine, they did an amazing job and produced our first proper book with a spine. This project was definitely a milestone for both Cullen and I, and I do plan on producing another book of this size in the future, possibly a solo book of my own work.
Do you have any risograph-related tips and tricks you'd like to share?
If you have an MZ, ME, or MF, make sure to use interval mode-you can set the Risograph to rotate for up to ten times between each print! It massively helps avoiding paper jams with difficult paper stocks. Also, pay attention to the dials on the paper feed assembly! Adjusting the angle of the paper feed separator pad for heavier or lighter paper will make your life easier and avoid a lot of time and frustration. Buy feed tires (also called gripper tires) and separation pads and replace on a regular basis. Clean the ink off of the feed tires. Keep your Riso clean-wipe down the exterior with a rag and greenworks or windex, and clean metal parts inside the machine with alcohol. If you regularly clean and maintain your Riso and teach yourself how to fix it, it will run forever.
What is something that you would like to say to anyone reading this right now?
Years ago there was a lot of talk about how print is dead or dying, going away, irrelevant, etc-that we'd be living our lives through screens and there would be no need for any print based media. The Riso explosion is a direct counterpoint to this idea-which turned out to be trickle down hype from techbro marketing! It turns out that print is better than a lot of digital media-it doesn't spy on you, it doesn't need to be plugged in, and it will outlast 99% of digital content that exists today. You can read it at your own pace. The reader/viewer completes the artwork by turning the page. The amazing Riso publishers from Mexico City, Can Can Press, have a perfect little phrase that they print on posters and stickers that come with their publications, "Print is NOW!"