Voyage of Grace
Of all the images from my series Rites of Passage, which explores a variety of digital equivalents to alternative processes, Voyage of Grace had the best chance of standing up as a color image. The original image was full of autumnal colors from the Scottish Highlands. The fern and heather had turned brown and the trees had turned brilliant colors. One was bright red, another was orange. Still, the image improved with loss of color. While the colors within the image were comparatively unified, a few elements stood out more than the rest — distracting attention from the main theme, disrupting the flow of the image. When asked to share the same color, a greater harmony was established. The content of the image followed a single course. All subthemes, tributaries, merged into the dominant stream.
I used the dominant hue of the color version as my guide and inspiration. I created a duotone that approximated its color. It was good, but I felt it could be better. So I turned the duotone back into a full-color image. The original color was not reclaimed. Once lost it can never be recovered without returning to the original. But now that it was once again a color file, I could color correct the image as I could any other. A slight shift, adding magenta into the shadows and yellow into the highlights, created a subtle split-toned effect. The space became clearer. The light grew golden. Everything was rendered in bronze. The image seemed to trace its origins to another time and place. It was an ancient land.
I tried a variety of options: a warm red, a cool red, a heavily split-toned effect. It was wonderful to be able to compare so many solutions in minutes which ordinarily would have taken hours or weeks and very possibly many different media. There were many dead ends, but they provided visual confirmation that this was indeed the solution that was right for this image. In the end, one of the more subtle solutions proved best.
Matching the proper material to the image was as important as selecting the appropriate color. The tactile qualities of surface are extremely important, but often overlooked. It would not do to print this image on plastic or with metal. It was rough and natural, soft and atmospheric. Printed on a heavy, fibrous watercolor paper, it retained a sensuous, velvety luster much like the land it was drawn from.
This was done some time before the introduction of multitones to inkjet printers, so it was printed in CMYK or four standardized colors. Today, it would be possible to create a custom ink mixture and print a true multitone, two or more custom color mixtures, that would come close to its present rendering. Carefully managed, this would increase the longevity of the print. Managing the golden highlights would be no easy task, but I would not want to say it is impossible. Still, it is likely that some sacrifice, or better, some further translation would have to be made. The task is to sacrifice the less important for the more important.