The power of the dot

I can clearly remember the first time I noticed the impact a simple dot on a piece of paper could have.

13 Mar 2015

by ILN

I must have been about nine years old and, as I stood next to a large advertising hording, I could see that the image was made from dots, lots of them arranged in a specific pattern to create a picture. This totally fascinated me and still does today. Little did I know then what a major role dots would play in my working life.

For the past 20 years, I have been working in the print industry, working alongside repro and printing companies in an effort to control and improve the simple dot on a page, to recreate amazing photography or stunning works of art.

In the late 19th century, when offset litho printing was in its infancy, the artist Georges Seurat was using dots and small patterns in his paintings to create stunning pictures. This method of painting became known as Divisionism or Chromoluminarism and was based on the theory that small patterns or dots arranged in a specific order would create a larger colour gamut than the traditional method of mixing different coloured pigments. Up close, his paintings were just a series of random dots of varying colours and sizes, but when viewed from a distance they transformed into beautiful neo-impressionist paintings.

One of Seurat’s paintings that illustrates this technique best is A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grand Jatte (below). When viewed from a distance, the woman’s skirt appears to be purple, but under closer inspection you can see that it is made from many different colours and hues.

Many years later, in 1962, young artist Chuck Close graduated from the University of Washington in the US and embarked on a career creating what would become his signature style: photo-realism. This style uses a process he came to describe as “knitting”, where he created large canvases from Polaroids taken of models.

This method allowed Close to create intimate images, replicating the smallest details in the models’ faces (see Mark and Mark Unfinished, below). From a distance, these images were almost photographic, blurring the distinction between photography and art. It has been said that this style of placing ink on a canvas paved the way for the development of the inkjet printer.

A dot on it’s own is just that, but when combined with others, in a specific (or even random) order, they can combine to become a thing of absolute beauty, which can inspire, excite and even bring a tear to the eye. This strength in numbers not only works on a visible level, but can also be applied to our everyday lives. There’s something about that I like.

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