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 M O D E R N   R E P R O G R A P H I C S   |  OCTOBER 2001
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By Jeffrey Steele

Tom Matt's "New York on New York" streetscapes capture the beauty of that great city. Now, more than ever, it seems important that fine art printer Don Dressler found a way to preserve these images—these memories—for posterity.

It’s one thing to come up with an idea, but another thing entirely to make it reality. That’s why many great ideas never see fruition. Not infrequently, the most ingenious concepts and clever brainstorms are derailed by unforeseen roadblocks that prove insurmountable. For a while, artist Tom Matt was certain his great idea would suffer just such a fate.

Manhattan Skyline & Brooklyn Bridge

In the summer of 20 00, Matt was sitting in a cafe on New York City’s MacDougal Street, reading the New York Times. Gazing out the window for a moment, he noticed a Thai restaurant across the street and began sketching it on the front page of the newspaper. Liking what he’d created, he produced several more sketches of Big Apple street scenes on actual New York City newspapers, calling the series of cityscape drawings “New York on New York.”

“When I started this whole series . . . I had no conception of these becoming a series of limited edition prints,” Matt recalls. “It was basically just the pastel and the newspaper. But when I had four pieces, I was showing them around and people wanted to buy them. But they were discouraged be-cause the newspaper was perishable, it was not archival. It was not acid-free and would change color. At that point I was very discouraged because I didn’t know what to do. I thought this interesting concept was about to come to an end.”

Then a little luck smiled down on Matt. Friend and fellow artist Leif Nilsson urged him to try a fine art printer called Glastonbury Design, located in the Connecticut town of the same name. The printer, Nilsson said, had the ability to preserve the image of Matt’s artwork on acid-free material that would not yellow or disintegrate like newspaper does.

Don Dressler, the president of Glastonbury Design, met Matt and talked over his needs. Soon, he was reproducing Matt’s images digitally, and impressing the artist with the reproduction quality. “It’s just amazing resolution, amazing clarity,” Matt says. “The really cool thing about it is the technology in my situation captures the image of my art on the perishable newspaper and preserves it on archival paper, with a pigment ink that’s said to last over 100 years.”

Saks Fifth Avenue

Glastonbury Design was founded in the early 1980s, and has always had a fine art focus. But the shop proceeded through a number of stages, starting with screen printing and segueing to increasingly higher-tech applications, before arriving at digital printing. Digital printing “certainly is a nice way to accomplish the ends,” Dressler says. “I don’t know any other way to do it, in terms of being cost effective.”

“In the past, it would have been very expensive, and limited quantity would have been out of the question” he adds. “In the past, if you had work that could be reproduced with screen print or offset lithographic processes, these would not have been conducive to small, single-digit numbers of prints. And their perceived value was that of a poster per se on the offset market. On the screen print market, that would have been a high-end print.”

Dressler uses four Roland Hi-Fi Jet printers with pigment inks to create fine art prints. He likes what he calls the sturdy, durable engineering of the printers, and appreciates that Roland is a strong company that has served the market for a long time. “They have excellent products,” he says. “We have a lot of faith in the company and its technology.”

Glastonbury Design currently serves the reproduction needs of about 50 artists, but doesn’t advertise or solicit business in any way. Dressler’s philosophy is that if an artist has a need for his shop’s services, he or she will find Glastonbury Design. And they do. The business continues to add clients week after week, clients who want to make sure their work will continue to earn them money for months and years to come, Dressler says.

Grand Central Station —The Facade

“It has to be that way, because it’s much nicer when someone comes in and they have a need and know what digital printing is and what fine art printing is,” he adds. “It’s not like buying a car. The people have to be compatible in working with each other, because it’s such a personal thing. There are only a few fine art printers in the state. It’s much better when they come to us and already know the technology, the pricing and the differences between dye inks and pigment inks. The more knowledgeable they are, the easier it is and the more we can accomplish.”

As for Matt, he’s sold approximately 50 limited-edition numbered prints since he linked up with Dressler last November. The prints have been sold in a variety of venues, including on the street, at group art shows, and one-man shows and through art consultants.

Looking back, Matt says that if he hadn’t found a way to preserve his artwork, he probably wouldn’t have continued doing the “New York on New York” series. “I wouldn’t have had the same enthusiasm I have now,” he notes. “The paper would have deteriorated, and that would have been the end of the story.”

Instead, he has high hopes of continuing the series for years, adding to an array of works that already include his renderings of Saks Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, the Flatiron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the front of Grand Central Station—all drawn on newspapers printed and sold the day he created the drawings. New Yorkers are continually asking him if he’s drawn other icons of Gotham, such as the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side, or Central Park.

“In other words, they want me to do their neighborhoods, and I have a list of to-dos for the future,” Matt says. “It’s basically something I can continue for the rest of my life. And not only does it lend itself to do New York City, but also other major cities in the United States and abroad, on their own local city newspapers.”

For more on Tom Matt and his work, visit http://www.tommatt.com/. Better yet, attend his next show, December 7, 2001 through February 1, 2002 at Chester Gallery in Chester, CT.

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