“Now we have to mix the color,” Watanabe says after the screens have been prepared. Each color must be applied separately—like his first job in ’75, where 60 prints were required to produce a single image. “We did that using five colors,” he recalls. “Three primary colors—red, yellow, blue—and black and white. So one color goes on top of the other colors; red on yellow, red on blue, red on black, like that—creates 60 variations.”
“So the screen comes up and down using a pulley as a weight. Hundreds of years later, we still use it in the same way,” he says of the more than 100-year-old system. “It’s very primitive. And [each time] you press the screen on top, and then you squeegee to push the ink onto the paper.”
“This is a real time-consuming process,” he says, recalling the work he made for Chuck Close
which required 200 colors—and 200 screens. “Basically, each time we change our screen, and the print, the artists decide on the position. We change the screens all the time, and the color, too.”
Meanwhile, a vacuum runs to keep the paper in place, and in between each print, a hair-dryer is used to dry the ink between each color layer.
Photographs by Alex John Beck