Renee Dalton

Artist Ray Byram has found a special way to capture the peace and solitude of nature in his paintings. “I have always loved the path through the woods and the way the light comes through the trees,” he says. “It’s just something that is extremely appealing.”

He achieves his current style, which he calls “tight impressionism”, by using a palette knife instead of the usual brushes. He began working with the knives over [25] years ago and liked the pattern they gave him. “It gives you a real crisp and different effect,” Byram explains. “It lets you get a little more expressive.”

Most of Byram’s recent work has been woodland paths that he has discovered in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia.

Although Byram is an artist first, he has also found a new extension of his creative talents in serigraphy – printmaking with silk screens.

Now, after painting professionally for over [24] years, Byram has earned national recognition with silk screen serigraphs of his landscapes.

[Twelve] years ago, publishers began to take great interest in his landscape oil paintings and their serigraphs. He now has several publishers distributing his work coast to coast from California to New York.

A native of New Jersey, Byram started painting when he was 15 and went on to graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in painting. He then followed his brother south to Athens, [Georgia].

Byram experimented with various art subjects over the years, including abstract, fantasy, surreal and portraits, but now he has returned to what he does best – landscape.

“I started with landscape over [30] years ago,” Byram says. “It’s always been my main thing. Every year things have gotten better and better.”

He feels that he has finally found his artistic niche and can now reap the benefits of his success. Byram’s recent artwork is in demand from corporate offices to private collectors, nationally and internationally.

Although Byram has 12 limited editions of lithograph prints, he feels that “the trend in the art world is away from offset limited-edition prints, because people want something that is an original – real art – not a reproduction.”

An outdoor show in Winter Park, Florida was his best yet, even though it was the first time he had done an entire exhibit with the serigraphs alone.

After watching his printer transform several of his oil paintings into serigraphs, Byram became fascinated with the with the intricate process. Eager to learn this printing method himself, he turned to Will Age at Artreprenuer Press for guidance.

Byram had taken a few printmaking courses in college, but never studied silk screening. Under the patient direction and instruction of Will Age, Byram began to master the first technique of making color separations by hand. Each color in an oil painting has to be hand separated in order to create an individual silk screen for every color. Byram now does the tedious hand separations in the basement of his home in Atlanta.

“I’ve been doing the hand separations myself for about [12] years,” Byram says. he has done up to 19 separations for a serigraph. Each color can take anywhere from eight to 15 hours.

Once the separations are complete, they are transferred to latex silk screens. A carefully matched color will then be printed onto paper with the silk screen.

After each color is applied, the ink is allowed to dry completely before another one is added. Eventually the complete image will form after all the colors are perfectly registered and layered on the paper. “They’re all hand done, that’s what gives them their value,” Byram says.

He usually only prints 250 to 300 serigraphs of a painting, then melts the screens down to be reused. Doing this keeps the edition limited, which will ultimately make each print worth more.

Although Byram now has a total of eight limited-edition serigraphs, he has done only four of those himself. His first attempt and apparent success was with “Autumn Light and Shadows”, an edition that has nearly sold out.

Most of his recent serigraphs are rather large in size, usually three-by-four feet, which causes added problems during the separation and silk screening processes.

His latest project involved an oil painting entitled “Light in the Forest”. The subsequent serigraphs of this painting have been titled “Cathedral”. Although the image is consistent with Byram’s woodland scenes, it differs in that the colors are vibrant greens and yellows instead of his usual fall colors.

The time demanded by serigraphs has taken Byram away from his first love of painting, but he hopes to return to his palette knife and canvas in the near future.

This article originally appeared in Athens Magazine in February of 1991, hence the editorial insertion of [time]. It should also be mentioned that references to the numbers of artworks in Ray’s repertoire is greatly understated.