Archive for the ‘studio’ Category



Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

160803_screenprinting day_025

This has been a long time coming.

Long time readers might recall that I took a screenprinting class at The University of the Arts way back in 2009. This class was taught by Greg Pizzoli, and got me all fired up to do a lot of this kind of thing. Class ended, Everything Goes began, the kids turned into time-sucking teenagers, I hit a creative funk, new books came along, Tinyville Town begun… and I never got around to getting this together. In the meantime, I bought a crappy old exposure unit that sat in my studio here collecting dust for a year before I gave it away to a punk band, my box of Speedball inks waited patiently on my shelf, and I kept telling myself that I’d get back to this, eventually.
At the end of last year, I invested some bucks into a nice new Ryonet exposure unit and a bunch of appropriate chemicals (screen reclaimer, ink wash, emulsion, and some other stuff). Six months later, I began to worry that this was going to sit here forever, as well.

Then, two weeks ago, my friend Michael stopped by for lunch. Michael is pretty handy and has kind of a “just get it done” attitude, so I decided to hold him hostage for the afternoon and see if he’d spend some time helping me put my printing table together. I had an enormous piece of plywood with a couple of hinges screwed down. All I needed to do, I thought, was just cut the thing down to size. We did this, but we didn’t stop there. We re-fastened the hinges with bolts rather than screws. We even decided to cover the plywood with some laminate I’d bought a couple of years ago but never got around to gluing down. In two hours, the table was done and I was inspired.

It only takes that first domino to fall, right? In the next two weeks, I built a screen-drying box, covered the closet window to make that room the dark room. I ordered some nice industrial legs for one of my tables and with my kids’ help I put that thing together. Then, earlier this week, my daughter and I coated a couple of screens with emulsion and ran step-tests with the exposure unit. Once I knew that two minutes and fifteen seconds was the magic number, I burned a screen yesterday afternoon and was beside myself when it washed out perfectly. That meant that today was printing day.

The illustration is one I made a few years ago that I always thought would be a good print. This was playing it safe, today, as it’s merely one-color on colored paper. I had a nice purple ink from the class back in 2009, and I’d ordered some Lemon Drop 100lb cover from French Paper. The image isn’t exactly child-friendly, but future prints will be, at times.

The print run is an edition of 25, ten of which I’m selling in my Etsy store. The others I’m saving, and giving a few away as gifts to some people who have inspired this stuff.

160803_screenprinting day_027

160803_screenprinting day_022

160803_screenprinting day_018

160803_screenprinting day_016

160803_screenprinting day_011

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

After completing the first book of Everything Goes in mid-February, I went on a tear and illustrated the sixth Brownie & Pearl book by the first week of March, and then immediately completed a book for Hyperion called The Boy Who Cried Alien which I’d been working on since sometime in 2007. As you might imagine, this schedule has left little time for stuff like eating, going to the bathroom, and cleaning up one’s mess. Over the weekend I took care of the eating and bathroom issues, and this week I focused on cleaning the studio. Over the winter, with the windows closed and the garage door shut, the place got musty and dank. Piles of papers and bills and sketches and books were stacked in looming piles on one of my worktables. Cables and hard drives were scattered around my computer area, coffee cups were discovered still holding coffee (and milk) from days of yore (disgusting), my filing cabinet was disorganized, and a layer of dust and grime covered nearly everything.
Monday was a lovely day with temps in the high 70s and 80s, so I was happy to open the garage door up, let the place air out, and get to work. My storage closet is still needing help, but the main part of my studio is nice and clean. The papers were filed, surfaces wiped, and I have two boxes of papers and catalogs and ephemera that will go to recycling later this week. The place is now a good place to work, and it was such a pleasure to walk in this morning and see the results.
And not a moment to soon. Sketches for book seven of Brownie & Pearl are due toute suite, and UPS delivered a big pile of research materials I ordered from Amazon, all about airplanes and airports and aircraft, for Everything Goes: Air, which I’ll begin the hard work on later this week. No rest for the weary.

I wish I’d taken ‘before’ pictures. But here are the after.



Saturday, December 26th, 2009

This is a little late. But better that than the never other, right?
Screen printing class wrapped up back on December 8. For my last project I printed a four-color race car inspired by the collages I made back last January. I’d been working on the art for this for a while and knew it was going to be a real bear of a project. The bat-boy and the robots were just sitting there in my head and were really easy to conceive and make. The race car was going to be more difficult and more complicated.
I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures here of sketches and stopped starts, and then the final print, with captions explaining what’s going on.

This is the line-drawing I made as the basis for the digital separations. It gets down the basic shape of the car. Even though I know that the final printed version will look quite different from what I'm drawing, it's for some reason important to me to have an actual finished drawing rather than merely a series of pieces that I'll put together digitally. Typically there are little details in the drawing that I would not have planned for otherwise.


I played around with channels in Photoshop, just to begin wrapping my head around four colors and how they would interact with each other. The screen print would be made with four colors, but when one color overlaps another color a new color is made. For instance, when the red overlaps the blue you get purple...


Using a pencil sketch I made earlier, I added colors hoping to get an idea of where I was going with this. Sometimes I know exactly what I want something I'm making to look like, and sometimes it's more of an adventure. When I'm working with a process or medium I'm less familiar with, adventure reigns supreme.


Using the line drawing I created a version in Photoshop that looked more suitable for printing. Few, if any, outlines, flat colors... I didn't like the way the driver in the line drawing looked so I made a new one. I knew I wanted to make this car with some kind of French theme. Each of my drivers has his or her own back-story, and I thought a French Nascar racer would have a funny one. The name of the driver on the door comes from the fact that the New Year's Eve is St Sylvestre's day in France.

This is another version of the above image. The first one I made to look a lot like the collages I made earlier in the year. This one I used a solid yellow background which I think works much better for this print. I planned to have that big voice balloon but abandoned it later

I was still having trouble getting the details of this car right the week I had to start printing it. I'd been creating all my comps in Photoshop, but wasn't happy with where a lot of it was going. I tried opening up Illustrator, which I almost never use in my normal illustration work, and began putting colors and shapes down. The big benefit here was getting the numerals and the shape of the flame decal down.

To explain the idea of separations and the print process a little more, this is the above image in Illustrator split into two. The one on the left represents the yellow and green colors, the one on the right represents the reddish-orange and the blue. You can see where the reddish-orange and the blue overlap a darker color is produced.


This is the final color comp for the print. It was from this high-resolution Photoshop file that I printed my four separations on transparent film using my ink-jet printer, then used those to burn the screens.


This is the print after two colors are down.


Race Car screenprint
The final cut print.
Race Car screenprint detail
Race Car screenprint detail
Race Car screenprint detail

I’m selling the print on Etsy for $30.

Since the class ended, I’ve built a table-top with clamps and taken delivery on a bunch of other pieces of equipment necessary for printing in my own studio. I plan to print up cards and posters, for starters. That being said, if you’ve got something like a band or a festival or a show of some kind and you want a poster to promote it, get in touch. Here are some pictures of the studio and the holiday cards I printed therein.
screenprinting in the studio
screenprinting in the studio
fa la la

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

rubber stamps

I used to use rubber stamps all the time. There was a terrific little shop near where I worked near San Francisco that did custom stamps. So I’d hand-letter my address and use it for envelopes and business cards. However since living in Philadelphia (for more than ten years) I’ve never got around to it.
I recently moved into a studio where I hope and plan to work for a long time. In addition, I need to send stuff out more than I once did (posters and things), so I finally got some new stamps made. I use these for lots of stuff. I can stamp cards, the backs of promo materials, your upper arm, any kind of correspondence, and so on.
Now here’s the kicker. This place I found fairly randomly, Simonstamps, got this order from me on Tuesday. Two days ago. They produced and shipped it yesterday, and I just received it. Two days! And the most expensive stamp here was $12. All together the order for these nine stamps was around $70. Need I say I recommend Simonstamps?
I ordered the “Traditional Wood Handle Rubber Stamps.”

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I hate ink jet printers (a rant)

A million years ago, like around 1997, I bought an Epson Stylus 740 so that I could make some nice little cards and booklets. All the cool illustrators in San Francisco had them and I thought that they made some pretty nice prints. As my first ink jet printer and while I was reasonably satisfied with several of the prints I made with it, it drove me crazy. It was my first dive into what we know now as color management, and it wasn’t pretty. I still have a lot of the prints I made then, and they look like crap. Too orange, fades, too magenta, over-saturdated, pixely, etc. I printed a lot of portfolio pages and cards with this thing and I spent the GDP of a small country on ink. In 2004 I finally replaced it with an Epson Stylus Photo 825. The software was an upgrade, for sure, but for the most part the results were the same. Will it print? Will it print well? Will the yellow clog? It seemed to need a deep-clean of the nozzles every other week and again, my kids went barefoot several winters while I invested in ink. In all, it was probably a worse experience than the 740, if for no other reason than I had higher expectations. But hey, what do you expect for a $100 printer, right?

So finally this last winter I started selling prints on Etsy, as well as wanting a way to create decent prints when I need them. My studio-partner Barbara had a Canon Pixma Pro9000, and I really liked the results. Other print geeks I know used the high-end Epsons, like the 3800. But I didn’t really want to invest $1200 into a printer. I found the step up from the 9000, the 9500 which uses pigment inks, on Craigslist and snapped it up. I bought some Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper and made some fantTAStic prints. Really swell. Great. I was happy.

But then I noticed a couple of things. If I didn’t use the printer for a couple of weeks, which is all time, the printer went into a cleaning process when I turned it on that used a ton of ink. Second, as you can see above, while it’s effective at making prints on fancy-pants paper like the very expensive Hahnemuhle with it’s custom ICC profile, it seems to really suck at making good prints on Canon’s lower-end Matte Photo Paper. Thirdly, and related to the above, it’s nearly impossible to use from Adobe InDesign and Illustrator.

The above prints are all from the 9500 on the 4×6 inch Canon Matte Photo Paper. The cards with the words are from InDesign with a placed Photoshop PSD file (Adobe RGB). The illustration is the closing illustration from the just-completed book three of Brownie & Pearl, written by Cynthia Rylant. The cards without the words are that same exact file printed straight out of Photoshop. I have ten more cards, which all look various degrees of different from those pictured, but you get the idea. The differences come from little variations in the print dialog boxes, such as arcane choices like “ColorSync” vs “Vendor Matching” and whether Photoshop/InDesign manages colors or the printer does. Now if you know anything about printing, I know you have a path That You Think Works Best. And I hope that you gather from the above screed that you know that I know something about color and printing. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this kind of crap, but it’s the first time in a while that I’ve had such a ridiculous range of color off-ness, with not a single one of the prints being even close. The one that comes the “closest,” in fact, was printed with the “let the printer choose the colors” option selected, which is basically the one thing that all the information I can find online agrees that should not be done. Go figure.

In this particular case, after conferring with one of the friends that uses the Epson 3800, my friend Jon, and for whom a good day is spent with eighty different papers and sixty different ICC profiles and printing various combinations, keeping track of which and which. That’s not a good day for me. But we think it comes down to the ICC profiles that Canon provides — in particular the one labeled MP1, which stands for Matte Photo Paper. Jon suggested I try some of Canon’s other ICC profiles and just find out what works. His other suggestion was to sell this printer and get an Epson 3800, or at least the 2880 for a little less. I might, but I have a feeling that everyone has pretty much the same complaints. I just can’t believe that the technology is such that one can’t just press “print,” select which printer, tell it what paper you’re using, and it prints. Prints nice.

The image below is how the image looks on my screen, and what I’m aiming for. My last caveat is that I don’t have a color-calibrated monitor and don’t need one. I make my illustrations on my 21″ Cinema Display in Adobe RGB and when they go to print, whether it be in children’s books from Simon & Schuster (as this one is) or in Nickelodeon Magazine or to Snapfish for prints, they’re spot on. I don’t worry about that. This is an ink-jet problem through and through.
Any thoughts?

23-colorcard1

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009


Started race car #2 today.
All the blue is from magazines and the driver and windshield is from the yellow pages.
Note as well that I’ve sanded down the gesso, revealing the wood. I like this. I’m gonna do it on the rest of the collages.

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007


It’s been a long process, and we’re not yet, but I’ve moved into a new studio in a big art studio building in North Philadelphia. It’s not as cozy (cramped) as the home studio and I actually have to get dressed and leave the house to get there, but it’s nice to have a big space and share it with another artist (Barbara Zuckerman).
This weekend is the Philadelphia Open Studios Tour (POST). While we’re not on the promo materials or website, we will be there on Saturday with the door open. If you’re in or near Philadelphia, come by between noon and six and say hello. There are about a hundred studios in the building so there will be lots to see.
915 Spring Garden is the location. We’re studio 306a.

Friday, January 19th, 2007

I’ve posted a dozen or more pictures of my studio to Flickr. Most of them are annotated. Comment and enjoy.

studio mosaic