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.
Back last year when I took my screen printing class, I printed this robot with a heart. Remember that? Well, what you might not have known was that at the same time I printed that robot, I printed another, less cardiologically-correct version especially for the seventh-best holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day! This robot has a more traditional Valentiney-style pink heart in place of that anatomical one.
Now, by now I suspect that you’re thinking what I was thinking when I printed. You’re thinking “why, that cutie-pie whom I love and adore and think warm thoughts about absolutely loves robots, and by george this print is certainly a better idea than chocolate.” And if you are thinking that, you’d be wrong. Because chocolate is actually better. But this is a close second and you should get it for him/her anyway.
This last weekend I finished my second poster print for the screenprinting class I’m taking at The University of the Arts here in Philadelphia. The plan was to do a complicated print similar to my race car collages I made earlier in the year. However, Tuesday rolled around and I wasn’t going to have it ready. So, as one does when one is unprepared, one makes a robot.
This design is one I made a year ago when I was first thinking about getting posters made. The heart comes from an old anatomy book my sister found somewhere in Arkansas.
The first color to go down was the light blue. The orange was next. A week or so later I printed the red line-art of the heart, and then last was the real warm grey part of the robot. You can kind of see where the grey overlaps the blue and makes it a darker, cooler grey.
I’m selling these things on Etsy. I haven’t counted the editions yet, but I suspect there are fifteen or so good prints. If you want it, go get it!
Last night was week four of my screenprinting class at The University of the Arts. Last week I printed the first color of my two-color vampire print and got as far as burning the second stencil into my screen and readying it for printing the second color. I got fifty prints pulled, of which ten were screwed-up in various and delightful ways. What that means is that I have ten “waste” prints in which to make sure my second ink is the right color and consistency, and my registration is good.
On Sunday, Sacha and I spent a few hours at UArts putting down the second color. I mixed my purple from a pre-existing tub of bright pink, but realized a few prints in that this was possibly a mistake, as the pink apparently was mixed with a lot of white which made the color much more opaque than I wanted.
The original idea was to have the purple overprint the green in some areas, and the mix of the two colors would create a very dark brownish color, contrasting with the pure purple where it does not overprint the green. However, since the purple was so opaque, the green did not show up much though it. This looked ok but rendered some of the details, like the buttons and the little middle area of the vampire’s mouth, pretty-much invisible.
After a couple of prints like this and a little cursing, I dumped a big glob of transparent extender into my tub of purple. This is supposed to do pretty much what it says. It makes the ink more transparent while not really changing the color. I scraped the old ink off the screen and replaced it with this new, thinner ink. Problem solved.
I pulled the remaining prints as Sacha racked them and took pictures. Here are several from the afternoon.
Out of fifty prints, thirty-six are perfectly acceptable.
The other fourteen are in various and often-humorous errors.
We looked at the results tonight in class with the critical eye of printer/designer JP Flexner as a guest. JP showed his posters and pictures of his basement studio.
Unlike my letterpress class two years ago that convinced me that I really wasn’t interested in letterpress, I’m pretty giddy about screenprinting after my first poster. I have a long list of prints of varying degrees of complexity and difficulty that I want to make. Next week we’ll begin poster no.2. I’m thinking of doing a variation of the race car collages I made earlier this year. I’ll post more about this later. Here’s a link more photos that Sacha took.
And here’s the entire set of photos from my Flickr.
Week three of my screenprinting class at The University of the Arts was last night and I was thrilled to get some ink down. Last week I had the first separation burned and ready. Last night was printing night. Class started out by viewing and admiring a selection of posters by Seripop, the Montréal-based poster-design duo of Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum. I’m familiar with Seripop and while I’m always happy to look at interesting posters, I was pretty single-minded, wanting to get right to mixing ink.
I bought a pretty standard Speedball green last week, but it was way too ugly for me to use for my vampire. Nuclear pukey green is more like what I was wanting. So I found a near-empty jar of bright bright yellow Speedball fabric ink, added quite a lot of white, and then dripped in my ugly green until it was perfect. I was surprised how little of my green I needed to get the color I wanted from that yellow. But when you see the color, I suppose it’s really more yellow than green.
Can I say again how good it is to be making something analog, away from the computer? It is.
Greg and his assistant Annie were busy helping the other students so I was trying to go through all the steps that we’d been shown. Of course, until I actually do it I don’t remember it. So I had to be reminded to tape the edges of my screen, put some cardboard bumpers on the bottom corners of my screen, correctly line up a sheet of mylar/acetate to set up positioning on my paper, cut five strips of tape to have ready for making my registration jig, etc. Thanks to Greg and Annie.
Finally it was time to print. The plan was to get at least twenty-five prints. I decided to just pull until I ran out of ink. There were some glitches as I went along, of course. Now and then I’d lose the right ear of the vampire kid, or some ink would glop in a place I didn’t want it to. In my art-life, I have a weird habit of misusing materials. I’ve never been very fastidious with tools. I spill ink, I break knives, etc. So the computer has been good to me as I can just get to the image-making without the clean-up and my own clumsiness ruining the process. Of course, staring at a giant monitor has its own issues. Making the race-car collages earlier this year really opened up a new world of analog art to me, and solidified my need to have a tactile experience in making stuff. That all being said, imagine my surprise that I pulled forty good prints out of fifty. In my head I started planning out my silkscreen set-up here in my studio.
So my fifty prints were done and drying on the rack. I washed out my screen and squeegee and cleaned up while the screen was drying. Originally I was hoping to get both colors down tonight but seeing as how it was 9pm already, I realized that this wasn’t going to happen. I was able to recoat the screen with emulsion and burn the second image, but will have to make it over to the university on either Sunday afternoon or Tuesday before class to print the violet. Stay tuned for all that.
For a couple of years now I’ve been considering making and selling posters and other prints. You may have seen my Etsy store where I have prints made on my nice digital printer. But I’ve been wanting to make some screenprints. I’ve vacillated back and forth between setting up my own small shop here and outsourcing the printing work to someone who actually knows how to do it. When I moved into this studio last Sprint, I read and absorbed as much as I could, spent hours and hours on gigposters.com looking at posters, and nearly dropped some large cash on an exposure unit, some screens, emulsion and the other junk one needs. (I actually bought a power-washer when I saw it on sale at Lowe’s.)
However, when The Events of This Summer took place and I was removed from my studio for a month in Arkansas, the interruption led me to look at other options. The other options dropped themselves in my lap in the form of a continuing education catalog from the university where I once taught, The University of the Arts. They were offering a class called The Screen Printed Poster taught by Greg Pizzoli. Once I read the description of the class and Mr. Pizzoli’s bio I knew this was what I was gonna do.
Class began last week, Sept 29. Our first assignment is to make a poster using two colors where the colors overlap in a meaningful way to create a third color. The other restrictions are that it must use type in some way, and the separations need to be made using cut paper rather than going through the computer or anything fancy such as that. I was planning to beg out of that last rule, as I have about 800 designs that I want to print, and none simple enough to just cut out of paper. However, on second thought I decided to keep it simple and see what I could do with this. Maybe I’ll learn something.
I ordered a screen from Victory Factory (23×31, aluminum frame, 195 mesh, $25.25), some paper from French’s (Construction Recycled White, 110lb, 12.5×19, $46) and started drawing. I quickly decided that this was going to be a halloween poster. I love making halloween drawings (if you have spent any time at all looking at my illustrations you already know this) and I used to give an assignment at UArts to illustration majors to create a two-color halloween poster. So I decided to try it myself.
I spent the next morning with Sacha at the coffee shop working on sketches.
I found myself leaning toward a crazy little vampire kid yelling BOO! and a monster with its skeleton showing. I thought I’d try the two ideas out in Photoshop using two colors, multiplying the layers. I did these two sketches to see how the colors would look.
After consulting with the instructor I went with the vampire kid. I don’t have any ideas for words or type with the monster yet, and he’ll work better as one half of a series with a robot later anyway.
Last night was the second class. I got to work and cut out my stencils to create the color separations. The construction paper pieces were taped to acetate, and I registered the two separations by just placing one over the other and matching them up as closely as possible. The areas of concern are the teeth, mainly. It won’t be perfect but I like the off-register look anyway.
This is laying out the main three shapes to make sure they fit on the paper.
Here are the two separations. The green is on the left and the violet on the right.
Greg suggested printing the green layer first, as it would be more opaque than the violet. After the emulsion was dry on my screen, I burned the green separation, washed it out and let it dry.
The green on the photo here is just the unexposed emulsion.
Here is my screen drying happily with the other screens after washing out.
At this point it was 10:30pm and I was in a hurry to get the late bus back home. Next week I print. Stay tuned.