Adventures in Screen Printing, Etc.

Love Poem Print

Love Poem Print. 12.5″ x 19″. Open edition on French Paper 80# Starch Rain Cover Stock

Last week I had my first successful print come out of my very own studio by my very own hands. It isn’t the finest print anyone has ever made, but it’s an important milestone for me. Now that I feel a little more comfortable with my process I am more confident about future prints and investing more funds into ink and paper. Also, you can buy your own copy now.

This particular design was out of practicality. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I have other designs that incorporate this poem that I wrote. This design came out of the fact that I had 100 sheets of this paper left over from a print that didn’t work out and I wanted to print something on it. It may be difficult to discern on your screen, but the actual paper has a slight blue tint to it. So this got a layer of white behind the larger letters so that the smaller print would really pop.

And as simple as this design is, it was kind of a pain to prep for print. The first stencil (the white background) ended up being black paper that I cut to size as I don’t have any Rubylith. The second stencil (the red) ended up being nine different pieces all spliced and taped together. Each of the larger letters has two copies doubled up to ensure light doesn’t get through them, and I cut a thin surrounding border to hold them all together and ensure the sides were straight and the corners square. It took quite a bit of trial and error.

Love Poem Film Positive

Love Poem film positive for exposure. Red stencil (left) and white stencil (right).

If I could get to a point that I was using oiled up paper or vellum I could get larger stencils. I could also pay for film positive services, but the larger stencils add up real quick, especially with multiple colors. The reason I don’t use vellum or oiled paper yet is because even with three 500 watt halogen lights my exposure time is 30 minutes with transparencies. Less translucent material takes even longer. I’m almost out of my initial quart of photo emulsion, so once that is gone I’ll reevaluate.

In other news…

While I was out in California, two nights in a row I had a dream that I was sleeping exactly where I was actually sleeping, but instead of pulling a blanket over myself I pulled at a canvas painting torn from itsĀ frame. The dream painting looked a lot like this:

Strawberry Rose design

Strawberry Rose

I don’t know what it means and I guess dreams don’t have to mean anything, but I’ve never dreamt about a piece of art that was so specific, and certainly never two nights in a row, It was something like an illustrated image of a rose on a graham cracker, with the top dipped in strawberry yogurt. In a way I feel I owe it to myself to create this thing, but on the other hand making this kind of art is a bit scary. I could put in several hours printing it and spend a not small amount of money on paper and ink, but do people want to buy abstract art that came to me in a dream? I don’t know. At first I thought I’d do a large print at 18 x 24 inches. Then I thought I’d play it safe and just do a small print at 9 x 12 inches. The design above is scaled down from 12 x 18 inches. Making art on speculation is always a risk, but sometimes it’s better than working for clients. I was excited enough about it that I started my first draft of the rose on my plane ride home. During printing I’m going to experiment with the ink and try to get unique streaks of white and red in each print so each one is that much more different than the rest.

In fact, while day dreaming, a second image came to mind:

Scorpion draft

Scorpion illustration draft

The concept for a “chocolate” variation came into mind and I drew this scorpion. Initially I thought in this version the dipped part would be on the lower part of the print. The scorpion’s claws are modeled such that the large portion of the claw mirrors the shape and layout of the rose’s leaves, but upside down. I don’t know if I’ll continue with this theme or not, but if I do I’ll redraw the scorpion. It isn’t the worst scorpion, but I feel I can do better.

Back to California. A week or two after I quit my job I was extended a generous offer by The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat. They were looking to bring in someone for their shipping department and know that I have experience in that and that I’m trying to make it as an artist. They are kind of living the life I dream of, working for themselves and making their own art. It was a very tempting offer. There were lots of pros and cons to consider, but when I got back home I found the thing I was focused on more than anything was screen printing. There wasn’t really a feasible situation in which I could take all my equipment with me or setup a new studio out there. The problem with screen printing is that it takes up a lot of space and one of the problems with the L.A. area is that space is expensive. I found one screen printing co-op, but their dues were $350/mo, compared to the previous co-op I was part of in Chicago that was $300/yr.

Matt and Kim (MM & FM) shared with me a number of their experiences about starting from nothing and building their business. Two of theĀ main points were: 1) Focus your available hours on the one thing you want to do and 2) Get to a city and be part of an art community. Both are a bit challenging for me, but I see the value. I lived in Chicago for two years and had mixed feelings about it. It often felt claustrophobic to me, but L.A. didn’t really have that feel (it’s more sprawling and adjacent to beaches and mountains) so maybe every city is different. So moving isn’t off the table, it’s just that moving is off the table for the next three to six months. I might go visit in Minneapolis and maybe Austin or Denton, Texas and see how I feel about those places.

More news to follow soon. I’ve got another guitar playing robot in the works and currently I’m smack in the middle of a scheme to purchase 39 industrial blueprint flat file cabinets. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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