Summertime Blues

Silo Print Design Five

Duties. Derelict. You get it. Apologies for the lack of updates. Here’s what’s been going on.

Above is a brand new design for a print. Or rather, a design in progress. More on that later. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first and maybe put my summertime blues to rest.

Serenity Now!: Screen Frustrations

Poorly exposed screen

Poor exposure, etc.

Remember the exposure unit I built in my last post? The good news is that it’s up and running and shining UVA rays where I want. The bad news is that I have only burned one good screen since I’ve had it (which I’ve since reclaimed without printing).

Had I known the difficulties in getting a print studio up and running I might not have gotten started in the first place and I suppose that’s a good thing. We shouldn’t be discouraged by things just because they are difficult and just because the last two obscenity laden weeks have been difficult doesn’t mean I should quit now.

There are tons of factors that go into coating, curing, and exposing a screen. Temperature, humidity, safe lights, dust and dirt, mesh count, mesh color, light source, emulsion, exposure time. I’m probably forgetting a few off the top of my head. If you change any one of these factors, you have to make adjustments to others (some are constants; dust and dirt are always bad). I changed my light source so I absolutely had to change my exposure time. What snuck up on me was how much the humidity increased in my basement since February. Right now I’m half an hour away from starting my third step test.

Some of the fine folks at pointed out that I haven’t been coating my screens evenly. I also decided to give a new emulsion a try. Now I’m using fewer coats of a new emulsion, on a new light source, and it’s taking some time to dial it all in. Today I went and picked up a 70 pint dehumidifier and it looks like I’ve got the humidity in the screen room down to 40% from 80%. Hopefully that will avoid more of this:

Emulsion reactivated by humidity

Emulsion reactivated by humidity

When I coat my screens and lay them flat to dry I turn on a heater with a blower. Screens are supposed to dry a minimum of 4 hours preferably at 40% humidity or so. If the humidity is higher a fan (or in my case a heater with blower) can help combat that a bit. What i didn’t realize, is that you can’t just let them dry for 4 hours and then let the humidity back in. If they aren’t exposed and the humidity is allowed to rise it becomes wet again and starts to drip. I’d never seen this happen before, but I’d also never left screens in a room at 80% humidity.

And since I had to switch all this stuff around anyway, I also decided to try a new emulsion. Now I’m using Ulano QT-Discharge. Already I’m wondering if I should have gone with QTX (a presensitized emulsion), but QT-Discharge is supposed to stand up to waterbased inks better. We’ll see. How about some good stuff?

Razor Print

Razor blade print design

Razor blade design for 2-color screen print

Sometimes I just enjoy large images of a single object. I could wax poetic about symbolism and stuff, but I won’t. In this version most of the ink is black with a silver ink layer underneath some halftones for the razor blade. Small text at the very bottom reads:

Some guy was trying to sell razor blade shaped wall mirrors. At first I thought it was kind of cool, kind of punk. It’s not. It’s bourgeois yuppie bullshit. Punk is going into some poseur’s house and shattering his razor blade mirror with your fist. I guess punk is dead, but what isn’t?

I’ve changed the text a bit here and there. Haven’t decided if I want to print the image with it or not. I’ve never really been punk. I’ve listened to the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedy’s, but the punk scene was never me. Still there are aesthetics about it that I like, and that’s what prompted this print. The question is does a work of art about “bourgeois yuppie bullshit” become bourgeois yuppie bullshit? Maybe. Most definitely if you’re the kind of person that can’t go a day without using the word “bourgeois”. I further toyed with the idea of printing it without the faux creases in the black, and then crumpling up each and every print so that if you want it you have to accept that it’s been crumpled up. I’m not sure if I’m bold enough to do that. I did a test crumple with some printed stock and didn’t like how it turned out. The ink is thick enough that it doesn’t make the creases break through the surface much. Maybe if I were a more bold and shocking artist I’d do it anyway. I kind of like the idea of “damage proof” art because it’s already been purposefully damaged. And maybe if I were more punk I’d mix some of my blood and urine into the ink. What do you think?

And for kicks, here is a super early version of the design:

Early razor print design

Early razor blade print design


Feel It (With your heart, in your guts, and deep inside your bones)

Skeleton with heart and guts

Initial design for 4-color screen print. 18 x 24 inches.

This is a design I’ve been playing with on and off. Mostly I wanted an excuse to do a skeleton, though not much of the skull is visible here. The tentative title was something like: Feel It (With your heart, in your guts, and deep inside your bones). A long title to be sure, but it kind of conveys the artist’s thinking without need for interpretation, which is to say that I don’t go with my gut feeling as often as maybe I should.

Some thoughts:

  • I don’t like the way the guts look. I’ve drawn them three times and I’m still not happy. I had some white reflections in there at one point and they didn’t look right either.
  • Concerns arose about the red and blue background. Maybe it’s too evocative of the Grateful Dead.

Some other versions:

Skeleton with heart design

Design for 3-color screen print. 18 x 24 inches.

Here I just ditched the guts and turned the background red. The bonus here is that this is one less color to print as the intestines were pink (with red and black outlines). The downside is that the pelvis is now really devoid of shading (since I knew it was going to be covered by intestines originally).

Skeleton alone print design

Design for 3-color skeleton screen print. 18 x 24 inches.

In this final iteration I thought metallic inks would be cool. Have I mentioned that I have not yet printed metallic inks? It will be something to try once I get the screens exposing properly. Imagine the yellow is metallic gold and the gray is metallic silver. I quickly and crudely threw in some black dots into the pelvis, confirming that it looks better this way than blank, but still needs some cleaning up.

Silo Print

Silo on the Morton farm, October 2015.

Silo on the Morton farm, October 2015.

Last October I took a whole bunch of pictures at sunrise while at my parents’ farm. This picture of the silo was one of them. I quite liked it and started playing around with ways I might print it.

The first attempt was making a four color process separation.

4-color process test

4-color process separation simulation with halftones.

It has an interesting look despite not quite taking on the correct colors, but wasn’t quite what I was looking to make. I will try 4-color process at some point, but most of the time I’d rather not. I feel like if the point was to replicate a photograph I would use a different method of printing.

After some toying around I came up with these four different versions:

Four silo print designs

Four designs for a silo screen print

Version 1: The easiest of the four. Four colors with the silo and sky colors overprinted on the roof to make a fifth color.

Version 2: About as easy to print as the first, the only difference being the sky has a hand drawn cross hatched gradient turning into white at the bottom.

Version 3: Trickier to print. The sky is a split fountain color, blue fading into white. This means I have to turn the screen horizontally to print that color and have a squeegee that is at least 23″ long (which I do not have).

Version 4. Same as the third version, but with the sky a brighter blue fading into a lighter blue.

And I liked all of those versions to some degree until I made some changes.

Silo Print Design Five

Design for screen print. 5-colors at least.

In this version I changed two major things. The sky is a hand drawn gradient, but instead of cross hatching with one color of blue, I’ve used hand drawn dots for with two colors of blue fading into white. This means printing an additional color, but also means that I don’t have to buy a new squeegee (which isn’t to say I wouldn’t like another squeegee, I’m just trying to use what I can). The second major thing was the addition of some shadows on the left side of the silo. Ideally they would get printed red and then overprinted with the silo color to take on a lighter rusty/shadow color.

Thoughts on this so far:

  • The barn needs some hand drawn barn siding. These got lost due to the method I used to separate my colors. I used a combination of Photoshop filters and splitting channels from a CMYK version of the photo, despite not using CMYK to print this image. If you compare any of the designs to the original photo, you’ll notice I also increased the size of the barn and removed the tree.
  • I’m nervous about printing this as is. A small black border all the way around would give me a little breathing room in lining up my colors when printing, but I prefer how it looks without a border. Maybe it will just be good practice. Maybe I need to find a new method of registration, but five colors is more than I have printed before and I’d like it look spiffy when it’s done.
  • In order to keep this at five colors I’ve got to get one color of blue to mix with the cream silo color (and maybe the red) to get an acceptable color for the roof. I’m not sure how to test all these things, but I’ll try to play around with some ink on paper.
  • Originally I had some text at the very bottom with an anecdote about climbing the silo as a child. Haven’t decided if I will print it or leave it off and maybe write it by hand on some copies when I number and sign the prints.

And there you have it. That’s some of what I’ve been up to the last three weeks. If I remember to update this more frequently each entry won’t be a novel. I’m still job hunting and hope to find something soon. I’m still torn between abandoning my studio to live elsewhere or trying to find work in the area. Maybe I’ll let that be determined when I have an offer for employment.

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