A lifetime ago I learned how to screenprint. Picture this: a high school in the foothills of California, mid-eighties. LOTS of jocks and aggies. And me, the moody teenager with ratty dyed black hair who adjusted her curriculum to slouch around the art department most of the day (Ah, J-Wing.) Algebra II and Biology be hanged! There were clay pots to throw, stones to be carved, photos to capture and develop, and a chaotic art room to explore. I quickly exhausted all basic activities on offer in that art room – I mean, really. Do I have to shade another sphere or cylinder?
My teacher sent me to the library. “Go do some research,” she said. “Tell me what you want to do and we’ll do it.”
I found a book on screenprinting.
Out from the cluttered art room closet came old wooden frames. I stretched my own screens, coated them with photo emulsion in the photography darkroom next door, and set them in the sunshine to expose. I printed the CRAP out of my ideas. I enjoyed the limitations imposed by the medium, I celebrated that visual punch you could achieve because of those limitations. It taught me how to show and tell with an economy of color, line, texture, detail. It was great fun and I’m forever grateful to my batty old art teacher for giving me free rein in her classroom.
I’ve been lucky enough to access really good screenprinting equipment over the last year. Grown-up, professional equipment: large-format printer for my acetates, an exposure box with vacuum hold-down and automatic timer shut-off, a backlit wash station, four-color carousel and one monster of a belt dryer. So after 20-some years, I get to screenprint again. What a wonderful excuse to design and print posters for all my charming, attractive and supremely talented musician friends! I love the physical act of printing. I love mixing my inks, I love pulling those inks and then lifting the screen to see the result. There’s a lot of swearing if my screen gets blocked or things get out of alignment, but oh. When it works I’m grinning ear to ear. Immensely satisfying.
I can’t find any of my old high school prints, but here’s a few recent posters I’ve done, from initial germ to final design.
And when I print, I look REALLY GOOD. I’m just sayin’.