I have a print show happening. There’s a great studio, gallery and music venue that’s housing a fair few of my screenprints for the next month, June 1st thru July 6th. Please check with The Tin House for details of hours, and join us for opening and closing receptions: next Thursday, June 9th, and Saturday, July 2nd. In the meantime, here’s a little something I wrote about the confusion behind it all… and as ever, you can also check more of ME out right here. I mean my work of course. Anyway:
What matters is the process.
Envelopes, napkins and the back of my right hand are often the initial recipients of my vague pictoric visions. The occasional worthy idea-seed is hurriedly scuffed in ballpoint on a legal pad — and usually ends up crushed at the bottom of my pocket.
I can do better than this! Where and how to make some sense of my stuttering imagination? To clarify, bolster and then set free that idea-seed, rather than have all these haphazard scraps gather dust in a drawer?
Screenprinting. Why YES.
I learned how to screenprint in high school. I stretched my own fabric over wooden frames, coated them with light-sensitive emulsion in the photography darkroom next door, and set them in the sunshine to expose. These days, I share a small studio with access to modern equipment. Despite fancy new exposure units and belt dryers, though, the physical act of printing remains the same: choosing the paper, burning the screens, getting everything aligned correctly and registered perfectly (this NEVER actually happens), mixing the inks, pulling those inks and then lifting the screen, propped with a roll of painter’s tape, to see the result. I am fascinated by the chaos involved in screenprinting – the misprints, the color variations, the blocked or blown out screens – it’s a new path forged every time to the final result. Individual variations always within each piece, each piece one-of-a-kind. Exhausting. But I’ve heard this can also be viewed as charming.
I do enjoy the physical limitations imposed by these hand-pulled, small-batch screenprints. There is a tipping point, you see, on how many colors before registration is a joke, on how detailed the screen before the details disappear, on how many times you can physically pull before your arms shake too much to administer steady, 45-degree-angle pressure. I find there is a visual punch you can achieve because of these limitations. It has taught me how to show and tell with an economy of color, line, and detail.
Mix this with growing up surrounded by art and music from the late 1960s and 70s. I went to those shows in San Francisco with my parents, a little grub in their arms. Or nestled in the coat check room at the Fillmore, so Mom and Dad could get to the front to see Janis… this all had an undeniable influence on me from year zero. Music was (is) my constant. I taught myself to read by inner sleeve lyric sheets, singing along to already-memorized tunes. I spent hours looking at album art and especially our collected posters and handbills from The Family Dog.
Because of this, I am forever smitten with The Concept Of The Poster. Designed to eye-catch, to entice, and to convey essential information, a poster can be the perfect balance between illustration, typography and rapid-fire storytelling. It’s a good puzzle, every time.
These posters are an icebreaker between my urge to tell visual stories, my need to make good on all the little crumbs of ideas I have laying around, and the challenge to have it all fit together in a way that makes sense to someone other than myself… through the medium of screenprinting.
All while enjoying the process.
“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product; the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork. Your job is to learn to work on your work… one of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.”
from Art and Fear, by David Bayles & Ted Orland