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*finishing* prints, part II.

December 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Anticipatory snapshot of the transparencies for the Industrial Trust Bldg prints.

sweet solid black transparencies!

(The postcard version, seen at upper right, is still un-finished…) These transparencies were made at Faces, which is a great graphic output place here in Prov; they can print transparencies that are solid black and perfectly aligned (unlike a photocopy or laser printout, where the blacks will always be slightly transparent and the image will always be a little distorted). With the small detail and close tolerances of this print, the fancy transparencies were totally worth it.

I printed the first color on the Industrial Trust Building prints, then took a break and did the second chapter of a screenprinting workshop for artist mentors at New Urban Arts. The awesome Emmy Bright (with squeegee below), who is a recent arrival in Providence and an Arts Mentoring Fellow at NUA, set it up, organized the logistical aspects, drove me (and prints) around town, fed me, and in general helped me out SO MUCH during the end of November/beginning of December! A million thanks!!!

At the workshop, we printed the postcard-sized skyscrapers on STICKER PAPER.

transparent blue…

We ran out of time, and since the plasticky sticker paper doesn’t absorb any ink, a hairdryer was pulled into action to get these dry enough to take home.

hairdrying the stickers

Here we are achieving some good eye-breaking-ness!! (plus awesome clouds via rainbow-roll experimentation.) I was pretty exhausted & running on pure will at this point; pushing hard to get the larger skyscraper prints done before the Craftland opening on December 5th. This session of printing fun stickers — in order to demonstrate alignment using a hinged plastic sheet — gave me confidence that the prints would look good, and got me psyched again about screenprinting’s magical ability to create images that people love.

One of the participants also said later that they were glad to get to print an image of mine, instead of a random thing that someone had just come up with as a demonstration… that it showed them the possibilities of what could be achieved. I know what that feeling is like from the learning side of things — when seeing an example of work in a new medium, you want to be inspired by awesomeness, kicked in the pants to get out there & make more awesomeness yourself. It’s eye-opening to me to realize that my work can play that role in people’s lives… I am flattered and touched and it’s super meaningful. Thank you, Sarah, Jadrian, and Emmy, for being part of this night! and also for having patience with my sleep-deprived wackiness.

Watch out for these guys around town, your eyes might get broken.

crazy stickers.

From here on out it was a race to the finish line, another day and a half of nonstop printing.

Born of necessity, innovation:

drywall screw handle

A drywall screw driven into the side of the screen frame, with paper rolled & taped around it, allows you to easily lift up a screen that is smaller than your printing table, and/or that can’t be positioned so an edge sticks off the table for easy grabbin’. The paper roll rotates around the screw, so you can handle it to move the screen up and down over and over again without wearing your skin off.

screen handle closeup

Printing prison…

moving along…

I offered myself the possibility that I could stop printing these in the middle of the run, if I got totally exhausted. I decided not to — my track record with finishing interrupted print runs is not good — it’s generally taken me a year or more to complete them. So, even when I was totally beat, in the early morning of a sleepless night before the deadline for which I only really needed 50 or so prints, a couple more hours of pushing through the run looked a lot better than a year of an unfinished project hanging over my head. So, there are now 345 of these! in 5 different colorways. Man oh man.

After going through the process of mixing the transparent shadows for the Durruti prints, I had a real sense of competence with the transparent colors here, and got psyched about being super picky. This is the moment of the final color decision for the blue shadow on the gray-sky skyscraper (with rejected color variants lying below):

looking at transparent colors again…

Cutting the ‘tails’ off at Jim’s shop, with the giant guillotine:

two-handed guillotine

Emmy, still rocking hard as the “print caddy”, dropped me and prints off at Craftland…

safely delivered to Craftland…

… and I sat down and put the barcode labels on them just as Alec Thibodeau was beginning to hang the ‘print wall’.

hanging it up.

I think I have accepted the fact that I live almost my entire life in the realm of the “Just In Time”. I could beat myself up about this under-the-wire, deadline-focused scenario every time that it happens… which is pretty often… but really I’d rather just be psyched about what I do get done, apologize & offer beautiful prints to the people who get inconvenienced, & keep going.

I-195 bridge over the providence river

imagined neighborhoods

November 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm

After the precise-alignment-style process of printing the Polish Home prints (and after resting for a day to catch up on sleep!) it was super fun to make some more of these big messy prints:

“neighborhood” prints

I made this drawing in 2006 maybe? and have been printing them up every so often. It’s a theoretical Providence (or New England for that matter) neighborhood, with triple-deckers mixed in among industrial buildings. They are fast & loose to print, and offer me a good chance for color experimentation. I really really like the color combinations that are on this batch; there are some good rainbow-roll gradients: red/brown & silver, purple/blue & pink, green/blue & light green (plus variations on & remixes of the above).

The brown kraft paper reflects the light in interesting ways and sets off the bright inks: there are lots of opportunities for similar / different value contrasts. It’s hard to do precise alignment on it, though — it’s thin & uneven, and distorts when the ink dries (I’ve worn the skin off my fingertips doing a long run of attemptedly-precise prints on kraft paper, sticking down every print to the spray glue on the table, trying to smooth out the wrinkles!) — so it’s great for something like this where the imprecise alignment of the two color layers is part of what makes it awesome.

close up…

I printed them last night, biked them down to Craftland today!

Oh yeah, blatant self-promotion! These little neighborhood prints, along with other work of mine, are for sale at the Craftland shop downtown, among many very brightly colored and poppy objects. I’m working right now on some new stuff & some re-prints that will be there for the holiday-season epic Craftland sale extravaganza…

Here’s their banner, featuring a slightly-creepy-and-submissive-but-charming-as-always Jen Corace girl…!

craftland sale…

some moments from printing

November 15, 2009 at 7:29 am

All right, the prints are signed, numbered, and packed up, the screens are stripped and ready to go down to the car wash, so let’s close up this process.

Color mixing: comparing semi-dry swatches. (in the background are some alignment prints of the Liberation banner that I helped Erik Ruin print this summer in Providence, still lingering on my plastic alignment sheet!)

mixing colors…

Ink color attempts. Over the phone I told Meg I was mixing colors, she said, “mmm, I can see you surrounded by muted greens and blues, rusty reds & oranges…” My response: “NOOooooooo! Am I that predictable????” Answer: YES. (and yes, I’ve been thinking hard about this…)


MORE color mixing. Getting closer. The blue-blue-green gradient will be the sky. Figuring out the colors takes about a day, usually, and it’s worth it to have the time to look at them, think about it, & look again…

more color mixing

The first pull! Look at that nice gradient. (All these images are enlargeable by clicking, and generally look better larger!)

first print!

A detail: I have drawn a pencil rectangle to lay out where I want the print to fall on the paper; then I tape down some masking tape at the corners of the paper, which lets me put the sheet down in the same place over & over again.

first color detail

The first & second colors are printed, and I’m looking at them with the third color transparency over them, thinking about the values of the next colors, the light orange/brown and the darker red…

more color comparison…

I had mixed this brightish salmon-pinkish-orange (seen in the swatch above) for the third color, which is a color that I have mixed and used so many times before: it is kind of the closest the speedball inks that I use can get to a “brick” orange… but it’s way too pink. It’s useful, maybe, in the context of a lot of bright colors… but in this context, trying to represent real bricks, I have never been happy with it.

Andrew O was hanging out while I was setting up to print the third color, and I found myself saying to him, “Man, I really really hate this color, I’m so bored with it, and it’s not even good looking…” After he left, I started printing with it, got through 14 prints… and realized it was just not right. I decided to start over & make a different color. The new color, with a lighter value and a less saturated red/orange component, is at right below (though somewhat hard to see in the poorly-lit digital photo). Luckily I had enough extra prints that I could afford to lose 14, since the lighter / less saturated color was so much better: totally worth the loss in time & the extra work that it took to re-mix it. Follow your instincts & change it till it’s right!

color decision…

From stack to drying rack…

printing the third color…

The third color.

color #3, the bricks

At this point it was pretty late at night, and the morning deadline was unavoidable, so I stopped taking pictures & just plowed through the work. In super-focus zone for the last two colors, I was racing the clock & my own speeds to see how many prints I could pull in an hour, or how long it took me to fill up all the shelves of the drying rack. 64 pulls: 52 minutes. Bzzam. Kind of brutal and obsessive, but a decent way to get yourself through a long night / morning, and even to shorten the time you are spending on the work… Jacob & I were discussing repetitive stress injuries, and this phrase came up and stuck with me: a terrible factory of my own devising.

The completed print.

Polish National Home!

A detail: I’m pretty psyched about the different textures in the trees and in the ground, and the layering of the lines in the two brick colors. And those halftones turned out pretty nice too…


So yeah, the take-home handout for today’s lesson:

  1. if you don’t feel like something’s right, work on it till it is
  2. don’t be scared of difficult stuff
  3. don’t procrastinate just because you’re scared of it
  4. the messy parts turn out the best, don’t be scared of them either!
  5. if you work on it, it will get done eventually…
  6. sometimes you just have to buckle down & finish.

Time for bed!

split fountain, double sided

April 5, 2009 at 3:50 am

I know that sounds like a really good ice cream sundae: however I’ll leave it up to Scott and/or Jacob to describe what kinds of flavors & toppings something with that name would have, and instead talk screenprinting tech. Yeah!

This is something I designed and printed very swiftly the week before last: a going-away-party invitation for my friends. The sparkly/shiny blue paper stock that I got from Jim at Black Cat as a cut-off scrap dictated the size of the card, and I quickly decided that to take advantage of the many possibilities of the iridescent light blue, I would print on both sides of the paper.

rainbow roll cards
[The sweet illustrations, by one J. Neumeister, are lifted from a 1960 French-learning phrasebook.]

However, this being a last-minute project with an immediate deadline, I had to print these very quickly: which meant finding a way to not have to do four pulls for each card. Here’s the method I came up with, basically printing the front and back at the same time, onto the two separate pieces of paper that are set up next to each other into a taped-down border (as you can see below).

tape border

I printed half the fronts and backs in the first color, then took the ones I had printed that were already dry, flipped them (carefully making sure they were lined up right), and printed the other half of fronts-and-backs in the first color. After a break, I set up the screen again with the second color: which was a sweet “rainbow roll” / “split fountain” / “bokashi” or whatever technical term you like*: it’s a gradient of different ink colors blending into each other. (In this case, utilized mostly because it would be pretty and make people say, “Ooooh!”). Again, I printed half the fronts and backs in the second color, flipped them, and then printed the other half. Done!

Here’s the whole setup:

rainbow roll setup!

You can see the graded-color ink sitting in the screen at the top, the two lined-up cards that have just been printed, the squeegee with the gradient of ink on it at the bottom, the one-color-printed cards at the left, ready for their second color, and (faintly) the open areas in the lower part of the screen through which I printed the pink first color. And yes, Robin, I’m still using your screen… a year and a half later? The mesh still washes out almost completely clear, and it works great — thank you!

* I don’t like any of them. More specifically, I don’t like “rainbow roll” (it feels like it should only apply to prints about which one could say, “whoa man::: psychedelic!!”) “Split fountain” is a term from offset printing and doesn’t necessarily describe this kind of smooth gradient. “Bokashi” is a term from Japanese woodblock printing and is technically a layer of ink applied to the block in a gradated thickness, not two different colors of ink blending into each other. What I usually do with ‘rainbow rolls’ has a more atmospheric effect, like bokashi, but using a Japanese word feels opaque, jargon-y, and on the uneasy edge of cultural co-option. So… rainbow roll it is, I guess. . . . Psychedelic!

[The slightly sassy tone of this update is brought to you by my feelings of bummed-out-ness this evening… which I am trying to combat by putting pictures of shiny things on the internet.]

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