Today, she’s giving us a lesson in screenprinting. Once you learn what it’s about, take a trip around the city to find the perfect screenprinted piece for your home or office!
So Clare, what’s screenprinting anyway? And how’s it different from other forms of art?
Screenprinting is a form of printmaking–an art form traditionally focused on creating multiple images from the same source (such as a metal plate or silkscreen). Rather than draw an image directly on paper, a hand pulled print is created through an indirect transfer process.
Screenprinting is a form of stenciling. It emerged from commercial printing and became more popular as an art medium in the 1960’s due to the Pop artists, who liked its strong areas of flat color. Screenprinting, a refined method of printmaking, has a widespread appeal – it uses water-based materials and is safe and easy to use once you learn the basic techniques. The inks can be applied to all sorts of materials such as wood, canvas, metal, or plastic.
So how’s it made?
Although there are simpler methods, most screen printers I know use the photo emulsion method which allows for excellent detail and multiple print impressions. According to this method, you need a screen prepared with light sensitive coating (photo emulsion), a film positive (a printed transparency) and a light source that will allow you to transfer the image on your transparency to the light-sensitive screen you’ve prepared. Then one or more layers of ink are manually pressed or “squeegeed” through the open areas of the screen onto the paper.
To use this method, I highly recommend taking a class to familiarize yourself with the technique before branching out on your own. However if you want to print at home using a relatively simple method such as liquidscreen filler or stencil, I recommend purchasing a basic Speedball ScreenPrinting kit available at local art stores. That has the directions you need to get started.
How do I choose a great print?
There is some difference of opinion among screenprinting artists as to what makes a good print. Some admire work that contains many visible layers, and they count each and label the final print accordingly, i.e. “Screenprint with 24 colors”. Others prefer a looser, more painterly approach still involving layers, but some of them might be sanded or even painted over and reprinted, or combined with other media, such as painting or even sewing. Others prefer a flatter, more poster-like feel, which is what many people associate with this art form. Some artists will print an edition, or a set of prints that appear almost identical, while others prefer completing a one-of-a-kind piece.
When I look at screenprints, I look for craftsmanship, color choices and expressiveness. Having come from a painting background, I prefer more subtlety and surface texture, but I also appreciate that a “flat” screenprint can be powerful and direct. It’s a matter of preference, but I would say if you’re pulled into the print, or you can see different things each time you view it, it would be a good fit for you and your living room.
Where would I purchase them?
Examples can be seen at Washington Printmakers Gallery, in Georgetown as well as Old Print Gallery, Jane Haslem Gallery and other DC galleries may show screenprints or have them in their flat files—just call and ask!