Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back in the old days of silk screen...

Sometimes it was called serigraph... sometimes silk screen... but I always called it fun!  I showed you one silk screen that I did in a recent blog post, and thought I would tell you a little bit about the process I used.
Here's a detail of "The Craftsman".

I used several methods when I worked in silk screen.  The basic silk screen process involves a fabric 'screen' that has some kind of 'block out' medium applied to it and paint that is then forced through the fabric in the 'non-blocked' areas to a piece of paper placed underneath the screen.  When this process is used, you need to have a block out medium that will not be dissolved by your paint.  In other words, using a solvent soluble block out medium with a water based paint would work.  Also, using a water based block out with an oil based paint, works.  Mixing different solvents works, too.  Lacquer based block out mediums work with oil based inks that are washed away with thinner.

Clear as mud?

Well, maybe if I tell you what I did here...

All of these little lines were cut into a lacquer film using a cutter with a small circular blade.  Larger solid black areas were carefully removed by cutting around them with a straight blade.  Basically, I was drawing on a piece of film with a blade.  The film was then placed beneath the screen and I began to carefully work the lacquer thinner over the entire screen in order to disolve the film slightly and attach it to the screen. 

Very carefully!  Because a "heavy hand" would result in the fine line details being completely destroyed.

Once the film was attached to the fabric screen, then the printing could begin.  Due to the fragile nature of the screen, not a lot of images could be made.  Once the edition had been printed, I washed the ink off the screen and then removed the film with lacquer thinner.

I was fond of this process because I could achieve a line quality similar to my drawings.  This particular screen print was based on an original pen and ink drawing that I did.

Since the line quality is so strong in this method, it was easy to convey emotion.

also done from an original pen and ink drawing

done from a sketch created specifically
for this silk screen edition

I enjoyed the versatility of silk screen so I explored several different screen printing techniques.  There was just one little drawback to working in this medium:  the chemicals were toxic.  When I found that I was pregnant with my daughter, I put aside the solvents and thinners and devoted my creative energies to less toxic endeavors.
Exploring different media has always been something I like to do.  How about you?  Do you like to try something new, too?   What have you explored recently?
Happy creating!


  1. Yes, I do!
    Lately, I've been playing with my dyes and silk scarves.
    I attended a "sweater chop shop" and have been accumulating sweaters and ideas. I look forward to actually making something!

  2. cutting the different areas sounds very pain-staking! It's truly amazing, the work you can accomplish! I've changed from beads to paper, and now I'm experimenting with different mediums on paper!

  3. What an interesting process! I can't imagine cutting those fine designs into a film.

  4. story - It did take a long time and the lacquer film was very unforgiving. It was so similar to drawing, though, that I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing more of your lovely new creations!

    Judy - The cutting tool has a tiny circular blade designed to cut a smooth line. The trick was not to cut too deep or too shallow into the film.

  5. these images are striking.
    i've dabble in silk screen. I'd love to be able to do it more, but i simply don't have the space or money to do so.

  6. Thanks, Nicole! When I did silk screen, I saved quite a bit of money by making my own screens. Most of my artwork isn't really big either, which also saved me a bit. Hope you get to play with some printmaking again sometime!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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