Process: it’s all a process

Today I’m writing about the process of a project I’ve been working on for a while, specifically a screen print. I don’t think it’s a completed project, but there’s something there. I’m putting it away for the time being. I’ll let it simmer in the back of my head and see if any lightbulbs go off.

I had the idea for this print in fall of last year. The idea was inspired by a print that’s been hanging in my bedroom(s) for maybe 8 years now — this “Avenge Me Blockhead!” print by the Little Friends of Printmaking. I didn’t know it when I bought it online, but there’s tons of underprinting that make it really interesting — there’s bones in the grave, and Charlie Brown has a skull, and the plane has a skull, and the Snoopy ghost is holding a knife. I think I glanced at the print on an angle one day, and my mind was blown by what I saw. It was like finding a pirate’s treasure, and it stuck with me.

So I wanted to play around with some anatomy-type underprinting (I like drawing skulls and skeletons anyway), and I had the idea of a prancing dog where you can see “inside” to his gold heart. The process began with sketches — and obviously the dog is based off of my dog Miguel. I researched greyhound skeletons on the internet — excuse me, greyhound skeletal structures. Googling “greyhound skeleton” brought up too much sadness (thanks, greyhound racing).

ANYWAY. Sketches. I tried different angles of the head, trying to accommodate the beard.


Once I had some sketches I was happy with, I scanned them and worked with them in Photoshop, turning the lines into shapes and using my tablet when needed. I used a combination of transparency and the multiply effect to try to simulate what I would get in the layers of printing. Once I was done in Photoshop, I had something like this, which is four layers — hearts, skeleton, under-hair, and over-hair/skin:

digital sketch

I knew this art was still kind of rough, but its main goal was to give me something to test the general idea with. It fit on 8.5 x 11 sheets, so I just started printing it on random paper and pieces of vellum I had. The hearts and skeleton layers were printed opaque, while the two hair layers had some transparent base mixed into the ink. Here are some of the results of the tests:

first round of test prints

So I thought the tests were interesting and the idea worth pursuing. I didn’t like the scribbly line beard and I wasn’t totally sure about the hair underlayer (I’m still not, actually). I reworked the art, this time for 12.5 x 19 sheets — I knew from the beginning I wanted it to be this size. I played with some halftones, different lines — I really tried a lot of things. This is what I ended up with for the second round of tests:

round 2 of tests

I decided from the first round of tests I’d pursue a bright color palette. I’d gotten some fluorescent pigments and mixed some fun colors. I liked where this round of tests was going, but I still wasn’t sure about the beard, or the under-hair layer. I did like the colors on the white paper (French’s Whip Cream) and nixed the idea of colored paper. I modified the art some more, and here is where it’s at for now:

screen prints

While it doesn’t feel finished, like a finished piece, I do like what’s happening with all of the layers, which was what the whole idea was based around. I am sort of missing the under-hair layer in these, and I think if it’s the right color, it won’t be too distracting, which was my fear previously. I love the colors.

I also had some issues printing this run, even though previous test runs had no problems. The first three colors went down just fine, but the last blue layer gave me some trouble. One issue I think was that I didn’t have enough adhesive on the table to keep the paper down, and there was a lot of ink in this layer. Another issue was that possibly the ink was too thin, or the screen needed a little cardboard lift under it, because I got a ghost of the image in certain areas, even if I wiped the screen down with each print. It’s a mystery. I’ll have to ask around about that.

screen print

colors one, two, and three

So I think for now I will set these aside and see what happens. I’ve been feeling lately like delving into a longer-term project of some kind, instead of the one-offs I’ve been working on in the last few months. I’ve been craving cohesiveness and direction, I suppose — something to channel the energy and ideas I’ve had lately and to work more confidently within. It’s a process.

Inventing kits at Arts & Scraps

arts & scraps warehouse

On Mondays in January, February, and March this year, I spent a couple of hours in the warehouse of Arts & Scraps, working with and thinking about their materials. Arts & Scraps is a non-profit in Detroit that takes donated/recycled industrial and craft materials and uses those materials to create kits and projects for kids. One use of these kits is in schools (they are available outside of school, too), which is cool because these kinds of activities are getting cut out of the school day for many kids.

I worked on this volunteer project with Barbro, an artist and product designer from Germany who was in Detroit on a residency and looking for something like a job but not a job. Barbro had the project lined up with A&S before her arrival, and I just happened to get in touch with A&S about volunteering at the same time.

Barbro & I in the warehouse

We made samples of existing kits and created new kits based on themes, using the materials from the warehouse. It was fun to wander around the warehouse, which is filled with boxes and boxes and boxes of just stuff, picking up materials, and thinking about how they can be used. We had to keep in mind that the projects have to cover many age groups, have to also be appealing to adults, and that the main goal is not the end product but the experience of creating and challenging kids to think. A lot of the materials are grey and black, so it was a challenge sometimes to work in color. The kits also should be self-sufficient, and come together without the use of glue, tape, etc. (many of the pieces have a sticky side).

Some of my favorite new kits that I came up with were this raincloud kit, for an off-site project under the theme of “spring”:
raincloud kit

And this picnic kit, for an off-site project under the theme of “summer”:
picnic kit

And this racing bird, for a kit under the theme “something that flies” and/or “something that is fast”:
racing bird kit

It was a fun project, and it was great to get to work with some different materials be design-challenged in ways I’m not challenged in my day-to-day work. Our work there is a good example of “creativity within constraints.”

Birthday books & inspiration

birthday books

I bought some books recently as a birthday gift to myself. Most are used, but some are too new to be used. Three are screen printing-related (one hasn’t arrived yet), one is a lovely book about making paper flowers, and the other is a writing style guide.

I’ve been looking at more things out in the wild (which I guess I mean, not on the internet), and I wondered what it would be like if I limited my visual inspiration to things I see in real-life — like in books, museums, galleries, spaces, places, and just out & about…

More drawings of my dog Miguel from the year 2013, compiled into a zine

drawings of miguel zine #2
Last summer, I compiled the first six month’s worth of drawings of my dog Miguel into a zine, and I just finished putting together the year’s second half into another zine. (Both are available in my Etsy shop.)

I really like archiving them in this way, setting them aside from all of the other drawings I make. Miguel-related drawings have become a base of a body of work for me. It’s a personal indulgence, something that’s fun for me, and something I might develop further.

For 2014′s drawings of Miguel, I decided to have a movie theme, and draw Miguel in scenes of the movies I watch this year. I am watching more movies and keeping track of them because of the challenge (read 50 books and watch 50 movies). I got excited about the idea of drawing Miguel as Rocky (and Redman — Miguel’s sidekick — as Mickey), and decided that would be the Miguel-drawings-zine theme for 2014.

Monthly Reports: March 2014

Movies watched: Anchorman 2.5; Thriller — a 3-hour documentary V. made about his brother; Alien vs. Predator; the first 10 minutes of Alien vs. Predator 2 — it was too terrible to go any further; Predators; Rocky; Rocky II; Rocky III; Rocky “mostly just montages” IV

Books read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; Introducing Screen Printing by Anthony Kinsey; The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown; Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin

Other stuff I saw: “What is Stroker? – Irving Stettner” at Trinosophes; “Desaturated: Abstract Black and White” at 1480 Gratiot Gallery (favorite: Davin Brainard‘s paintings); “Bright Spot on a Cloudy Day” at Ocelot Print Shop; “Per Mr. Handy” by Juliet Hinely & “Holding Still” by Ann Bartges at the Jam Handy; “Cranbrook Scholarship Exhibit” at Detroit Artist’s Market (favorite: Simone Schiffmacher); “Recent Yale MFA Grads” at N’namdi Gallery (favorites: Caroline Wells Chandler and Mark Thomas Gibson); “We Need More ___!” by Cedric Tai at Re:View Gallery

State of the Running: Still running, practicing the 5K. All this time I’d been using a GPS-based app, which it turns out was giving me inaccurate info on my distances and times. I switched to the Nike+ app, which tracks based on body movements, and now know I’m running (and have been running) 5Ks in about 32 to 34 minutes. I’ll probably hover around there until I start running longer distances and/or more times per week. For now I want to focus on running the 5K and getting to a point where it feels a little bit easier.

Personal sewing projects completed: I finished my spring jacket, which was my goal for this month. To be photo’d soon! I’m not sure what I’ve been doing, but I feel behind on everything!

Travel: For my birthday weekend (the 29th – 30th), V. took us to Niagara Falls (Canadian side), which neither of us had been to before. We saw the falls in a wintry state, which was pretty, and ate vegan food at Rise Above in St. Catherines.

Other notable things: I gathered my drawings from the last half of last year and put together a zine, “Drawings of Miguel: July — December 2013″ (available soon); I ate delicious food at Neehee’s; I completed a volunteer project with Arts & Scraps — hope to write that up soon.