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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.