Screenprinting weekend

Last weekend was spent in the printmaking studio of Ian Brown, local artist and teacher ( The studio is small but excellently equipped and it was great to work really hard six hours a day, for two days. It’s difficult to keep up those habits in my own studio when life is so full of distraction, but I always find that booking a course is great for encouraging focus and physical involvement in the work.

I chose to do screenprinting because I haven’t done any since college – sadly that was decades ago. The process was less sophisticated then and the way it was taught to me didn’t suit my ways of working. I specialised in etching and lithography, and left screenprinting alone, but lately thought it would be good to try again and see how I might be able to use it. The print I made was quite carefully pre-planned, not my usual practice, and the positives for the six colours were painted and drawn in India ink on mark resist (a grainy, transparent plastic sheet material). I brushed on neat ink in places, then applied water to enable it to spread randomly, in some places breaking into texture on the surface. The keyline positive was drawn with a twig dipped in the ink, which creates a dynamic line, with a dip pen used in places where the drawing needed to be more delicate. The drawings are based on my sketches of the Palermo mummies.judy72

Not knowing the technicalities I wasn’t sure how the tones would transfer to the screen mesh, so the spread of the colours contains accidental effects. Luckily this worked quite well in terms of how one colour sat against another and occasional overprintings. With a bit more knowledge, I would use the overprintings more another time to enrich the textural qualities and depth of the image.

I like repetition as a theme, I’ve used it a lot, but no doubt the screenprinting connection made me think of Warhol. With the method used it would have been difficult to work the image as randomly as I usually would in a painting, but I’ll be using a couple of the prints to add some more hand-done drawing, probably in oil pastel.

More on the mummies

Looking back on the sketches I made in Catacombe dei Capuccini, they seem to contain a lot of character and detail. It’s a different thing when you start to use the sketches as a basis for further work. Then it becomes apparent how relatively little information they contain. I’ve been making ink line and watercolour wash drawings, as a way of getting to know the shapes and ¬†forms. These naturally create variations on the form, which sometimes disappointed me at first, but then I realised it’s a way of claiming the images for myself, so I eventually get free of the actuality and take off in another direction. Another possibility will be to make 3D figures and use them as models for drawing. A couple of examples here can be compared with the previous post of the original sketches. I used a twig to draw the ink line, which produces some clumsiness in places, but has a different vitality from a pen line. So far, I am going with subdued colour that echoes the aged appearance of the mummies’ clothing.

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