When I first met screenprinting, it was love at first sight: The squeegees, the screens, the physicality of pushing the ink through the holes, the feeling of being a human printing press. But mostly I think I fell in love with it because it forces me to reduce images into their simplest, most essential forms and to just go ahead and DO it already. With a painting you can futz around with it for awhile and dither, putting off major decisions. It is nearly impossible to this in screenprinting. Should you lose your focus and start to futz, the punishment will be swift and obvious. And it’s just paper, so you try it again.
If there was anything my pandemic-addled brain needed forced upon it this summer, it was focus. Before any of this nonsense started, I had already been working on eliminating the dithering from my painting. I was wondering if I could paint in big, bold simple shapes of primary colors, and yet somehow treat my subject matter, particularly the people, with the same depth and dimension. The tiny food paintings were a move in this direction: the colors stayed clear and the shapes simple, yet they were also painterly. They were a successful experiment, but also a pretty low-hanging fruit cocktail, being so small and not on fabric. I then started several slightly larger paintings on fabric, but I’ve set them aside for a bit while I pursue the radical simplification of screen printing.
Andy Warhol famously said he wanted to be a machine. I finally understand what he meant. The particular machine I want to be is a color separation machine, the one that takes a multicolored image and decides how many dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, or black it takes to reproduce the colors. Nowadays that process is done with Photoshop or the like, but back in the day they’d take four pictures of the image, each through a different colored filter and a screen that divided the image into little dots of density.
I wrote a while back about my obsession with CMYK printing. It hasn’t abated. In fact, for the last few years, I’ve only painted with those four colors, closely approximating the printing primaries, but continued to mix them like paint. For this project I am printing with only one color at a time, controlling the density with transparency. The color separations I’m performing are radically simplified from even the traditional photostat process: Each image is made by pressing the ink through a tyvek stencil I hand-cut with an exacto knife. I determine what each color’s stencil will look like by transfering the image by hand on to each piece of tyvek, using only a carbon-paper-like material. It reminds me of using old mimeograph machine stencils. While the local communal printing spaces remain closed, and with them my access to fancier equipment, I’m really enjoying working so low-tech, using tools and materials I have on hand.
The Joy of Jello print is a limited edition—there are only 15!—and available on my shop page. Each print is crafted with by my own inky hands, signed, and numbered. These prints are part of the Artist Support Pledge: To support one another, artists around the world are selling affordable work (under $200 or thereabouts when you convert to pounds, euros, etc.). Once I’ve made $1000 in sales, I will buy some art from another artist (I can’t wait!). This is the first of several print series I’ll be selling as part of the pledge. Stay tuned.