Relearning an old skill

It is no secret that I love print. I do love digital printing, but nothing beats the old school way of screen printing in my mind. I love the smell of ink on paper. I love the step by step process of mixing your custom colours and the tactile nature of spreading the ink about and the dragging the Squeegee up and down the screen. Wonderful. 

I realised it had been over 12 years since I had the pleasure of working on a screen print and yet just a few towns over, there was a open studios offering classes and studio time. Time to get my hand dirty again I think! I have been working on a series of one and two colour illustrations that I hoped one day I would have the chance to screen print and now seemed the perfect time to try them out.

Medway Fine Printmakers based in INTRA, Rochester, Kent offers courses once a month in screen print for £60.00 including all your tools and supplies. 

The day begins with a great talk all about of the process along with visual examples artworks all created at Medway Fine Printmakers. It was great to see the example as you could start to see the range of marks that you can reproduce with screen print design. The benefit of correct line making, making sure you illustration has true black and white (no greys), as well as how to create textures and other marks.

We then went on to reclaiming a screen and I was let loose with a high pressure washer! I forgot the crazy amount of sound that is created in this process! I managed to keep the water in the sink thou.

With the screen now ready to use, I coated my dry screen with photo emulsion, (this is always the hardest part in my mind), then quickly tucked the screen to dry in a warm, dry and dark place.

While I waited from my emulsion to dry, I started to preparing my artwork by printing the drawing out using an just inkjet printer and standard paper. Once the ink is dry on the printout, I turned the paper over and rubbed it all over with vegetable oil! Might sound strange but this makes the white areas on the paper transparent (very important to let the light through) and ready for the light box exposer.

Exposing the screen to my artwork and the light box was next step.

The black areas of my drawing blocked the light from the light box to the screen and stopped the photo emulsion from setting hard.  After my carefully timed expose was finished, I then set about washing the screen again with the jet washer (but at a much slower setting) to flush out the non-set emulsion and revealing my screen stencil!

And then... The best bit!  
Printing the screen onto my choice of paper or textiles. I of course, went for paper!

My first few attempts where okay, but I suffered some bleeding on the left handsome. Thinking it was my on the pressure Squeegee I started to worry, however it turned out to be my height as I was a tiny bit too short for the table. One step up later and perfect prints! 

I honestly was sooooo happy with what I had managed to create by the end of the day and just how quickly the old skills and steps came back to me as I went through them. I simply can not wait to go back and use the studios again soon. 

I highly recommend the course at Medway Fine Printers  for a newbie and or those who just want to get back into screen printing! Check them out and watch this space for more illustration from me!