Workshop: Screen printing and Mono printing

This week saw us doing two different workshops effectively at the same time and in the same place, no less. We were given instructions so specific that they were rather easy to misinterpret. In preparation for the big day, we were asked to prepare stencils of a certain size on a certain type of paper to be applied to old work of a specific scale for a specific reason.


My first screen print stencil

Our stencils were to use quotes from the shared student resources made available to both the Cass and Solent university that, in one way shape or form, have some connection to Southampton.

I find hand drawing font to be a far more enjoyable process than applying it after the fact. As I hand drew the various pages, I tried to experiment with the shapes and layouts of the letters. Typography is never going to be my favourite thing ever, but taking a more illustrative approach makes it feel not so dissimilar from figure drawing, and that, I can appreciate.

My second stencil

I tried to avoid being overly precious with the stencils, to preserve both my time and sanity. The chance of me achieving perfect smooth symmetrical curves while drawing with a scalpel were zero, so not worrying about it allowed me to focus more on the thinking than worry about the doing.


My third stencil

As a result, I ended up creating a font that was primarily made out of crescent moon shaped curves. I didn’t stick to that format religiously, but that was the rough idea.


My fourth stencil

After trying out curves, I was curious to se how jagged lines would work. I was pleased to see that using a scalpel worked quite well with such a letterform.

My fifth stencil

I played around with layout with my last stencil. It could be quite interesting if the image was contained within the white space that the text leaves open. Unfortunately, as you will see, 20 people doing two workshops at the same time in a small timeframe with a limited amount of equipment doesn’t allow one to create the most work you’ve ever seen ever.


Text vs image: what does it mean?

Ultimately, I had to pick one stencil and do a handful of prints to ensue everyone got a turn. I mean, we’re all paying our tuition fees right? I decided that the ‘silent’ stencil was the one I wanted to see in action and I applied it to some prints of earlier work.


Second screen print on the day

It would have been nice to play around with layout, like moving the paper so I would only part print on it, but personally, I feel that such things are best left to situations where you don’t run the risk of permanently damaging expensive, (possibly irreplaceable) equipment.

I always factor in the ease and cost of the processes I use, which is why I opt to use digital software to paint instead of… well, paint. I can’t help but feel that a process like screen printing is sometimes promoted not as a quick-fire way to mass produce posters for immediate use, but as some sort of art form that has some sort of inherent value above its practicality because of tradition. Maybe Warhol and his ilk have something to do with that, but I wouldn’t really know, so let’s leave that there. My point was simply that I don’t agree with any notion that screen printing a poster automatically makes it more valuable than running the same design off of a photocopier. (I’m fully aware that there is a market that will treat screen prints as art objects and therefore pay ‘art’ prices, but lets really not open that can of worms.)

The second workshop we did was an introduction to mono-printing. Now, from the limited research I’ve done, it has come to my attention that ‘mono-print’ can refer to a variety of techniques that share some elements, but can differ quite drastically in terms of complexity and the necessary preparation. We were looking at the simplest form of mono-printing, where one applies certain types of ink to a flat surface, then applies the paper on top and applies pressure to the paper where they want the marks to be made.

This (and all other) types of mono-printing, lend themselves to mass production. Once you’ve removed your first piece of paper, you can simply add another, add some more marks, or not, and create a series of direct duplicates or variants. It is worth noting that none of the duplicates will be identical due to the amount of ink changing as duplicates are produced, but you get the idea.


My attempt at reproducing architecture using mono printing. An example of running before one can walk, methinks.

One interesting technique to consider is of taking some sort of image and using it to trace over to create said image on the reverse side of the paper. I gave this a shot with a picture of Netly Abbey taken from Spike Island by Philip Hoare. It’s very important to know where you’ve actually applied the pressure in this instance, so it is highly recommended to trace the image with a pencil or something and make sure you can see the lines you’ve made. I tell you all this in hindsight so you don’t have to learn the way I did.


Polar bear tracing by me

Using a loose, gestural style can lead to some good results, I found. It is almost mandatory, when you’re so used to drawing with your hand making contact with the surface as you draw. You can’t do that with mono-printing or you’ll end up with great big smudges everywhere, but you know what? I regret not putting that to the test. Another important thing to keep in mind is that any text you write must be written backwards for it to show up the right way on the print. Having just finished my stencil cutouts the day before, I was in the right frame of mind to be thinking of letters as combinations of simple shapes instead of single wholes.


A relief print of the polar bear

Another interesting technique we were shown was how to make a relief from a previous image. Using a tool with its heritage in Japanese screen printing techniques, even pressure was applied across the entire paper. This results in a negative image being created with the ink that was used up on the previous paper being missing from the current one. It’s best to use thicker lines than the ones I used, for clarity’s sake, but that’s the hindsight again.

In contrast to screen printing, mono printing the way we used it was far more spontaneous and allowed for a change in direction on the fly. Screen printing is a process you use after the final design has been finished, whereas mono printing has a lot more in common with the sketching process. That said, it too, is a messy, costly business. And while it is cheap in comparison to screen printing, where, at the very least you need to buy the ink and the screen(s), the ink we were show today is expensive and requires careful maintenance. Unlike the infinite array of colours and textures available to the user of the Adobe digital suite (especially if he obtains said package through extralegal means).

As I reflect on the two techniques we were shown, I can’t help but feel that they are far more indicative of fine art than they are of modern day design. One will more than likely have cheaper, more flexible options for mass production in today’s digital age. I’m not saying I don’t see the value in such time honoured techniques or the tactile worth of the finished article (I vastly prefer to read a real comic book than a pdf, for example), but everything is relative; does the cost in time and money, convenience and options available to you, outweigh the value of creating work in the same way some very famous artists have done, or being able to position yourself as the ‘traditional craftsman’? When I have such a close deadline to finish everything while making it awesome and have to create companion pieces as well, I find it difficult to say its worth taking five times as long, costing ten times as much, just to say that I did. Difficult, but not impossible.


Adobe Premier Pro Workshop

I’ve always wanted to do some video editing, from comedic You Tube Poop to documentary style works, so having the opportunity to learn some basics on Adobe’s video editing program was very nice for me. Ultimately we were tasked with watching the above video and trying to recreate some of the techniques mentioned.

Since we were using Adobe stock footage with their watermarks on it, I’m unsure what the legal situation with posting that footage is. While I usually laugh in the face of copyright restrictions, Adobe do actually know where I live… and have my bank details

Also, the work I did is so basic, it doesn’t even really need to be viewed by anyone who won’t be grading it.

I have every intention of having a moving image showreel at some point, but I think we’ll wait until I have something worth showing.

Also had to run off and re-watch Inception. I recommend you do to. Get them Hans Zimmer BWAAWS from the source.

Hothouse Talk: Alistair Hall

Alistair Hall, designer, lecturer, all-round cool dude

This weeks Hothouse talk was by graphic designer and Visual Communication lecturer Alistair Hall. He gave us a wonderful overview of his career highlights, which serve as an example of a path we can take to meet our goals.

He showed lots of cool stuff, but the pictures I took don’t do justice to the work, so I’ll just sent you to his website. One of the most interesting things he talked about was how he saw a project in America that he liked, blogged about it and then asked if anyone in the UK would like to have a go with him. The project in question was a writing school-cum-novelty shop. He put the call out, famed writer Nick Hornby got involved, among others, and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies was born.

Alistair’s blog is really just a collection of stuff he finds cool, and appears to be highly regarded, so maybe there hope I can have A blog like that in the future.  Onwards and upwards, as they say.

Book Research

In an attempt to get students away from creating single flat images, we were invited to look at some archival materials. Examples of artists book, specifically. They were stored in a separate library from all the normal books. This place was operating on more of a British Library kind of vibe; reference only, not quite appointment only, but kind of. No bags of any kind allowed in the library, etc etc.

Since we were discouraged from photographing the material in question, I did you some drawings of the books. Aren’t I clever? No? That was a rhetorical question. You’re not supposed to just throw me under the bus like that. Jeez…


Les murs ont la parole mai 68, possibly written by Julian Besancon and edited by Claude Tchou

The first book I looked at was quite small, horizontal in shape and completely typographical. And to top it all off, it was in French. Having had the good fortune to consult with one of the student in our class who speaks French, it was concluded that the book was a collection of inspirational quotes and the like written right before during or after the tumultuous period of upheaval in France during 1968.  I’m always given to the idea that design books are pretty things mostly lacking in substance, but to come across this one which captures the spirit of a political movement, which may or may not resonate in France today, well that is interesting. The message (whatever that may be) is delivered with minimum fuss and no unnecessary ornamentation. I feel encouraged that one can simple leave the message at the heart of the design without mucking around with sideways text and  splitting up words.


All My Rubber Stamps by Mark Pawson

Moving on, the next book I looked at had a black cover with nothing on it. Inside it was a collection of rubber stamps belonging to Mark Pawson.  A very cool book, which I imagine he was selling at art fairs, since no ISBN number means no stocking in book shops. I suspect that’s the case with almost all of the books in that library and probably why someone thought it was a good idea to essentially keep these things under lock and key, but I digress…

He could have manufactured these books by himself, since all he would need to do is make empty books and stamp in the stamps, heck if he had young relatives, he could have enlisted their help. I’m sure they’d have loved it. Also, making your own stamps is an interesting concept, of course, I’m instantly reminded that it is completely possible to do such things on photoshop, which I already have and which it will cost me no more to make use of as opposed to going and buying some stamp kits and screwing up a few times until I get it right. Ah, what is one to do?


The First and Last Straw by Andrew Lanyon

The last book I looked at was an interesting cynical look at Cornwall, from what I can gather, using collage, illustration, photography and more to poke fun at the modernisation of Cornwall. It resonates quite well with our focus on Southampton as I understand it, which is effectively looking at how Southampton has modernised on a way open to ridicule (at the ver least by Owen Hatherley). The variety of techniques applied to support the common theme is probably the sort of thing staff are hoping to see out of students.

Looking at these books and the ones other students were looking at has me thinking about concertina books, dust jackets with posters on the inside, pages with cut outs or made of different matterials to interact with each other, all sorts of things.

My little sketches don’t do justice to the work I’ve talked about, but hopefully my artwork will be able to do justice to my ideas when all is said and done

Messing Around in my Sketchbook

While this blog is designed to show my working and thinking processes as I create work, it is still important to keep a sketchbook. Since I always end up doing things in photoshop, my sketchbook doesn’t tend to get filled up in an organic way. This week, I tried to fill some pages in my sketchbook and, since I’d effectively explained what I’d done on this blog, I ended up using my sketchbook to play around with layout.

A sample of images I found to use as a sort of mood-board for this years first project, arranged in three columns

I would like to design little books to accompany my work output this year, documenting my processes, research and final outcomes, however I lack the graphic design knowledge, In-Design experience, and mostly, the time to fix that.

Since I had so much raw imagery to print out to put in my book, I elected to print each image small, to save on costs. The most efficient way to do that was to print on a PC (gasp) and use the print wizard option to print multiple images per page. This left me with a large amount of small elements which I could attempt to arrange in an interesting way.


Final outcome page for our first workshop. There’s a four column thing going on here, ruined by the final image. Better luck next time.

I wouldn’t be the first person to let costs influence their design choices. Working within my means is a really strong part of my design ethos and why I use photoshop to paint and cringe every time I have to print out digital content that the whole world can see just to make sure one or two specific people can see it.

Experimental layout. Does this work? If the text was done in In-design, I think it probably would

I find myself in the very awkward position of having to do a greater deal of experimentation than I’ve ever done before, while simultaneously needing to present a singular design style which represents who I am and what I will contribute to the industry. This is brought into sharp relief right now as I hastily try to put together a portfolio to show employers to secure a work placement, that will represent a part of my final grade.

Wish me luck. I have I feeling I’m going to need it…