Screen printing is a printmaking technique that has existed for thousands of years, mainly in China and Japan. Once silk became easier to attain in the West in the early 20th century, it became more widespread, and then was popularised in Western fine art by Andy Warhol, who is arguably still its most famous exponent.
“Here’s one I made earlier”
I had a go at screen printing and found it surprisingly simple. The process revolves around a stretched piece of silk, the screen. The special quality of silk is that it is has many tiny holes, which mediums like ink can be pushed through.
First I had to clean an old screen, removing ink from a previous print. This was done with solvents and a pressure washer. This is one of the downsides of screen printing as it takes some time, and screens have to be cleaned after each session.
“Bob Dylan is going to dig these MAN”
One of the main plus points of screen printing however is that photographic images can be transferred to the screen. This is done by printing the image on to a transparent piece of plastic. Then the screen is coated in photosensitive goop and left to dry. When dry, the coated screen is put on to a light box with the image underneath, and thus, the image is transferred on to the screen.
“Damn… I do really dig these”
Once your image is on the screen you can have loads of fun making hundreds of prints. Ink is the most used medium, which is really convenient because it is water soluble. It is applied to the screen and then pushed through with a squeegee. Presumably there is room for experimentation as one can print on to almost anything within reason, and there are lots of mediums that can be squeezed through a screen.
“Okay, now lets make three thousand more”
Overall I think screen printing is a useful medium for making lots of images quickly and for getting the iconic pop art look. There are however some downsides; it is very difficult to control your image; the process is time consuming in terms of cleaning; and it is quite easy to get carried away and make a lot of work that is quick and easy but without much intrinsic value.
“Gee, would you look at that”