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Screen Printing

Screen Printing is the process of applying a printed image to a surface using ink pushed through a stencil. Screen prints can be printed on different flat surfaces, most commonly paper or fabric, but also glass, wood, plastic or metal.

 

A screen is made by stretching fine polyester or nylon mesh over a wooden / metal frame. A stencil is then applied to the screen to prepare it for printing. A print is then made by pushing ink through the screen onto the surface below using a semi-flexible blade called a squeegee.

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An image is built up in layers, with each colour being printed separately. Because screen printing inks are translucent, overlaying colours produces additional colours, for example yellow printed on top of blue will produce green. A simple screen print may be made up of two or three colours, a more complex image will have been built up over many more layers. 

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History

Screen printing originated in China in the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD). Originally a mesh made from silk was used, hence the alternative name for the process - silkscreen.  Its use in the West was mainly as a commercial printing process until a group of artists in the USA formed the National Serigraph Society in 1940, with the aim of promoting the artistic aspects of the process and differentiating their work from industrial screen printing.  The work of artists such as Andy Warhol, Sister Corita Kent, Robert Rauschenberg and Eduardo Paolozzi in the 1960s did much to popularise the technique.

Nowadays screen printing is a popular medium for many artists across disciplines, from fine art to design, illustration and fashion.

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Cyanotype

The Cyanotype process was pioneered in the 1840’s & 50’s by Anna Atkins, a botanist and natural historian who was born in Tonbridge, Kent. Invented by her friend and fellow naturalist John Herschel in 1842, the Cyanotype is a beautiful camera-less technique using direct contact (laying materials onto light sensitive paper) and exposing to sunshine or UV light. Atkins used the process to make detailed prints of British algae, confervae and ferns, which she bound into books which can still be seen today.  

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By the 1850’s John Mercer had found a way of transferring cyanotype photographs onto cloth. The processes’ accessible nature became popular with folk artists and American quilt makers who used it to incorporate family photographs into their home stitched works. 

From 1872 onwards cyanotype was used commercially as a cheap and straight forward way to reproduce plans and technical drawings - the ‘blue-prints’ that we think of today! 

Many modern and contemporary artists have also used the process to make work, amongst them; Robert Rauchenberg and Susan Weil, Edward Steichen, Francesca Woodman, Susan Derges, Joy Gregory and Kate Cordsen.  

The magical cyanotype process can be used to make camera free photographic images in their own right, or incorporated with drawing and other print media.

 
 

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Fabric Printing

Fabric printing is a term that covers different techniques and approaches for printing images, patterns or text onto cloth . Fabric printing is a versatile medium with a wide range of applications, from lengths of fabric, t-shirts and bags, to protest banners. 

Screen printing uses a frame with fine mesh stretched across it to transfer designs to fabric using stencils.

The 1950’s/ 60’s was a heyday for Screenprinting onto Fabric, with inspiring designers such as Lucienne Day and Jacqueline Groag as well as artists including Anni Albers, Sonya Delauney, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore all commissioned to design prints for fabrics.

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Blockprinting is a rewarding technique offering infinite possibilities for repeating patterns, overprinting and combinations of designs. It is a slow, absorbing and relaxing process.

Printing blocks can be made simply and quickly from household objects like potatoes. To create more durable and intricate blocks, the design is carved into a Lino block using lino cutting tools to carve away areas of the lino around the design.

 

Fabric ink is applied to the block which is then pushed down firmly onto the fabric and lifted to reveal the printed design. The earliest surviving samples of block printed fabric are from China dating back to the year 220.

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Monoprinting is used to create one-off spontaneous prints, ideal for exploring a painterly, free approach. Designs can be created using single or multiple colours and be figurative or abstract. Monoprinting is an exciting medium and works well in combination with screen printing and block printing techniques.

Fabric printing offers two approaches to this medium.

Mono printing using acrylic sheet - Fabric printing ink is applied to an acrylic sheet, using various implements. Designs are drawn into the ink to create negative lines and marks,  the acrylic sheet is flipped over onto the fabric and pressed to print. Stencils and found materials can also be introduced as well as direct painting methods.

Monoprinting using a screen - images are painted directly onto the mesh of the screen with fabric printing ink and then pulled through with a squeegee to create a positive print. This technique can be combined with paper and photographic stencils as well as found materials to achieve surprising outcomes.

 

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Monoprinting

Screen-Monoprinting is used to create one-off spontaneous prints, ideal for exploring a painterly, free approach. Images are painted directly onto the mesh of the screen with screenprinting ink and then pulled through with a squeegee. This technique can be combined with paper and photographic stencils as well as found materials to achieve surprising outcomes. Watercolours and other water-soluble mediums can also be explored which offer different textures and depth to work with.

Although a mono print is a one-off print, the ghost of the image remains on the mesh, this can be printed again to create a lighter version of the first print or re-painted and added to to create a new one

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Screen -Monoprinting is an exciting medium, breaking the mould of screen printing as a flat graphic process and offering an element of unpredictability and surprise.

Many painters have produced work using this medium either in combination with stencils and relief blocks, for example, Peter Green and John Piper, or by direct painting on the screen such as Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns ,Robert Rauchenberg and contemporary artist Katy Binks.

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Collage

Collage is a way of making an artwork by combining different elements to make a new form. The term comes from the French word coller, to glue, and one of the most common forms of collage is made by sticking things onto a paper or card support.

 

Popular materials used in collage are newspaper and magazine cuttings, coloured papers, string, photographs, found papers such as packaging, tickets, wrapping paper, and buttons, badges or other flat objects.

Collage is also a conceptual approach; a way of treating the content of an artwork to juxtapose unlikely or contrasting elements, often for humorous effect or critical comment. Surrealist and Dada artists such as Max Ernst and Hannah Hoch utilised the subversive potential of collage. Artists John Heartfield and Martha Rosler used collage for powerful political effect. Many artists have used collage in conjunction with other techniques, especially printmaking.

The screen print process involves building up an image up in layers, and this lends itself well to the collage techniques. An obvious advantage of screen printing is the ability to produce multiples and repeat a motif, printing it in a variety of colours on different backgrounds, including photographs, coloured and pattered papers.

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