Tag Archives: Illustration

Prints Charming

It’s taken me a while to update this, but there’s been a few gigs and christmas and new years happening. We played I AM YOUR WEEKEND in Liverpool which is rather like atp in one freezing building, and it was good, most good… David provided some intense sax improv during our set which was insanely good. Some great bands played, and Action Beat were amazing of course.

Anyway, here’s the printing process. The first thing I did was to paint some background colours to print over. I wanted to paint mine rather than print them because I quite like having a painterly element in the finished prints.

I used the tracing paper transparency to make a stencil out of cardboard, and taped up the edges to make it withstand more painting action.

I then took my stack of paper, and placed the cardboard template in the centre. Then you can push the point of some scissors or a pen into the paper and indent onto the sheets below; this just means all your prints will be in the same place on the paper.

You can now paint each sheet with the stencil, by stippling paint through with a thick brush:

Once the first colours were dry I took them down and painted a blue background on each.

Now you can prepare the screen for printing, so attach it to the base board hinges. Now make a flap of transparency which will lift up with enough room to let your paper underneath:

This will be printed on so we can see where the paper must sit.

Prepare some ink (I am using acrylic paint mixed with some printing medium, which lengthens the drying time so it doesn’t dry up in the screen) and run it along the edge of the inside of your screen:

Now lift the screen and pull the ink across the screen using the squeegee – this is called flooding the screen.

Now, making sure that there are some pushpins at the corners of your screen to make sure the screen sits a little above the paper, lower it and pull the squeegee across the screen to print onto the tracing paper underneath:

Now we can put the paper under the tracing paper and line up the image with the background:

Once it’s aligned, tape some bits of card to the base board at the corners of the paper, so that you can quickly place a new sheet in exactly the right place each time. Now remove the tracing paper thing, and prints away! Make sure to re-flood the screen between prints, to ensure it doesn’t dry out. You’ll probably be able to do between 10 and 20 sheets before the ink starts to dry up in the screen and needs to be washed, depending on how quickly you can work and how good your ink is.

Here’s some of the finished Quadraturin prints:

I was pretty pleased, the stenciled backgrounds worked well, and mean that each print is quite different. It’s definitely better to colour the backgrounds first and print over the top, because if you try and colour over the top it takes away some of the crispness of the printed linework.

These are now on sale on my website here, along with a couple that are without the blue background colour:

Which I think look pretty cool as well.

Currently Listening to: Flying Lotus – 1983, Los Angeles



Thought I better give a bit of background to the image that I’ve been printing during this tutorial thing, also I wanna big up a very dead Polish-Ukrainian-Russian dude.

A while ago I found an extract of some work by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky online, and decided to look into him. As well as having an amazing, near-unspellable name (try pronouncing in it’s Russian form – Сигизму́нд Домини́кович Кржижано́вский  !!) he was virtually unknown during his lifetime, but has since had a series of short stories unearthed and translated into English, which has raised his profile somewhat. Only a couple of his pieces were published while he was alive, and most of his manuscripts were squirreled away in the back of his partner’s wardrobe for many years. To quote from a review in FT:

“We are very lucky that Krzhizhanovsky’s work has survived. In 1976 a young scholar called Perelmuter uncovered his writing in the Central State Archive and, in 1989, published a selection – the first. The complete works – around 3,000 pages – are now being published in Russian and French. It is now clear that Krzhizhanovsky is one of the greatest Russian writers of the last century.”

During his life, his work was largely dismissed as “untimely”, and yet, as if often the case with great minds, his work seems to resonate with many contemporary themes, from climate change (‘Yellow Coal’), to agraphobic alienation in compartmentalised urban environments (‘Quadraturin’) and pointless celebrity worship (‘The Unbitten Elbow’).

I bought 7 Stories, the only part of his works currently available in English, and I highly recommend it, it’s available on Amazon here.

His stories have rightly been compared to Borges and Kafka, with whom he shares many qualities. His language is both poetic and direct, taking the reader on surreal trips that remain rooted in the very real confines of post-Revolution Moscow. His pieces are philosophical; metaphorical thought experiments that skilfully combine humour and sincerity to engage the reader whilst the internal logic of each piece brings about conclusions that are both satisfying and mystifying. Krzhizhanovsky said that he was not interested in the arithmatic of life, but rather the algebra, and thus characterisation is subordinate to logic, yet, despite this, his writing reveals surprisingly poignant details of everyday life during this fascinating period. There is also a great warmth to the stories that emerges not from normal human interactions, but from minor yet symbolically significant details (a room, a hand, a bookmark, a notebook, the reflection in another’s eye) which become fondly anthropomorphised and animated in order to articulate Krzhizhanovsky’s ethics in subtle ways. When reading his work, one feels the frustration and impulse to escape that he must have felt – cooped up in his small room and rejected by publishers – saturating each story, but none more so than my favourite two pieces, ‘Quadraturin’ and ‘The Bookmark’.

‘The Bookmark’ is a relatively short piece, yet is stunningly creative and full of fascinating ideas. It describes the ‘theme-catcher’, a man so observant and imaginative that he can spin a meaningful tale out of virtually any minor detail in everyday life. Each of the theme-catcher’s brief whimsies could easily be turned into a fully fleshed-out story, and yet publishers are distinctly uninterested. This of course describes Krzhizhanovsky’s own frustration; a man with so much creativity to offer, unsuited to the times he lived in, the driven, focused, even close-minded Soviet epoch. Although the theme of unappreciated writer is hardly uncommon, Krzhizhanovsky gets away with it because his imagination leaps and flies off the page in a truly uncommon manner.

I started by reading his short story called ‘Quadraturin’. You can read this online here.

This intriguing piece features a protagonist named Sutulin, who, like Krzhizhanovsky himself, lives in a tiny room, really no more than a closet. The story takes for its starting point a real life absurdity: Soviet regulations at the time (1920’s) prescribed each citizen with no more than 9 metres squared of living space, a regulation that was checked periodically by the Re-Measuring Commission, who would visit door-to-door to ensure no-one had somehow gained extra space. In the story, Sutulin is visited by a salesman who persuades him to buy a tube of ‘Quadraturin’, a new product that is “an agent for biggerizing rooms”. Once spread all over the walls and floor, his box room slowly begins to swell and expand, becoming grotesquely malformed and out of proportion. His furniture now seems lost in an expanse of floorboards, dirty corners that were once hidden become hideous dusty spaces, the wires and cables in the walls cannot cover the new dimensions and snap like overstretched ligaments, leaving Sutulin in a vast and terrifying darkness.

Maybe I just don’t get out enough, but this will for more space struck a chord with me. I’ve often had dreams about finding secret rooms and passages in the various places I’ve lived, and I seem to remember reading that these are really common dreams for people who live in high density areas like Manhattan or Tokyo, for obvious reasons. However, when I think about it, I wouldn’t actually like to live in a massive house because the empty stretching space and darkness are two things that would particularly frighten me.

Anyway, while I was reading ‘Quadraturin’ I drew an illustration for the first part of the story, when Sutulin hears a knock at the door, and since his room is so small, simply stretches a foot across an opens the door with a toe. Here’s a photo of the original drawing:

'Quadraturin' - Pen

I intend to do some more illustrations for this story, and maybe some more of Krzhizhanovsky’s pieces, so if you found that interesting, watch this space.

Currently listening to: Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

This Was House

Here’s one of the pieces I’ve done recently, and plan to screen print soon. There’s a bunch of houses near levenshulme station that have been threatened with demolition for months and months now, and have finally been knocked down to make way for new development. The local residents were protesting for some reason, probably because they think traffic will increase or something.

Anyway, the houses came down, and it was pretty amazing to see a couple of houses reduced to rubble. The demolition company just knocked them down with loads of old furniture still in there, so this massive pile of debris had chairs, tables, an armchair or two, an upright piano, picture frames and many other weird broken  shapes. Kinda reminded me of Michael Landy’s project a few years ago called Break Down, in which he destroyed all his life possessions, except this is just an every- day kind of identity erasure, executed from without rather than from within.

It definitely made me think about the relative fragility of the houses we live in, which seem such safe refuges, especially at this time of the year. The other houses around seemed to watch warily with lit windows, perhaps angry, full of contempt, or maybe fearful to see one of their kind reduced to dust; the dust of the earth and of the stars that wink knowingly above; the dust of us all.

This time of year definitely draws me towards dusk – whilst summer light brings contrast, texture and vivid colour, winter light is fleeting, and seems always to be retreating away, hidden, just colouring the sky enough to bring out looming silhouettes peopled by hard glints of metal or frost.

Currently listening to: Tord Gustavsen Trio – Being There

Click on the picture below to see the full image

This Was House, Nov 2009

December 2nd

Ok, just to give a background to things:

I’ve recently been doing some illustrative pieces for my own pleasure/furtherment which I think will work really well as screen prints. I hadn’t thought about screen printing for a long time (the last time I did it was in school, prolly 6 years ago), and never really thought of it as a technique that would suit me, because my work is usually based in direct draughtsmanship. However, at the moment it would be really great to actually sell some stuff because I’m skint as can be.

Doing screen prints by hand means that I can produce a lot more pieces to sell in a short space of time, and for relatively cheap. Also I don’t know many people that would be willing to pay £100 for an oil painting (especially during these bleak times of recession etc etc), but I reckon I know a lot more people that would consider buying a print for 15 or 20 quid, especially if they were only limited runs of 10 or 20 editions, or even artists originals.

Another good reason to get into screen printing is that it may come in very handy with music related projects, so I will be able to print really nice runs of gig posters, band artwork and t-shirts to sell at gigs, whether for my own band (www.myspace.com/polkatulkk) or for other people I know (especially check out Boanthrope, Barberos and We Came Out Like Tigers).

SO, I’ve ordered a few things from Wicked Printing Stuff…. I know the name is lame, but they sell screen printing materials for really cheap (especially compared to art shops). I’ve heard people complaining about them before due to waiting for ages for things to get shipped, damaged goods, poor customer communication etc, but they seem alright so far, and despatched my shit within a day or two. I guess we’ll see how good their materials are when they arrive.

Screen printing can seem complex and expensive, but it’s basically just a way of making a fancy stencil and then dragging ink over it onto a bit of paper/fabric. I’m going to try and make my own screen printing set up, very DIY style…. obviously the results are probably not gonna be as good as with all the proper equipment, but I’m confident that for under £100 I’m gonna be set up and getting some quality prints out.

I’ll be stretching my own screens and making my own base board and cutting costs in various other ways, so hopefully this might be useful to any other financially challenged artists or hobbyists out there. There must be a load of information out there on how to do this stuff, but it’s often quite hard to find, or requires signing up to something or paying just to download a pdf  (this pisses me off).  Also most of the information I’ve been able to find on screen printing is based around printing on fabric, for t-shirts, which is definitely the most common use for screen printing, whereas I will be using mine primarily for art prints, which are in some ways much simpler than fabric based prints, which require slightly more specialised  equipment, inks and drying processes.

There’s a really good forum for t-shirt screen printing here, and a lot of the techniques and information is the same whether you’re printing on t-shirts or not.  One of the other problems I find about finding information is that often it is written by real hardcore enthusiasts, or people who own a print shop or t-shirt printing business, and often the information is either really specific and technical, or you tend to end up buying really expensive equipment because these guys are usualy real sticklers for correct technique.  My advice is that if you’re looking to get a really professional set-up, just buy your equipment pre-made from industry suppliers, but if you’re not doing this as a business thing, ignore most of the stuff you read about quality of materials and just work within whatever budget you can stretch to. There’s always ways you can work around things, and in doing it, you’re probably gonna learn more, save money, have more fun and maybe even end up with a more individualised style or discover different techniques.

There are however some things you just have to buy especially for the job. When I get my package in the post, I’m gonna go through what bare essentials are needed. Pretty excited to get going>>>>

Currently listening to:  Melvins – Nude With Boots