Fiber Arts #2: Small Cuts for Big Ideas

Onwards — to the first screen print and piece of visual art that I was ever really, REALLY proud of. Here’s the small pic first:

So, this single print was the culmination of a bunch of other drawings and steps done beforehand. First off, I had creator’s block about what to print, and given my love of big graphics, I decided to do a non-repeat print with a big presence. Seeing as I was a long-time lover of the comic book series Generation X, especially Chris Bachalo and Scott Lobdell’s run, I turned to one of my favorite visual figures — Chamber — for inspiration. I then collaged the style in which he was represented in this cover for Gen X #11:

Below that, you see the figure of Kristin Kreuk from an old Parade magazine article — I really loved the composition of the image and somehow decided to put her within the central figure. You’ll probably notice over time that I love blurring genders and/or giving men and women characteristics that tend to be associated with another gender — it’s a thing (sometimes annoying). I know I do it — but at the time, I thought I was just doing something cool. Here’s the photocopy I had of the original article from 2002 — other than that, I have no idea what the citation info would be:

Within the red tones, there’s some other stuff going on — actually, it’s a ton of small details that I didn’t really want to stand out. There, somewhere in that blurry, blobby, energy swirl, is a group of whales swimming in water that I found in an old National Geographic. Honestly, I could not find the image if I wanted to as the magazine I used was missing most of its contents and had been put in a recycle bin.

From there, things got tough — here’s the image I came up with as a draft:

You’ll notice that the female figure changed color — she was originally supposed to be orchid and a darker orchid — but that’s very difficult to accomplish and risky to try. So, I switched it up. Then there’s some additional stuff going on in the central figure’s hair — that’s because this was initially intended to be an indirect self-portrait. I used one of my parents’ wedding photos to add them into the details of the central figure’s hair-do. I’m obviously the guy in the center, but I’m also someone completely different inside (I know! so melodramatic and trite! sorry), and I’m defined to a great extent by my parents, who you can kinda see smiling in the hair. A bit creepy in retrospect…. Oh, and the whales in the energy were the strength and power of one’s connections with others (in the same way the whales were all connected), in moving forward and in remaining connected with nature (thus whales). At least I think that was the basic narrative behind this visual — I might be remembering it slightly wrong.

The last image that found its way in was one of Seth Green (now lost) from some random image search I did — I wanted some additional movement in the background energy spark, so I put that in there as an additional thingy, mostly to counterbalance the central dude and the woman within. Basically so that no one would think I was trying to say that I identified as a woman. Or something.

Fuzzy reasoning in retrospect.

The steps that had to happen for the screenprint to come together were as follows:

1. Make a big version of the draft image for me to copy my stencils — yep, big old paper stencils that had to be traced from the original image using a big, old light table. I kinda miss that table — we spent so much quality time together over the years…

2. Make the stencils. This was usually pretty fun, just redrawing the elements of the image and deciding where the colors would fall and if there would be much, or any, overlap.

3. Cut the stencils. This was the potentially mind-numbing worst part of making screenprints — hours and hours of using a razor blade (several, as they wore out after a few hours) to cut out the tiniest details in my stencils. I discovered after the fact that having teeny-tiny detail in one’s stencils was really kinda silly — and I should have just used a photosensitivity process to create a screen for each color. I wasn’t really up for that anyway — and I would almost always use the stencils as I did with this one. Taking DAYS of back-breaking, finger-flaming paper cutting to get it done.

But after the first few, it would become a meditation on the image — and I would really get to know each of the contours and shapes. Cutting it out that way made it MUCH easier to do the actual printing, as, by then, I understood the image I was trying to make better than was actually necessary.

4. Print it — this of course involved mixing the dye, preparing the fabric, pinning down a dropcloth and pinning down the fabric, deciding how many prints I wanted to make (I only made one of this one — so dumb!!), and making sure there would be time and space for me to do my print in the lab. Then, it was mostly a matter of printing using a great, big screen and waiting for each color to dry.

Here, you can see it in a blurry photography of an old apartment of mine (which will hopefully replaced with a better one over the next few days). You’ll notice that I have red and pink tones on one side while there’s mostly red on the other — this was because I had to wait a while for one side to dry and in the meantime, my red turned pink (which I liked better later one — too late).

I’ve tried to keep this brief and not describe the intricate details of making this print — comment if you want to know more and I shall provide! I’m looking at you fiber geeks and artsy types. Anyway, I love this print and hang it somewhere prominent in my house wherever I live — as in the above, albeit blurry, photo.

Tomorrow, we will see a new and different comic — and a short one that started off a storyline I call The Unnamed. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as long and melodrama friendly as Dude’s World, but instead veers into more thrilling tales…

Until then!

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