MECA's senior illustration majors recently began a silkscreen assignment by visiting Emblem Studio, located in the nearby Artist Studio building on Congress Street in Portland. Front man Kris Johnsen was a MECA student once, too, and warmly welcomed my curious class into his work space lined with gig posters. He shared a bit of process, pointing out drawing layers for a recent print.
After talking and answering questions, Kris escorted us over to Space Gallery, where the exhibit
"Pulled" gave the class plenty of inspiration. The show features silkscreen prints curated by Mike Perry, whose book of the same name, "Pulled: a Catalog of Screen Printing" made a great companion to bring back to the classroom.
I like introducing students to silkscreen because it forces a stronger graphic sense and a respect for old-fashioned making of multiples. They worked on ideas, showed sketches for critique, and two weeks later, Kris came to MECA and walked them through the photo emulsion process. While coated screens were drying in a dark closet, Zoe was ready to go with her cut stencil design.
Here's one of her prints, drying.
The class was unable to use the printmaking facilities at MECA, since all the print majors meet at the same time as my class. Thanks to Lisa Pixley, we headed over to the Pickwick Independent Press, specifically to use the dark room for exposing the screens, now dry.
Kris demonstrated with Spenser's screen, talking about flooding the screen with ink, amount of pressure and speed when pulling the squeegee, and other tips.
Meanwhile, Caitlin dove into printing with her cut stencil design. It worked!
Kris showed a couple of students how to oil down their design, a quick and slick method of making a design transparent enough for exposing.
One by one, students brought their screen and design into the darkroom. This one is Brittany's.
The design and screen are sandwiched together in the dark room. After the light sensitive emulsion was exposed for seven minutes, the next step was washing out the emulsion.
The screens now had to dry, and students brought ink and paper to the next class. We met back at MECA in a drawing studio, making due with tables and clotheslines. Brittany began with black.
And she got the hang of it.
Spenser and Bill teamed up for Bill's printing.
Caitlin and Ali teamed up here.
Ali created a graphic ode to Breathless, in two colors, with nice registration.
Caitlin tried her design on a ribbed tank.
Michael made a bear with Finnish appeal.
Devin's shirt sported two colors with a Maine theme.
Once you have ink on a squeegee, it can wind up anywhere. Here is Austin, modeling an argyle look Devin made.
Spenser fancied the tie-dye look. Here is his Merlin design.
Some students found frustration: they had difficulties with emulsion, with making test prints that degraded, and using up ink on disasters. Nope, not as easy as it looks. But they came away with new skills, inky clothes, and perhaps more respect for analog printing.
MECA will be hosting The Little Friends of Printmaking in November, when the power of print will leap from the walls.
Thank you Maine College of Art, Kris Johnsen, and Pickwick!