Monday, October 11, 2010

Imprint knowledge part one Silkscreen vs Letterpress

For my blog this week I thought I would give a brief introduction to some of the print processes you will see in the exhibition ImPrint, opening this friday.  If you find anything in here of interest please be sure to sign up for the class printmaking class in the spring (ART300). Here in the Georgetown College Art Department we have variations of all the processes mentioned in this post. If at any point you want to see more example of printmaking or these processes just let me (Professor Graham) know, and we can chat as long as you would like.

There are 3 major areas of printmaking processes (there are many more minor ones) including Relief, Inaglio, and Planographic processes.  
·       Relief includes, linoleum cuts, woodcuts, photopolymer printing, letterpress, basically anything that has material removed from the surface to create the image.
·       Intaglio (pronounced In-tal-leo) is italian in origin meaning to cut or incise translated in french as "below the surface" this area of printmaking includes etching, vitreography (glass etching), engraving, and collagraph, to name a few.
·       Planographic includes all types of lithography, polyester plate printing, and silkscreen.

This morning I wanted to hit on the two major processes used for creating text which is a major part of the ImPrint exhibition. We will be looking at letterpress and silkscreen, examining their process, differences and some artists that exist in each process.


Silkscreen dates as far back as the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) where the screens were made of silk hence the name silkscreen, in today’s common terminology this process can be called screen printing, silkscreen, or serigraphy. But all screen-printing processes are based off of coating a nylon fine mesh screen with a blocking agent (photo emulsion or other solutions) to create a stencil through which ink is forced by the use of a squeegee.  The ink sits on the surface vs. being embossed or impregnated into the surface like etching, relief, and letterpress. Below are a few images of silkscreened images.

Screen printed text on canvas

Andy Warhol

 Andy Warhol

Jay Ryan (be sure to click the image to see it larger)

Another Jay Ryan (he has the practice of including text that is a explanation of what you see. This time the text is printed over the image it is describing)

Robert Rauschenberg

Another Robert Rauschenberg (notice the reuse of the same JFK and parachute screen)

Chuck Close

The invention of letterpress printing was one of the world’s most impactful events.  Still to this day it is used but for different reasons. The process is quite simple, by using cast lead or through the use of photopolymer plates type and images are created and then set into a printing press where ink is rolled over the surface, paper is pressed over the type and image and an impression is made.  Below are some images as well as a short video that shows the traditional process very well.

So now when you see text in a fine art print you get to answer other peoples questions. Look to see if the ink sits on the surface or below that will tell you if it is planogrpahic or relief. Digital or silkscreen? Photopolymer or lead type? Now that takes experience and a bit of an eye. 

No comments: