Exploring screen printing, Assignment 2, Application of design ideas

1 February 2016

The final activity in this assignment is to produce a piece of cloth, either from my practical printing or directly from my sketchbook.

I started by asking myself a series of questions:

  1. What screen printing techniques worked well in stages 2 and 3?
  2. Where there any colour combinations which I particularly liked from my sketchbook or practical printing?
  3. Were there any patterns which I particularly liked from my sketchbook or practical printing?
  4. What shapes/textures/colours would combine well together?
Particularly successful prints from stages 2 and 3
1. Contact brown paper stencils (design inspired by residential blocks, Petropolis, Book 1, page 35). SAMPLE 6.
2. Masking tape resist. SAMPLE 8.
3. Vilene stencil (design inspired by Hotel SECS, Copacabana – buildings incorporating sunscreens/blinded, book 1, page 38). SAMPLE 9.
4. Newspaper stencil, simple square. SAMPLE 1.
5. Flour paste resist (design inspired by concrete texture and marks, University, Brasilia, book 1 page 24). SAMPLE 7.
6. Cobweb spray stencil (inspired by concrete textures, University, Brasilia, book1, page 24) SAMPLE 16.
7. Speedball filler mono print (design inspired by concrete textures, University, Brasilia, book1, page 24). SAMPLE 14.
Why no techniques using thickened dye-pastes?
It is worth explaining that I did not feel sufficiently confident with getting good bright results from dye-paste colours, nor in my ability to mix them accurately, to use them for my final piece. I therefore decided that I would use Seletacine print medium.
Favourite ideas from my sketchbook

8. Museum of contemporary art, Niteroi (book 1, page 30-33)

I am strongly drawn to these colour combinations and the bold designs.

9. University, Brasilia (book 1, page 24)

Textures in the concrete and weathering.

10. Office buildings, Brasilia (book 1, page 41-42)

Derived shapes

11. School, Belo Horizonte (book 1 pages 2-10)

a) Particularly the use of florist’s paper to give depth when used underneath or on top of the building shapes

b) ….and the many wonderful pattern variations possible with the ‘asymmetric V’, a shape derived from the corner of the building.

What type of cloth and which techniques/designs could be used together?
Next, I gave consideration to the type of cloth that I wanted to produce. Most of my work in stages 2 and 3 had been taking a single technique or idea and testing it with different stencils, screen and print media. I wanted to see if I could combine the designs to make a layered cloth with lots of visual interest.
I found Benn and Morgan’s book (1) to be a most useful starting point. At the back of the book they have a section on projects and how to build experience through exploration. They suggest starting by making a series of prints which could be used as backgrounds:
  1. Line into texture
  2. Texture/background from shape
  3. Layering value
  4. Layering colour
They suggest that from this starting point it will be easier to determine the next step, and what will move the fabric forward in terms of creating visual interest.
I decided that I would start by making a series of samples, then evaluate the success of each.
12. Texture background from shape
I took a simple shape (similar to capital B) from the print at item 1. of this blog post (residential blocks, Petropolis, Book 1, page 35). 
(N.B. I did not use the “V” stencil shown on this screen)
SAMPLE 25: I made a freezer paper stencil and printed it many times, overlapping the shapes to create texture.
Although I like the textural effect, I do not like the amount of “ghosting” on this sample. This is impossible to avoid unless multiple “B” shapes are incorporated into the stencil (to minimise the need for repositioning). The only way to avoid ghosting completely is to use a block print instead of a screen.
13. Layering value
I made two samples to explore how a background fabric could be made by layering value, one using the cobweb spray screen (item 6. of this blog post), one using the Speedball screen filler mono print screen (item 7. of this blog post).
SAMPLE 26: First I tried the cobweb spray. I used different shades of grey, starting with the lightest and progressing to the darkest. I overlapped and moved the screen slightly each time to vary the value. This is really a combination of the techniques at item 6. and 4., because the screen itself also makes a rectangle-shaped print.
SAMPLE 27: I then tried a similar technique with the mono print screen. I think this background has a lovely texture and also cadence, due to the repeating nature of the print pattern.
I like both these prints which remind me in different ways of concrete texture.
14. Layering colour
SAMPLE 28: I continued with the stencil I had made at item 12., but introduced a second and third colour. In the middle of the process the centre of the stencil broke down and I was left with a solid shape.
I don’t like this print. It is confused by too much ghosting and the red colour has been almost entirely changed to purple, loosing it’s vibrancy (through mixing with the blue). The grey colour just looks like a muddy mess. Maybe it would have been better if I’d let each colour dry before printing on the next? However I think the ghosting is the real show-stopper.
Next stage – exploring layering
I decided to work initially with the mono print silk screen as a background and do some preliminary investigations to establish whether my preferred colour schemes and shapes were likely to work. I really love the colours at point 8., so I started my making a blue layered background. I used blue Selectacine first then printed over using the same stencil and grey print medium. When dry, I tried two approaches to introducing shapes – SAMPLE 29: angular shapes (first photo below) and SAMPLE 30: florist’s paper stencil (second photo below).
N.B. I had to make my own stencils from brown paper similar to the florist’s paper design because the florist’s paper was too heavy to work well as screen print stencil.
What is immediately apparent is that the colours don’t work together in this context. They are too far apart on the colour wheel to have any harmony and are not complementary, split complementary or triads. Also, the background is a very stark pattern itself, with strong (too much) contrast between the white cloth and blue/grey print. It seems in both these samples as if the background and foreground are fighting for dominance.
What does work quite nicely is the soft floaty effect of the florist’s paper stencils. I like the small accents of colour and how they seem to meander across the fabric.
I know that the colours I have used are not good replicas of those in point 8. (the red should be more scarlet and the blue less turquoise and more towards the violet end of the spectrum). However, the samples above gave me enough insight to realise that even if I mixed the colours correctly, they would still not work with this design. Why they work in the analogies at point 8., I’m not sure, but I can only image it’s to do with the relative proportions of each and the fact that they form adjacent solid colour blocks rather than small overlaid shapes.
Revising background fabric choice
I decided to work with the cobweb spray screen as an alternative to the mono print design (as it was a more overall pattern for layering). As the grey shades had worked well, I stuck with them and produced a background cloth (see below)
The cloth includes not just the shape of the screen (rectangles), but some column-like shapes which were inspired by the Dance Pavilion walkway, Pampulha (see book 1, page 45). The photo below shows the stencil I used with the cobweb spray screen.
I think this background works very well, especially as the layering gives rhythms and movement.
Revising colour choice
I started by mixing a blue which I really liked. This happened to be a shade of blue-violet. I used my colour wheel to find and mix the complementary shade of yellow-orange (dark mustard). From these two colours, I made tints (added white), to obtain lilac and light mustard respectively (see below). These would be the main colours for my fabric and I felt secure in the knowledge (from colour theory) that they would work together.

Building the layers
I started by adding columns in the background using dark mustard, which were inspired by the columns at the Dance Pavilion walkway, Pampulha (see sketchbook, page 45 and photo below)
I made these follow approximate diagonals to harmonise with the dark grey blocks.
I was really surprised how dominant these columns appeared (being dark and in the foreground), but continued with the layering.
I started by softening the columns with overprinting of lilac. I used the negative image of the florist’s paper to create a subtle stencil. 
The dark mustard columns were still dominant and I wasn’t sure as this stage whether the layering was going to integrate the shapes/patterns sufficiently. I continued…..
I wanted to blue-violet to be an accent colour and to be quite dominant in the cloth. I therefore chose it for the positive image of the florist’s paper stencil. I tried to print these shapes in a way that the ‘meander’ across the cloth, similar to the contrast between hard edges and curved shapes in Niemeyer’s buildings. I also wanted to emulate the many examples where hard landscaping is softened by seeing foliage through glass or columns. 
At this stage, I felt that the cloth was starting to work (due to contrast of shapes and tonal variation). However, overall it was becoming rather dark. I added columns using light mustard (below)
The new columns appeared extremely bright and by this stage I felt that there were too many ‘horizontal’ lines. I added a few verticals to balance the pattern. Now it was coming to life.
Still rather dark, I thought about re-introducing the very light grey colour of the background into the foreground. As white is usually partially transparent, I thought it would help to soften the harsh shapes of the vertical and horizontal columns, and bring harmony by uniting the background and foreground. I used the florist’s paper stencil but scaled up the size, so that I retained continuity of shape as well as colour.
At this point I was wondering whether to stop the process. However, the design had the feeling of being slightly fragmented because of the use of so many small shapes. I decided to add one final layer of light grey rectangles, using the cobweb screen to soften their effect.
SAMPLE 31: Above is a photo of my final cloth. I think that the balance of background and foreground shapes, colour and movement works very well. What I am slightly disappointed with is that the dominant colours have turned out to be light and dark grey and that the wonderful complementaries seem to have lost their impact. I think this could have been addressed by not using greys in the design at all but instead making the background colours very pale lilac and pale mustard.
  1. Benn, C and Morgan, L. (2009) Screen printing: Layering textiles with colour, texture and imagery. Committed to Cloth. 4 Print Ltd. Nottingham.

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