Last October I had the pleasure of taking a screen printing class with Steve Walters of Chicago’s Screwball Press. This is something like having a piano lesson from Chopin. After seven or eight hours in the Screwball studio, I had my first 11” x 17”, three color screen print: The Octophant. This unholy chimera was based on a sketchbook page (which also contained the source material for another print we’ve already discussed.) It was not a bad print. For a first try. But even before the ink was dry on it I was sure it could be done better, so it was inevitable that I’d have to revisit this pachycephalopod before long.
Some of the things I saw as shortcomings in the original Octophant:
- The octophant just seems kind of ambivalent. Something in the expression and motionless equilibrium of his position. Also I thought the trunktacles (you heard me) required a more convincing treatment.
- The line quality from my drawing had not translated to the black screen as I had expected. Too fine a line will often fail to make it to the paper and my drawing style is very fine-line-intensive.
- There is a dire need to find a better approach to filling the available space other than that scraggly oval frame which was a total afterthought.
- Being entirely new to the mixing of screen printing inks, and not having a lot of time to dither with the colors anyway, what I came out with was not really what I had had in mind going in. I’ve come to like them since, but I still can’t escape that they look like they’re taken directly from packaging for circus peanuts.
For this installment let’s leave behind all the pixel wrangling from last time and look at something quite drippingly analog.
It is no secret that I have a long-standing interest in cephalopods and watercolors. So of late I’ve been combining the two in a series of of postcards based on actual species documented in Cephalopods: A World Guide. For the purposes of this post I documented some of the stages of painting the maori octopus displayed at left. I’ll try not to get all Joy of Painting about it.
So when I was approached by local Chicago entrepreneur and folk-rocker Al Rose about designing packaging for his upcoming album “My First Posthumous Release” I happily jumped on board. Having free creative reign on a project is always an interesting challenge. Before I could even start brainstorming, however, Al emailed me to say he loved an image I’d posted called Devil’s Own Day which was part of a continuing series of things that were a side effect of watching Ken Burns’ Civil War series too much. But with that, I had a path to pursue.
First thing, I had to find a different model. For my own obsessive reasons I couldn’t directly use my Sherman images, and I didn’t think he worked for what I wanted here anyway, so I went to my favorite source of quality Civil War imagery, Wikipedia, and poked around. Found some candidates but ultimately settled on fallen hero of Gettysburg, General John F. Reynolds. It was really the epaulets that did it.
You’re probably wondering why I’m here. And so am I. The best I can hope to do is at least explain how I got here.
Some time back I was invited to play Werewolf at the 37signals/Coudal compound. Since everyone seemed intent on killing me off as soon as possible (despite the fact that I was never the werewolf) I actually spent most of the time sketching. Jason liked what I had in my book and asked if I’d be interested in posting from time to time here on SvN.
What was I supposed to say, no?
So here, a mere four months or so later, is my first post of the very squid sketch that started this whole thing. I expect I’ll be posting at odd intervals with whatever I’ve been working on, and possibly a bit of commentary on process. I hope it’s of interest.
Below the fold, the further adventures of the squid…