art speak uncovered……what is a screen print?

I have a question for you….

What do Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Eduardo Paolozzi have in common?

The Silken World of Michelangelo, 1967 by Eduardo Paolozzi


They are all known for their screen prints ( or silk screen prints as they were originally described in the days before synthetic screens were available, and real silk was used).

Marilyn (1967) by Andy Warhol

So what exactly is a screen print?

The process is a form of stencilling, using paint applied through a ‘screen’. Areas of the screen are blocked out for each colour in turn to create layers, similar to the process of wood block printing. Photographic images can be used alongside traditional stencilling techniques.

The first ‘screens’ were used way back in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD) using real silk. Nowadays artist tend to use synthetic mesh screens in a wood or metal frame.

sill screen frames stacked for use

paint applied to a screen
applying the paint to the image using a sweeping motion

Trying to describe the process of preparing the screen and creating the final image doesn’t work that well in written words, so I have chosen a video that describes the process really clearly.

A video is worth a thousand words……

Andy Warhol was intruiged by the possibilities of making multiple different images from an original source image. By creating multiple images of Marilyn he emphasised her ubiguitous presence in the media.

Also in the 1960’s Robert Rauschenburg created complex collages to highlight political issues.

Prior to this the screen printing technique had mainly been used only for commercial purposes.

Rober Rauschenburg Retroactive 1

Ruth McDonald is one of our Artspring Gallery printmakers who uses screenprint for her work.

She has an interest in the sea and woodland landscapes when illuminated by failing light and the moon, to expose the traces left by past inhabitants.

Mount Ephraim by Ruth McDonald

In this image you can see that the final print consists of several overlaid colours, creating a sense of depth and fantasy within the woodland scene.

Ruth constantly revisits her preferred locations to investigate beyond the evident, seeking to reveal images as ciphers and signs of the unknown.

Walk in the Woods by Ruth McDonald

Creating a screen print requires a vision and an ability to think in layers. It is a very satisfying process if you love working with paint in a loose and flexible way. The outcome is always a little unpredictable, so no two screenprints will ever be identical.

paints ready for screen printing

And that is one of the main attractions of the process….. the joy of the unexpected.

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