During Assignment 2 Text & image I experimented with silkscreen printing and followed that by exploring the creative opportunities of the medium using mark resist. I learned unexpectedly that silkscreen printing is a technique that allows me to combine my expressive visual style with reportage, people, place, themes and subjects in an interesting way.
The opportunity I wanted to explore in this experiment was whether I could successfully ‘productionise’ my work by creating, exhibiting and selling a number of small edition prints.
- I will create a number of prints in editions.
- Testing designs on a range of users will give me insights that will increase the likelihood of getting them exhibited and generating sales.
- These will be exhibited and sold during H2 2021 creating enough income that I break even i.e. the sales income will cover the outgoing costs estimated at £1030 (this includes materials and other directly relatable costs but not my time).
- I will create between three and five silkscreen prints in editions of 30. These will be of themes and subjects that align with the objectives I set myself in Assignment 1 Personal statement and will form part of my portfolio as part of PART 4 Presenting your practice.
- User testing will use OCA students via forums, workshops and meetups will generate meaningful insights.
- These will be accepted in at least one gallery during H2 2021 and will generate income through sales.
- I will learn whether printmaking is profitable (in cash terms)
- I will learn how to approach galleries and what their terms are
- I will learn what sells to different audiences
Metrics and measures
- The total costs to create the prints will not exceed £1030
- There will be at least five different prints in runs of at least 30
- I will get at least one of the prints in a commercial gallery (ideally as part of an exhibition)
- Sales of the prints during 2021 will exceed the outgoings
- I will gain positive feedback from customers through social media, direct communication (email, face-to-face)
- I’ve never done silkscreen print editions so don’t have experience of what can go wrong – I just have to accept this and work with a technician close at hand for support.
- I’ve never created artwork for transfer to a screen using halftone so this may fail – I’ve reduced this risk somewhat by taking the advice of an experienced printer. There’s also plenty of advice online.
- I’ve purchased 160 sheets of paper (that includes 5% contingency for mistakes. In hindsight probably not enough) – I may have to buy more paper.
- Costs may exceed budget – That will form part of the learning so that costing out future projects become more accurate.
- Prints might not be accepted for exhibition – That will form part of the learning. Experimenting limits the impact this could have.
- Prints might not sell. Experimenting limits the impact this could have. User testing and market research (looking at what sells on online galleries) will reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
With fixed deadlines and had a limited number of open access print session available I created a high level plan for the work.
PostIt notes meant that it was easy to shift activities around as the work unfolded.
I started by costing out the project. I realised there were large gaps in my knowledge so this would be a fairly rough estimate, but it gave me a rough idea to work with.
|Print studio 10 x Open Access sessions||180|
|Open session consumables||50|
|Paper – 200 sheets||400|
I asked my OCA tutor for advice on a suitable paper for silkscreen printing. I’d had experience of buying papers for intaglio and relief printing where the qualities of the paper are really important. I didn’t know where to start with silk screen printing. She advised me to use a paper called Heritage stocked by John Purcell.
For inks I took the advice of the Ochre Studio print technician and stuck to using Daler-Rowney System 3 Screen Printing inks which is what I’d been using to date.
OPPORTUNITIES TO EXHIBIT/SELL
I used the internet and word of mouth to identify a number of opportunities to exhibit or sell prints including commercial galleries, competitions and open calls for artwork.
People and places
- Hunstanton promenade – line art foreground, mark resist texture background
- Hunstanton fun fair with or without ice cream lady – line art foreground, mark resist texture background
- Hunstanton fun fair forlorn landscape – line art foreground, mark resist texture background
- Ely down and very much out – line art foreground, mark resist texture background experiment with ink stamps
The initial image will experiment with use halftone to reproduce existing artwork as part of a foreground layer.
- Kneeling figure with hat and glasses – Two colour, possible addition of text. Halftone foreground
Depending on what is learned from this there are plenty of options to make further prints using the same approach or create new artwork using a combination of ‘traditional’ artwork and mark resist.
I started by looking at the website of Print Club London who specialise in selling limited edition screen prints.
I wanted to establish:
- Who’s working with the same themes and subjects as I am and what they’re doing
- The price range and number of prints in an edition
- Any observations/learnings about what seems to sell well and why
Their website currently features the work of 356 different artists and the work can be filtered by:
My life drawing based work would fit squarely in a theme called ‘Figurative’.
Within the ‘Figurative’ theme there were 309 different prints. The range of images was broad so it was relatively easy to identify artists working from within a life drawing/observational drawing genre like my own.
- Very striking that I could only find three examples of male models – that means approx. 95% female nudes
- Also very striking that virtually none of the images were full length. Most were torso without heads, hands, feet.
- Apart from a small number of exceptions, the images are very conventional life drawings – what you see is what you get. There is not much design or illustration in the images. This is about drawing bodies not people/characters.
- There are many original pieces of life drawing artwork for sale. These are priced significantly higher than the editions of prints.
- There are only three or four examples of images that combine text and image. These look illustrated and use hand written script.
- Case study – Alexandria Coe – prices range from £95 (very simple line art, one colour, edition of 40), £250 (one colour but more design with textured painterly fills, edition 40), to £500 (original artwork, expressive line weight, one colour, no fill or tone).
Difficult to tell but based on the types of images that are marketed I assume buyers are youngish professionals with disposable income to either buy prints for themselves or as gifts.
I reviewed previous work to identify figure drawings that might be suitable for printing. These were all originally black and white. I mocked up what these could look like as three colour prints in Photoshop.
TESTING DESIGN IDEAS
In order to better understand my audience/customers and their preferences I tested mock-ups of the designs on two groups.
Group 1 – Gallery manager
I decided to ask London Print Club directly whether they would be interetsed in stocking the following images:
I explained these were mock-up and I was interested in getting their feedback before committing them to print.
I asked them several questions:
- Would you consider selling one/all of these images (when printed to the specifications above), through your site
- What elements do you think would work well for your customers
- What wouldn’t work well
- What is the optimum number of prints in an edition?
- Do you have any advice on the print size?
- What are your terms and conditions?
I followed up the email with a phone call and spoke to the Gallery Manager who was very helpful and gave the following feedback:
- She was potentially interested in stocking/selling the prints on the London Print Club website
- She preferred the black and white print
- Working to a full paper size of A2 would probably better (rather than A2 being the printed area which is what I proposed)
- A limited run of 25 might be safer as a start
- She suggested using a painted effect on the background colour so that the edges become uneven/textured in some way.
- She also said that she was thinking on her feet and there are no right answers
At the end of the call she said she’d be happy to comment on any other artwork and to look at the finished prints.
Group 2 – OCA student workshop
I presented variations of the designs that included text as part of the Visual Art and Text workshop facilitated by Bryan Eccleshaw.
I wanted to experiment combining words and image to see if this would extend the meaning of the images in an interesting way.
The feedback from the group is in the Visual Art and Text padlet.
FINAL DESIGN CHOICES
My conclusion based on feedback was that the text versions didn’t really work.
I decided to run with a range of subjects to see what if any might sell.
Print 1 – Re-work Hunstanton promenade illustration
My objective in print 1 was to test creating a background texture/tonal layer using learnings from my mark resist experiment.
Print 2 – Standing nude
The technical objective of this print was to see if I could successfully translate and print a black and white life drawing using halftone.
I had the A2 black and white artwork scanned at 300dpi.
I used the following Photoshop settings for halftone taken from Photoshop For Screen Printing – Halftones (2014):
- Mode > Grayscale (if not already)
- Mode > Bitmap
- Set the output the same as input (300dpi)
- Frequency is mesh size (American measure) divided by 5. For a screen at 120T (English measure), this equals a frequency of 61
- Angle = 22.5
- Shape = circle although other options available to experiment with
Print 3 – Kneeling nude
The challenge with this print was pulling an even colour across a relatively large flat area. This was the first time I’d done this and I was unprepared for the amount of ink needed.
I really liked how the halftone layer combined with the bright yellow background.
Print 4 – Black tulips
For the fourth print I created the background layer working direct onto mark resist with a number of different media.
Print 5 – Dragged up
I made the final print the most challenging. It used four colours and involved masking which I used for the first time.
I printed the same colour on two layers to create the subtle flower pattern in the background.
exhibitions and sales
I followed-up on three of the opportunities I’d identified to exhibit and/or sell the prints. I considered and rejected two others.
|Opportunity||Description||Why this?||What happened?|
|International Original Print Exhibition||Open call for prints||Exposure – Accepted work was exhibited in Bankside Gallery and included in a high quality exhibition catalogue||Three prints were submitted, but all were rejected|
|Open call for entries – Adams Gallery||Open call for artists to submit up to two works for their Autumn/Winter Show running in Christmas.||An opportunity to exhibit and sell in a small gallery. Chance to learn from the process||Two prints accepted. These didn’t sell during the exhibition but have been retained by the gallery to redisplay|
|London Print Studio||Silkscreen print studio with online sales||Well established representing a wide range of artists. They have expressed an interest in considering my work.||I submitted the five prints and followed up with several calls and emails. Nothing happened.|
|The ING Discerning Eye AND The Royal Cambrian Academy of Art 2022 Annual Open Exhibition||Open call for artists||Exposure – Accepted work would be exhibited in and included in a high quality exhibition catalogues||I couldn’t justify the costs in terms of time and money so didn’t progress with these two options|
What I learned
How i measured up
|Original measure||What happened|
|The total costs to create the prints will not exceed £1030||Actual spend was £850. Some of this was on materials such as ink and paper that was not fully consumed|
|There will be at least five different prints in runs of at least 30||I created five prints in editions of 40|
|I will get at least one of the prints in a commercial gallery (ideally as part of an exhibition)||I got two prints into Adams Gallery as part of their Autumn/Winter Show|
|Sales of the prints during 2021 will exceed the outgoings||Failed. To date I have made no sales and my balance is minus £850|
|I will gain positive feedback from customers through social media, direct communication (email, face-to-face)||On reflection I don’t think this was a good metric.|
It was difficult to measure. I certainly received encouraging feedback and did get two of the prints exhibited, but this didn’t translate into any sales.
Social media likes were fairly average and often the images I posted showed work in progress rather than finished prints. So not a reliable indicator.
What went well
- I gained a lot of technical knowledge and understanding of the end-to-end silkscreen print process. Through making a lot of mistakes I now feel confident in my ability and have identified processes and techniques that extend my ways of working
- I now have knowledge of the terms and conditions of submitting work to a gallery for exhibition and the logistics and process of costing, contract, submitting and preparing work
- Making prints the same physical size means that expensive picture frames can be reused
What I would do differently/better
- I didn’t spend enough time and effort on sales and marketing. I need a more structured methodical approach and need to do more follow-up
- I’m not sure the diversity of subjects across the five prints helped when I approached galleries because it weakened the offering
- I was advised by several of the artists in the print studio to create much smaller prints runs in the first instance. If a particular print was to sell I could then reprint more. I ignored this advice because I believed it would be much cheaper in the long run to do the full run of 40 in one go. On balance, my approach was wasteful. I’ll do shorter runs in the future
What I’ll do next
- I will continue to experiment with silkscreen printing combining different subjects and visual styles
- I will continue to explore exhibition and sales opportunities
Coe, Alexandria (2021) Featured on Print Club London (Website) At: https://printclublondon.com/artist/alexandria-coe/ (Accessed: 18/07/21)
Photoshop For Screen Printing – Halftones (2014) At: https://youtu.be/4n3vuD6I9CI (Accessed 31/07/2021).
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – Hadfield, H (2021) 9-week plan In possession of: the author
Figure 2 – Hadfield, H (2021) Budget estimate
Figure 3 – Hadfield, H (2021) Initial print mock-up In possession of: the author
Figure 4 – Hadfield, H (2021) Text image combination test 01 In possession of: the author
Figure 5 – Hadfield, H (2021) Text image combination test 02 In possession of: the author
Figure 6 – Hadfield, H (2021) Text image combination test 06 In possession of: the author
Figure 7 – Hadfield, H (2021) Blocking out tiny holes in the emulsion In possession of: the author
Figure 8 – Hadfield, H (2021) The first layer printed and in drying rack In possession of: the author
Figure 9 – Hadfield, H (2021) Hunstanton promenade In possession of: the author
Figure 10 – Hadfield, H (2021) Halftone artwork transferred to screen and inked-up In possession of: the author
Figure 11 – Hadfield, H (2021) One of the finished prints In possession of: the author
Figure 12 – Hadfield, H (2021) Prints in the drying rack In possession of: the author
Figure 13 – Hadfield, H (2021) First layer In possession of: the author
Figure 14 – Hadfield, H (2021) Second black halftone layer In possession of: the author
Figure 15 – Hadfield, H (2021) Halftone artwork printed onto tracing paper laid on top of the mark resist background In possession of: the author
Figure 16 – Hadfield, H (2021) Black tulips In possession of: the author
Figure 17 – Hadfield, H (2021) Screen flooded with black ink In possession of: the author
Figure 18 – Hadfield, H (2021) Screen after the ‘pull’ In possession of: the author
Figure 19 – Hadfield, H (2021) The final print in the drying rack In possession of: the author
Figure 20 – Hadfield, H (2021) Close up of the final print in the drying rack In possession of: the author