A silk screen picture is derived from a very intricate process, which can produce a work of great beauty. Looking at a silk-screen one might wonder how it is done. It is different from looking at a painting. Looking at a painting, you know it was derived from a brush, empty canvas, and an artist with ideas. Looking at a silk screen, the artist part is obvious. How it is done, is not. For the sake of the curious, here is the how.
A screen is made of a piece of mesh stretched over a frame. A stencil of desired images is used to press paint, or ink through the mesh screen onto a surface. A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, pressing ink into the mesh openings. It is a very delicate process, which is done with great care. This process is repeated for each desired color. Once this is done, the screen is removed, and the print is hung to dry. This sounds like something that would take forever, if not longer. Actually, for those proficient in the art, it can be done rather fast. For an artist, time is not a factor.
One might be surprised to learn, silk screening goes back a couple of three years, to China around 960 AD. This would be the logical place for the matrix of the art, due to the fact that China was the matrix for silk. It was discovered, developed, and industrialized in this country. Silkscreen was adapted by other Asian countries, such as Japan. It was introduced to Western Europe in the eighteenth century. The introduction did not have the same immediate impact that the introduction of the Beatles had in American in 1964. The majority of Europeans did not have access to silk mesh. Silkscreen would not become popular, until the mesh was more readily available. Even then Europe was not on par with Asia, as far as use, and popularity. What was needed was someone with new ideas to bring the European Silkscreen industry to the fore. This would come to pass with the help of an inventor, by the Name of Samuel Simon.
Through the journey of silk screen, many people have come along to add improvements to the technique, with their ideas, and inventions. Silk screening, as we know it today, began in the early 1900’s. In 1907 Samuel Simon, of Manchester England, received a patent for using a silk screen fabric as a printing screen. This invention coined the term silk screen printing. His improved process produced a higher tensile strength. Did this cause the excitement of the Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show? There are very few events in history that could match that. What it did do for Europe was to put the silk screen industry on the radar screen. It was now on the map. The affluent began finding many uses for it, such as designs on linen. He used brushes for his screens. Today squeegees are used, in place of brushes. Aside from that change, the process is basically the same Enter John Pilsworth.
John C. Patrick Pilsworth, to be exact, was a very likely candidate to be among the innovators in the improvement of the silk screen process. He was born into a family of printers. He is referred to as American, but actually born in England in 1871. He immigrated, along with his family to the United States in 1890. He was a commercial artist in San Francisco when he improved the screen printing process by attaching the stencil to a silk bolting cloth. From this along with his brothers Edward, Eugene, Henry, and Roy, he created the multi-color screen printing process from a single screen. This garnered the term Selectasine Method. This technique made it possible to print signs and posters in mass quantities
Until 1960 screen presses could only handle a single layer printing. Waiting in the wings, to alter this was a man by the name of Michael Vasilantone an American entrepreneur. He developed a rotary garment multicolored screen printing machine. Now it was possible to print multiple layers and colors in quick succession. This led to the idea of printing on garments, and eventually led to the fad of printing on t-shirts. His patent was soon licensed by many manufactures, and the fad became widespread. He along with his wife Fannie started their own textile screen printing business, dedicated to developing new machinery designs and elevating operating standards, which are still used by the textile screen printing industry today.
SCREEN PRINT ARTISTS
Born in New York city in 1923, Lichtenstein was one the premier pop artists, who became a major figure in the new art movement. He used parody as his forum of expression, often using comic strips for his inspiration. This began in 1961, when he began using cartoon images. The timing was perfect. At the same time, there was an Italian-American art dealer, Leo Castelli who was turning away from abstract expressionist to pop art. It was a perfect meeting of the minds. Castelli displayed Lichtenstein’s work in his New York art gallery the same year. The following year Lichtenstein had his first one man show at the Castelli Art Gallery, with overwhelming success. His entire collection was bought by art collectors, before the show opened.
An artist born in Douai, France, Blexbolex went to art school, with thoughts of being a painter, but found his gift, as a silk-screen artist. He is garnered as a pioneer in his field, for his gift of combining illustration and industrial printing techniques. He works as an illustrator, and comic book artist, integrating old printing methods with new interpretations. In 2009 he received the prestigious Golden Letter Award, for best book design
He was different at the time that different was very much in. The 1960’s were anti-establishment, anti -everything. People under 30 were warned, not to trust anyone over 30. He was over 30, but accepted by the youth culture anyway. An American Artist, Warhol created several massed produced silkscreen images, during the decade of the 1960’s. He fell into the world of silk screen, by necessity. He tried other methods of painting, but discovered he could not make his paintings fast enough, on canvas. In 1962 he began making silkscreens, enabling him to mass produce images in a short period of time. This would be part of the Pop Art Movement. He made many silkscreens from photographs of many celebrities, Marilyn Monroe being the first.
ROB RYAN Rob Ryan is a British artist who has taken the art of silk screen in yet another direction. He has enjoyed great success as a paper cutter artist, specializing in paper cutting silk screen printing. He studied art at Nottingham Trent Polytechnic, but received his M A at the Royal College of London, in print making. Today he is renowned for detailed paper cut out images. He has illustrated books and album covers, and the fashion collections of Paul Smith. He has written two books “This is For You” in 2009 and “A Sky Full of Kindness” in 2011. He used his paper cutting technique to write both books.
In the 1930’s, as artists began to emerge in the very commercial screen print industry, they wanted the distinction made, between their art and commercial art. Curator Carl Zigrosser took a great interest in up and coming artists. He gave them a voice, as well a venue to display their work, by displaying their work in his many art galleries. It was he who introduced the term serigraph. In Greek seri mean silk, and graph means draw. To further aid the distinction between art and commercial use, in 1940 The National Serigraphic Society was formed for artists. Now there was a place for artists striving for excellence to be with other artists having the same goal.
W. P. A.
From 1936 to 1943 the W.P.A. [Works Progress Administration created by President Franklin Roosevelt] created thousands of silk screen posters, exhibiting different parts of the country. Travel was not commonplace then, as it is today. Crowded airports were completely unheard of. People did not travel across the country to visit friends, and relatives on a regular basis. You did not have to worry about making early reservations for Thanksgiving, the most traveled holiday of the year. There was no most traveled holiday of the year. These posters encouraged people to leave their immediate surroundings, and visit other states, national parks, and landmarks. Families started planning car trips, to see places they had only seen in newsreels. The Library of Congress still has a large collection of these posted
Change in Application
. World War Two brought a major changed to silk screen application. The war effort brought the rationing of materials. Cars stopped being produced, because of the need for rubber. This was not a good time for car salesmen. There was an extremely long list of rationed items, silk being on the list. The actual use of silk for screens was discontinued, and replaced with polyester, which is still used today. The basic process, patented by Samuel Simon remains the same.