Perhaps surprisingly given the simplicity and graphic nature of my finished works, I hardly ever know what they are going to look like when I start on them. The preparatory work is based in the sketchbook. This is where the formal reduction of the source material starts. It is a trial and error exercise based on experience and gut instinct. On an aesthetic level I want to create a formal relationship of abstract shapes and voids within the predetermined field of the canvas boundary. However this needs to be balanced with the emotive content I want the piece to convey. This is the most challenging but exciting part of the process for me, as the final composition reveals itís self through the pencil marks. This basic composition is then transferred on to the canvas where invariably more changes are made. Before finally covering the canvas as quickly as possible with acrylic paint to ascertain the colours and tones I want. Once happy with these then the painstaking layers of paint are applied, the processes of building up the layers to achieve the completely flat finish is one that takes great patience, however ultimately brings the most satisfaction as the work starts takes on a life of its own. As I create the sharp lines on the canvas surface it starts to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.
I have recently added a new layer of transformation to my imagery as I have built a silkscreen print studio within my workspace. Once the original paintings are finished I use this imagery to help me create the screens I make to create silkscreen prints.
I had been particularly keen to work with silk screening for a while. It just felt like a very natural sideways step for me from my painting style and techniques.
I create my screens using the photo emulsion technique:
The original image is created on a transparent overlay I have to ensure the areas to be inked are opaque. A screen must then be selected. There are several different mesh counts that can be used depending on the detail of the design being printed. Once a screen is selected, the screen must be coated with a light sensitive emulsion and let to dry in the dark. (I use my loft!) Once dry, the screen is ready to be burned/exposed.
The overlay is placed over the emulsion-coated screen, and then exposed with a light source containing ultraviolet light. The UV light passes through the clear areas and creates a polymerization (hardening) of the emulsion. The screen is washed off thoroughly. The areas of emulsion that were not exposed to light dissolve and wash away, leaving a negative stencil of the image on the mesh Therefore the open spaces that are left are where the ink will appear in the print.
Once the screen is prepared I am ready to print:
The screen is placed atop a substrate such as paper or canvas. Ink is then placed on top of the screen as the mesh openings now have to be flooded with ink. This is done by dragging the ink over the mesh using a squeegee with the screen lifted away from the substrate to prevent contact. The screen is the placed atop the substrate again and the squeegee is moved toward the rear of the screen with slight downward pressure. The tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away from the substrate (called snap-off) leaving the ink upon the substrate surface.
It is very easy to learn but can take a lifetime to master as every stage can be altered in numerous versions to create different effects and results. The key thing is that work made in this way is very much hand made I consider my original works made this way original paintings. I am just using a different kind of brush!