Heroic failure for home studio

Posted by John jpr@thecomicartwebsite.com on


Update on setting up a studio at home
My attempt to continue screenprinting through the pandemic lockdown has suffered a setback, after my first attempt at creating a stencil was a failure.
'Heroic failure' is pitching it a bit high, to be honest. Just a normal, everyday fail.
However, these are prints for my commission at the Victoria & Albert Museum in Dundee (see previous bulletin) so it's important I succeed – I've got clues as to what went wrong and will try again.

In the meantime, here's the story so far: The pandemic has forced me to create a home studio for the entire screenprinting process, from template creation through screen coating to the printing itself.
I was already printing in my home studio - I've been printing for more than a year in my second bedroom, with a printing bed set up over my plan-chest containing all my largest prints.
But to make the screens which I use as stencils I have always utilised commercial studios with large screen washing baths, light boxes and drying racks. Now of course these are off-limits so if I want to continue making new screenprints, I need to replicate those facilities at home.
And through the past weeks I've assembled all the bits I need: chemicals, a power-cleaner and hose fittings to clean screens in my bath; the light-sensitive emulsion and a tray applicator to coat screens; a large box which I made light-tight in which to dry the coated screen; and finally a 400kw hallogen lamp (minus the glass covering) to expose the screen to UV light.
I cleaned the screen, I coated it, I dried it over a couple of days, I made my bathroom light-tight and finally I was ready to expose the screen (for five minutes at 33cms distance) ... but as I washed out the unexposed emulsion, I realised that something had gone wrong and, as you can see, the final result was not quite successful. The stencil is patchy and is useless to make the screenprints I need.
However, I've got clues as to what went wrong - one side of the screen was over exposed and the other was underexposed. So, possibly the lamp was closer to one side than another ... or possibly my drying box wasn't as light-tight as I thought.
So today I try again ... watch this space.

Prints for the V&A in Dundee
I'm now about half way through printing the first batch of three designs for the V&A Dundee – of Dandy icon Desperate Dan, the Beano's flagship character Dennis the Menace and Scottish favourite Oor Wullie. 
But there are faults with the Oor Wullie stencil and the screen needs to be remade, hence this effort to develop a my own screen-coating system.
These screenprints, exclusive to the V&A and designed expressly for it, will go on sale at the museum's Dundee outpost in due course, with a selection of my greetings cards. The publisher of those three classic British comic characters, DC Thomson, is of course based in Dundee. 
These prints are in addition to the range which is available on my website.