Che, Jim, Andy and Silkscreening

Way back in the late Sixties I picked up a number of useful skills. AND they had nothing to do with computers. Apart from tie dying which was messy and great fun, I learnt how to silkscreen tshirts and posters.

Now you have to remember that desktop publishing hasn’t been invented yet, and neither has the inkjet printer, iron on paper or Kinko’s. So we had to figure out ways to get the message across while waiting around for someone to invent all that stuff. It also had the advantage that while you were waitng for stuff to dry you could whip round the corner and catch a set from a band at the local pub.

Korda photo of CheIn case you think that this all sounds a little lowtech and primitive, I would like to point out that one of the enduring icons from that era was first popularised as a silkscreened poster and tshirt.

The Maryland Institute College of Art called Korda’s photo (that’s the one on the left), “The most famous photograph in the world and a symbol of the 20th century.” and who am I to argue.

Jim Hamilton GraphicNow this is transformed using a single stencil and some black ink by Irish artist Jim Hamilton into the graphic at the right (of course recognise it,you’ve seen the image a million times). and then Fitzpatrick’s high contrast image is hijacked and re-purposed by Warhol CheAndy Warhol’s in his 1962 artwork Che Guevara, a montage of brightly coloured images in Warhol’s stylised screenprint. And now it’s used to sell Vodka, clothes and probably appears at least somewhere in the graffiti on a wall near you right now.

So screenprinting, lowtech and primitive, OK. But you still can change the world with it.

Silkscreening is a great medium, as it sort of sits half-way between hand-drawn and mass production, way more colourful than photocopying and as you can see above, it has an aesthetic all its own.

What prompted all this is a post by Artist Shannon Gerard, who broke out her silkscreening gear to make cool shirts and posters for her upcoming comic launch, and while waiting for things to dry has shared her skills in a funny and very detailed tutorial over at No Media Kings How to Silkscreen Posters and Shirts

So go and read up, learn how to print your own posters, shirts, or whatever else is small enough to be printing on. Lets face it, we may be needing this soon. Oh yeah keep an eye out for the Virgin Mary and Spiderman, they help her out.

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