the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint

‘The Sleeping City’ is the silkscreen print I completed recently (and for which the drawings in an earlier post were made). It was inspired by a slightly disquieting, though strangely invigorating, dream I had in which a ghostly, glowing thylacine-headed dragon-creature twisted and turned its sinuous body across the dark night sky above a silent, sleeping Amsterdam. I have long wanted to make drawings of Amsterdam’s iconic canal houses and this perplexing dream gave me the nudge I needed. Of course I couldn’t draw the beautiful step, neck and bell gables as they actually are – I wanted them to appear slightly ‘other’, to give them a dreamlike quality… gables for an alternative-reality Amsterdam. The octopus gable and the dragon were particularly fun to draw – I love making drawings that allow me to lose myself in their intricate twists and turns… so much so that I’m sometimes reluctant to resurface!

the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint, detail

In the dream the city’s slumbering inhabitants were oblivious to the creature’s presence (which, although not malignant, was also not entirely benign). But not everyone slept through this anomaly… Amsterdam’s cats – shape-shifters and dimension-skippers one-and-all – were awake to commune with the strange apparition in the sky.

the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint, details

I have no idea what this dream meant, if indeed it meant anything at all, but it did provide me with some fun material to work with!

the sleeping city, pots of ink

As I generally favour working in black & white, colour-mixing the inks for this print was quite a challenge – I really wanted to capture the harmonious, almost monochromatic midnight-blues, purples and ghostly-glow qualities of the dream, but also wanted enough contrast for the individual elements to have the graphic impact I was after. So I worked with tints and shades of a single colour (that ‘midnight-blue’ I’ve mentioned) – and for the colour layers that called for a more translucent quality, I added lashings of transparent base to the ink.

the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint, details

I chose to print on a coloured paper (Fabriano Tiziano 160gsm pastel paper in ‘Danubio’) as I wanted the elements to emerge from a darker ground, to appear out of ‘the night’ as it were. Printing such a relatively complex (seven-screen, five-colour) print on coloured paper was a first for me and doubtless increased the colour mixing challenges, but generated some very interesting effects. The image disappears almost completely in very dim light, but in brighter light elements positively *pop* off the page – it therefore seems to shift & change in the fluctuating light and as a result replicates a certain surreal quality of the dream that inspired it. I’m fascinated by these temporal effects of colour, light and darkness and will definitely be experimenting further, in future projects, with printing on different coloured papers.

Here’s a little animated GIF showing random snippets of the process, including some of the film transparencies created (from the drawings featured in my earlier post) for the seven separate print layers, exposure (of these transparencies) onto screens, ink/colour mixing, test prints, the print at various stages of completion and finally cleaning/reclaiming the screens at the end of the process.

the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint, process pics

And here is the print, temporarily framed and hanging on my studio wall, to give a sense of scale (those are standard sized postcards on the pinboard to the right). It’s available now, in a limited edition of 45 pieces, in my Etsy shop.

the sleeping city, limited edition screenprint

Now to put Kronk‘s yeti back where he belongs, before his temporary displacement angers him…

yeti screenprint by kronk

… oops, too late!