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I finished the new screenprinting studio set up just in time to print my annual ‘New Year’ greeting cards in December 2016.

lotsa cards!

The design was inspired by a very beautiful wooden box, inlaid with silver, admired at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design during a visit to Oslo in 2014.

wooden box with silver inlay,
thorbjørn lie-jørgensen and a.j. damm, norway, 1943

I love few things more than getting sucked into a drawing tangle and this was a particularly pleasurable and absorbing drawing to make. I was sometimes so engrossed that I had to be given a ‘gentle’ reminder that suppertime had come and gone…

feed me!

… and that blowing on wet drawing ink to speed up drying is a really dumb thing to do.

doh!

Thankfully there’s Kuretake’s highly opaque ‘White Ink 30‘ for fixing these little mishaps!

phew!

I enjoyed making the drawing and printing the cards so much that I decided to print a larger, limited edition version of the image – I thought it would be a fun project, but also a great exercise for familiarising myself with my new screenprinting equipment.

image exposed onto screen, ready to print

prints stacking up on the makeshift print-drying rack

I made an edition of 30 prints in velvety black ink on crisp white watercolour paper (to stay true to the dense black and high contrast of the original drawing)…

print detail

… followed by a second edition of 20 prints in an optically-addling combo of white ink on Fabriano’s beautiful ‘Blu Notte’ (Blue Night) Tiziano pastel paper.

I love this print – and it’s not often I like, let alone love, something I’ve made – so despite numerous learning curve glitches (alluded to in my previous post) making these prints was a very rewarding experience!

print detail

The limited edition prints (in both colourways) and a handful of greeting cards are now available to buy in my Etsy shop:

two-colour screenprint with hand-coloured details in watercolour & gouache, made in late 2011

I was first bitten by the silkscreen printing bug back in December 2008 when I joined a two-day workshop led by the inspiring Christina Hallström at the Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier (now the AGA LAB). I’ve since been most grateful to have access to the AGA LAB’s facilities to realise various printmaking projects… but I also began to dream about setting up silkscreen printing facilities in my own studio, where I could work more spontaneously, be ready to dive in whenever inspiration struck, and to have the luxury (and there’s no question that’s what it is!) to experiment in my own space and at my own pace.

2016 was the year I finally made this dream a reality!

our ‘stoere jongen‘ guards the shiny new vacuum printing table!

sunsrise and screens… ready for some early morning printing!

Setting up the studio was quite a project in its own right and required plenty of research and careful planning. It was a time-consuming, sometimes tedious (darkroom curtain-rail research & comparison, anyone?), frequently frustrating (did the installation technician really just cut off that impossible to replace power plug!?), always challenging labour of love. Then towards the end of last year it was finally done and high time to get back into the real labour of love… making and printing stuff!

colour mixing

a film positive (for exposing image onto screen) casts an interesting shadow

And that’s what this year-so-far has been about – getting to know the quirks of new equipment, figuring out optimal screen-mesh threadcounts for image detail, printing with different inks, optimising processes…

multitasking bathroom… now doubling up as a screen washout booth

… trialling (& much erroring!) of photo-emulsions & exposure times, step wedge test adventures, and trying not to get (too much) ink on the cat!

aarrgh!… another failed (under)exposure

I’m still learning – there’ve been some hold-my-head-in-my-hands-in-despair moments (see previous pic!) – but it’s also thrilling and exciting and a lot of fun to be working in my own space!

checking ‘off contact’
(to ensure optimal space between screen mesh and printing substrate)

glorious, gloopy ink!

My (furry grey ;-) editor tells me that’s enough words for now… but I’ll return soon with more about some of the print projects I’ve been working on. In the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed the ‘teasers’ in the process shots illustrating this post.

I’m in the process of packing up to move home and studio to a new city (albeit a nearby one) and it’s proving, not surprisingly, to be a time-and-energy-consuming process. Luckily I have a very attentive project manager keeping me on my toes…

gira - packing project manager

project manager gira oversees the packing process from atop a pile of boxes

In between house-hunting (& finding :), renovation work (& countless trips back and forth between Amsterdam and Haarlem), packing, and all the other stuff of life I’ve spent some enjoyable time finally completing my ‘noir’ specimen collection with this moth print

lepidoptera (noir) - limited edition screenprint

It’s printed in a limited edition of 13 (plus 1 AP) and completes this collection, made a couple of years ago…

specimen collection - limited edition screenprints

At that time I printed the moths as a four-colour screenprint, but I experienced some technical ‘snap-off’ problems when printing them, and also wasn’t fantastically happy with my colour choices – I felt the crisp, graphic lines of the original Indian ink drawing would be more satisfying as a one colour print (I’m a sucker for the graphic simplicity and velvety tactility of dense black screenprinting ink). Not wanting to waste those dud four-colour prints, I stained them with tea and set them free…

tea-stained moths

moth-bombing in the ardennes

in the hills above la roche-en-ardenne (ardennes, belgium)

moth-bombing in berlin

in st. elisabeth cemetery (berlin, germany)

moth-bombing in cape town

in tokai arboretum (cape town, south africa)

(and in several other places I no longer recall)

If you would like a single specimen or collection of your own, all of the (still available) prints from the ‘noir’ and colour series can be found in my Etsy shop. (I’ll temporarily close the shop from 19 September until ±1 October ± mid-October while I move etc.)

And now I must dash as I think I can hear my project manager calling…

gira - catnap

False alarm! He’s having a well-deserved catnap.

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!

re-purposing test and dud screenprints as gift wrap

March and April are big birthday months around here, with lots of friends and family celebrating another year on the planet. In an attempt to spring-clean and clear some much needed storage space in my studio I’ve been re-purposing test- and dud-prints from previous screenprinting projects as gift wrap, cards and gift tags…

re-purposing test and dud screenprints as gift wrap

re-purposing test and dud screenprints as gift wrap

re-purposing test and dud screenprints as gift wrap

They make for some beady-eyed packages… but so far the recipients haven’t seemed to mind being eyeballed by their birthday gifts!

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The colourful wrapping papers in the third ‘diptych’ are by
(top image) 1973 and (bottom image) Sukie

some of my work, available on etsy
support worldwide wild cat conservation

instagram

Sketchbook doodling… in search of my lost mojo #creative_block #ugh #sketchbook #doodling #drawing #acrylic_ink #white #anthracite #monochrome #leaves #birch #botanical #pattern #negative_space #design Bold, beautiful brassica #cruciferous #cabbage #leaf #phyllotaxy #purple #green #verdant #fibonacci #pattern #raindrops #roofgarden Gira sez "Eat yer greens!" #good_advice #yum #catgrass #cyperus_zumula #teeth #canines #green #grey #cat #gira #catsofinstagram September is upon us (!) and this is an illustration I made towards the end of last year for @essie_letterpress ‘s 2017 Artist’s Almanac. The almanac is produced in South Africa and the only stipulation for the illustration (apart from colour and sizing guidelines) was that it should fit a Southern hemisphere timeline… September is early springtime in South Africa, when the remarkable fynbos wildflowers begin to bloom and southern right whales migrate through SA’s coastal waters where they can be seen frolicking close to shore.
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The almanac’s cover illustration (partially pictured here) is by the talented @ikronk
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#south_africa #spring #cetacea #eubalaena_australis #baleen #whale #southern_right_whale #tail_sailing through a #garland of #fynbos #flowers #gazania #quaqua #stapelia #pelargonium_incarnatum #ornithogalum #lachenalia #spiloxene #romulea #oncosiphon #euphorbia #lapeirousia #protea #flora #pattern #artistsalmanac #calendar2017 #two_colour #illustration #letterpress Our brave, beautiful boy… happy to be back home after his first cancer treatment @mcvoordieren earlier this week.
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If you’ve got any healing good vibes to spare (I know that’s a big ask in this perennially tough world) please send them Gira’s way ☄💙🐈
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#gira #cat #greeneyes #steady_gaze #inscrutable #manga_eyes #studiomate #best_fur_buddy #positive_energy #healing #lymphoma #enzyme_injections #fuckcancer #catsofinstagram A profoundly pleasing polar bear…
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'Orso’ by Simona Vergani (1998, white Carrara marble, h 350cm) can be found in Amsterdam’s Erasmuspark, and is definitely one of the coolest ❄🐧❄ public sculptures I’ve encountered!
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#polar_bear #ijsbeer #ursus_maritimus #vulnerable #habitat_loss #climate_change #paws #orso #sculpture #carved #white #carrara #marble #blue #summer_sky #amsterdam #erasmuspark

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