Textile Printing

HOW THE BOWMAN DO.

After developing the idea or concept of the print, the next step is to carve a linoleum block.   Taking an idea to the block progresses in many ways.  Sometimes I work  directly from photographs, as I did with this airplane image.  Here I was looking for the most accurate representation of the deHavilland Beaver parked in Denali National Park, Alaska. In Photoshop, I reversed the image so it would be properly oriented.  I then sized the image and printed it in black and white.  I then added a grid to the printed image and the lino block, which allowed me to transfer the drawing relatively accurately.   This is unusual for me; I sometimes sketch directly on the block, leaving most of the detail out and allowing the carving process to guide the artwork.  Typically the process involves working with a combination of sketches and photographs to develop a composite image that is  transferred onto the block, either visually or with the aid of old-fashioned carbon paper.

After carving the block and selecting the clothing (usually a shirt) to print, I set up a glass pallet to roll the professional grade silkscreen ink onto.  I prefer Jacquard brand ink, but there are many choices of quality silkscreen ink available.  The ink is water based so it can be diluted if you want a more transparent look, or used straight up for a bolder print or layer.  This part of the process greatly influences how the final piece looks, really allowing you to vary the final print’s look.  Basically at this stage you roll out a thin layer of ink on the glass with your roller, adjusting the viscosity as you wish.

Then you apply the ink to the block.  I generally ink the lino with a thicker layer of ink than you would for a paper print.  Usually I start by applying a thin layer of watered- down ink, followed by a thicker layer that is rolled on with a gentler touch, almost as if you were applying paint with a brush rather than a roller.  This step also greatly informs how the final print will appear, and I vary the application of ink a great deal depending on what look I am going for.

I print on a clean sheet and flat board on the floor so I can use my body weight as the printing press.  Many artists work on a sturdy table and use a mallet to apply pressure to the lino.  Either way you need to place a piece of non- corrugated cardboard between the front and back of the shirt to avoid mashing ink through the shirt onto the other side.  I lay the shirt out neatly so I can see center and plumb of the print placement.  After carefully placing the inked lino on the garment, I then literally dance on the block, making sure to put good pressure on all parts of it.  I keep a damp rag wrapped through a belt loop and am constantly making sure that I have cleaned off any ink that might have found its way to my hands before it inadvertently  ends up on a shirt.

The next steps are carefully peeling the block off of the shirt and hanging it up to dry.   Most brands of silk screen ink require heat-setting with either an iron or a flash dryer for proper curing.  The Jacquard Pro ink that I use does not require this step yet the manufacturer does recommend it for maximum durability.  As I want the longest-lasting art shirt that I can provide, I fire up the flash dryer and give them all that little extra cure.

And that is how the Bowman do.

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