Graphic designers use computers all day long at work, which is a reality that I wouldn't have easily anticipated when coming out of school oh so many years ago. When I chose the graphic design field, it was because it promised a desirable balance of tech and traditional art/illustration. Even in the first decade of my career, there were still light tables, drafting tables and markers within our offices. Not so anymore. Along the way, illustrating by hand became more or less economically unfeasible—on the computer it's so much faster and accurate, easier to make revisions, and much less messy. Customers these days have no idea what to think if presented with a preliminary sketch (I learned the hard way a few years ago), they expect to see a "final" illustration and still be able to easily and quickly make major revisions to it.
I miss traditional drawing media and the hand-eye precision it requires, the happy accidents and discoveries you make along the way. I'm resolving to not eliminate creating original works of art from my personal work, at the very least; and, I'm trying something new, a technique outside my comfort zone. I'm taking a semester-long, studio art class to learn screenprinting. Thinking back, the last art class I'd taken that was more than a day-or-two-long workshop was back in 1997. Yikes.
After attending one of those workshops a while back, a hands-on screenprinting demo, I was excited by how easy it seemed to create a lovely product from a simple stencil. Revved with enthusiasm, I asked for a screenprinting kit as a birthday gift. I gave it a try at home and was quickly intimidated by the kit. It came with too few instructions and several mysterious solvents and chemicals. There were too many opportunities to fail without any knowledge base to troubleshoot from. Even though I tried to invite some printing-experienced friends over to help me get over my hang-ups, the craft-dates didn't materialize; I had screenprinting paralysis. The kit started to gather dust.
My first class was this past Monday night. The instructor gave us some history of screenprinting, having herself learned the technique in its American heyday back in the late '60s, early '70s. We started out with cutting a simple design out of freezer paper, attaching the freezer paper to a screen, and printing our stencil using a mix of three or more colors across the screen. We got to the business of creating our designs rather late in the class, but thankfully, I'd brought a sketchbook that had some drawings in it from when I was designing Dash's raccoon doll and was able to get something down on paper quickly. Wrapping my head around making a stencil with the appropriate negative and positive cutouts for my sketch was a little tough that late at night (the class is from 7 to 10 p.m.), but I managed it. I finished seven raccoon prints and cleaned everything up just after class officially ended. (Photos to come—sorry, we were so pressed for time, I wasn't able to get my camera-phone out with paint-splattered fingers.)
I have homework for next week's class—coming up with a high-contrast grayscale (or straight black and white) design to print out on a transparency. Looking forward to it!