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Peeling Back the Layers of a Silkscreen Print

Silkscreens by Nancy McIntyre
Three prints from Nancy McIntyre’s “Rhythms of Time” exhibit.

When you realize these are silkscreens — and not paintings — part of you wishes you could grab the paper and peel the image apart, to see each layer that builds to the final print. Right?

If it were physically possible, it would be a lot of work. Not as much work as making it, of course: each layer of transparent ink is printed separately using a block-out stencil, a silk screen, and a squeegee. And in Nancy McIntyre’s exhibit, “Rhythms of Time,” the silkscreens vary from 13 all the way to 133 layers.

How is a silkscreen print made?

As you can imagine, it requires a lot of planning. While you can’t peel apart the layers, the next best thing is looking at the printer’s proofs, made during the long printing process as a record of some of the different stencils and colors used.

It all starts with a drawing …

Lotus printer's proofs and final imageYou can see these printer’s proofs and the final print in person, along with a more thorough explanation of the process by the artist. (They are in a binder on the pedestal in the exhibit room.) We also posted an animation on Instagram using the printer’s proofs.

Lotus was printed in an edition of 50, which means that there are 50 final prints. The first layer was printed onto all 50 pieces of paper first, then the stencil was removed from the screen and the second was painted on. Because the screen is reused and the stencil is destroyed, these printer’s proofs are kept as a record by the artist along with notes on what colors she used.

See an artist demo

To see for yourself how it’s done, please join us for a silkscreen demo with the artist! Nancy McIntyre will be demoing in The Art League Gallery on Sunday, May 22 at 2:00 pm. You can also see a simple block-out stencil in this video from our YouTube channel:

“Rhythms of Time” is on view in The Art League Gallery through Sunday, June 5. The artist demo is Sunday, May 22 at 2:00 pm.

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