Margot Cormier Splane Visual Artist

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Internationally Award Winning Artist

Creating a Hand Pulled Serigraph Print

Serigraph printing takes an image from a line drawing to a completed artwork

Creating a serigraph print begins with a detailed pencil drawing

Serigraph prints create an image in layers using stencils

What is a serigraph print, for me, the process begins with a well-planned line drawing. It is really difficult to make any changes once the layers start going down, so given that I take my time with this stage. Both with chess and with Serigraph Printing, it is important to think many moves ahead.
The silk screen printing technique I use is over one thousand years old and originated in China. Pulling the ink across the screen through a stencil is still done in the same fashion. The colors are laid down one at a time. After one color is printed work starts on the next stencil, to build up an image in layers.

Painting a Stencil, this one will be for a medium-light blue color

Mixing serigraph ink with lots of different colors in front of me

There have, of course, been many advancements in the materials used to create a serigraph. However pulling ink across paper to create an edition of nearly identical prints by hand, is still very challenging. Originally stencils were painted directly onto the silk. My stencils are created on a sheet of clear acetate, using opaque black ink. They are then transferred onto the silk.
It is really important to get not only the right color, but also the right level of transparency.

Testing to get the hue and intensity of the next color just right

Pulling the stencil emulsion onto the screen under safe lights.

The shade and intensity are both very important because this will affect all of the colors that are already on the serigraph, together with all of the colors that are going on with subsequent stencils. This is because the image is built up in translucent layers. Because of this, getting a color just right can sometimes be quite time consuming.

Putting the Stencil on the Screen

Placing the screen with the stencil taped to it on the light table for exposure

Hosing the unwanted areas off the screen opens up the stencil

Here a light sensitive emulsion is then pulled across the screen. Then this film is left to dry in a dark place. When it is dry, the black stencil I painted for the next color is taped to the bottom of the screen. Then the screen is placed into a light table for exposure.
The areas that were exposed to the light become hard and the areas not exposed to the light remain soft. When the screen is blasted with cool water, the areas that were hardened by the light exposure stay solid. But the areas that were blocked from the light by the black stencil, wash away leaving the emulsion with the stencil pattern on it. This is the stencil that is used to pull the next color across the serigraphs.

Attaching a stenciled screen to hinges on the table before pulling a color

Taping the registration guides in place snugly against the edge of the paper

The screen with the stencil on it is then fastened securely to hinges on a table. Then it can go up and down, but always returns to the exact same position for printing. One of the prints from the edition is carefully lined up under the screen. Then registration marks are taped against that print so that every print from the edition can slide into the exact same spot. After that the color can then be printed correctly lined up on all of the serigraph prints.

Pulling a Color

The artist lining up a serigraph to pull a light grey color

The artist pulling a transparent white color onto a serigraph

The ink is then put on the screen, and pulled across each of the serigraph prints in the edition using a squeegee, and the prints are hung to dry. In the first image you can see a stack of prints waiting to have the color pulled onto them. Other prints are already hanging to dry.
In the second image a transparent layer of white is going down to lighten highlights on the zebras in the serigraph ‘Awesomely Individual.’

Two rows of Serigraph prints hanging in my studio to dry

Taken when I had solvent based inks, so glad I switched to water based

The ink takes between three and four hours to dry.
After all of the serigraphs have been printed everything has to be carefully cleaned. A few years ago I switched from oil based inks, to acrylic water based inks. This means I no longer have to deal with the harsh cleaning solvents. I am happy about that every time I clean my screen. The ink takes between three and four hours to dry, and then you are ready to start with the next color.

 After all of the serigraphs have been printed everything has to be carefully cleaned up. A few years ago I switched from oil based inks, to acrylic water based inks. This means I no longer have to deal with the harsh cleaning solvents that I had to use in the past. I am happy about that every time I clean my screen.  

Serigraph Definition in a Historical context

Silk screen printing originated in China over 1,000 years ago as a way to transfer designs onto fabric. Until modern times the stencil was applied directly on to silk.
This Printing process arrived in North America around 1900, and was initially widely used for industrial and commercial purposes. In the 1930’s artists adopted the silk screen printing process and renamed it ‘serigraph printing.’
The name ‘serigraph print’ was adopted to distinguish its use by artists to create artwork, from its industrial and commercial use. Silk screen printing is still used commercially to put images on T-shirts and mugs. Today however printing with a computer is comparatively much more common.

The best part is seeing a new color go down on the serigraph.

Finishing up for the day I’m tired this is really physical work

Pulling a color is the most exciting part of serigraph printing because you get to see all of a sudden what the new color looks like. Printing a single color, beginning after you complete an acetate stencil, and ending when you are ready to start working on the next stencil, takes about 5 hours. I only see what the completed serigraph looks like when I am pulling the last color.

Original Print Versus Limited Edition (Reproduction) Print

What is the difference between an ‘Original Print’ such as a Serigraph, Intaglio, Etching or Wood Block Print, compared to a limited edition reproduction print? Quite simply, an ‘Original Print’ is a work of Art, a ‘limited edition’ (or reproduction) print is a photograph of a work of art.
Original Prints because they are created by hand, are usually in smaller editions often below 100 prints.
The ‘limited edition’ print is signed and numbered by the artist, but it is a photographic reproduction of a painting. The Artist created a painting which was then photographed. The title ‘Limited Edition’ refers to the fact that there are only 500 or 5,000 reproduction prints of that particular painting.