Screen Printing: The Book Cover

So, let’s assume you’ve done this and move on to explore how screen-printed imagery was combined with other surface design processes to create three individual pieces of art cloth. Leslie has tackled things in chronological order to give you a feel for how one thing can lead to another, in the sense that a single image can help you create a series or body of related work.


‘Self Talk’

Image #1

I’d been going through a particularly difficult period and Claire had pushed me to get back on the print bench as a means of distraction. I was in a place where the ‘colour’ in my life was surrounded by darker elements, so I decided to tackle a piece of art cloth with this as my source idea. The background to ‘Self Talk’ (image 1) is bright and colourful and was created through tray dyeing. Once it was rinsed, I was happy with the boldness of it. The next step was to fence in this colour with something dark and uncomfortable. Thorns seemed perfect; painful to touch with the capability of creating a dense and impenetrable barrier.

Some imagery arrives like a gift. I’d assembled several pictures of thorns (image 2) and used them as reference. I drew one image, then another and hey presto – I’d got what I wanted (image 3). I used acrylic paint to generate the image permanently on a screen and as I became more aware of its potential, I made a reversed version to allow me to print with varied directionality.

I used both screens, printing several layers in black thickened dye paint. This provided the fenced in feeling I was seeking, but I wanted it to be darker. At this stage, the fibres were pretty saturated so my final layer of thorns were printed with black screen ink/fabric paint.

From a personal perspective, I’m never going to love this piece due to my state of mind when making it. But, I do think it’s a good piece and the title ‘Self Talk’ is a reference to the dialogue that was going on inside my head.


The thorn imagery in ‘Self Talk’ had literally got its hooks into me. I’d also begun to move through the tunnel towards the light and wanted to tackle a second piece of cloth.

The far background to ‘Awakening’ was created by scraping on thickened dye paints – I’ll explain this in more detail when we get to ‘May Mourning’. I followed up this first layer by using a screen from a previous body of work called ‘Dangerous Journey’. The imagery on this screen is the written word, deliberately reversed to make it less intelligible. I’d recognised the screen’s value as an aid to providing meaning and on a practical level, to provide directionality. Finally, I printed with my thorn screens using white screen ink to provide ghosts and add light (image 4). I was please with the cloth but it wasn’t going in the right direction. So I started again in the knowledge that the first piece of cloth could be used as the back to what I hoped to create next.

Once again, I began with scraping but this time, I weighted the piece at the bottom by using darker values of thickened dye paint. I’d also decided not to add texture in order to simplify. Instead, I created a sense of void or ‘looking through’ by printing with my thorn screens – first in thickened dye paint and then in screen ink. I was happy with the result and decided that stitch would give me the final textural elements I sought (image 5). The first piece of cloth never became the back of ‘Awakening’. I made another instead, which you can see in progress in image 6 .

The finished piece was called ‘Awakening’ as I was – quite literally – waking up and facing up to what was going on in my life.

‘May Mourning’

And so I moved on to the third piece. Most people think I’ve made a spelling mistake with the title, but it reflects a period of mourning for me, not daybreak! Let’s explore how it was made…

Layer 1; generating base texture

I started the background by scraping on two colours of thickened dye paints; a dull olive and a blue-grey (image 7). I like to use a litter tray as my ‘palette’ as it allows me to access both colours at the same time, and have clear print paste available to change the value of both colours at any given time. My technique is simple (but not necessarily easy, as students will testify!). I use a credit card to pick up the colour(s), maybe picking up a dab of print paste at the same time to fiddle with values. I then scrape on to the cloth – it’s a very flexible approach (image 8). As I worked I once again sought to create a void – somewhere the viewer could look in to and see what they wanted to see; a hint of something in the far distance.

Image #7

Image #8

Image #8

Layer 2; building depth

I made a semi-permanent screen from drawing fluid and screen filler based on a sketch of cactus spikes (images 9, 10 & 11). (Note; this screen became so valuable to me I turned in to a permanent image by over-painting the filler with acrylic paint). I built up depth by printing with same colours used for the initial scraping, but in a deeper value (image 12). Make a note to yourself that imagery containing straight lines can be useful to create directional emphasis:

  • vertically for a rain effects
  • horizontally for grounding or generating a horizon
  • In both directions at once to create a grid, texture or to darken specific areas.

In this instance I chose to print both vertically and horizontally to imply a sense of barrier.

Layers 3 & 4; more depth and texture

The imagery used for the third layer is unfortunately impossible to see in a photograph it’s so subtle, but I’ll cover it briefly anyway. Claire had photographed some raffia for the Visual Language book (image 13) and I manipulated it in Photo Shop to abstract it (image 14). Whilst it seems to be totally unrelated to barriers, it enabled me to develop a sense of things being tangled up (the image was used on a thermofax screen and printed in thickened dye paints). I moved on to print with my old (but much loved) thorn imagery for the fourth and subsequent layers.

And finally…

Images 15 and 16 show a full shot and a detail of the finished cloth. I went on to create a backing cloth, laid both pieces back to back (without wadding/batting in-between), machine-quilted them and then washed the piece. I’d decided against wadding as the stitching- without-wadding exploration from ‘Awakening’ had generated a fabulous literal texture once washed. ‘May Mourning’ was also destined to hang in an art cloth exhibition and I wanted to maintain a strong sense of cloth, rather than produce a quilt.

So, having read this, you’ll hopefully have got a sense of:

  • the value of taking imagery forward in order to create a body of work.
  • the value of combining processes when layering (e.g. scraping combined with screen printing)
  • using different media (e.g. dye paints and screen inks) to achieve the effects you’re seeking.
  • where the front cover of the screen printing book came from!

Image #15

Image #16