Monday, 12 May 2014

Age of Reason

On 19th April 2014 the needle was dropped into the groove of internationally celebrated Record Store Day for another dose of limited edition vinyl and musical merriment!

Again I was asked by the impassioned overlord of Secret 7 Mr. Kevin King to contribute a one-off record sleeve to be sold on the big day.

The charity this year was War Child and an almighty £41,500 was raised for the cause. This was great news and it brought the total Secret 7 contribution to over £105,000.

I chose to illustrate 'Age of Reason' (track above) for Brummy metal newcomers Black Sabbath and went down a more graphic-vector route, hoping to offer something different for the lads!

I also screen-printed the cover, to give it that va-va voom. Below is the final design and then the process.

Thank you to Kevin King for having me along for the journey again and on the off-chance that Ozzy, Tony or Geezer saw the artwork, I hope you liked it. Oh and if you were the person who bought it, thanks to you too.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Screen Print Workshop at WYPW

Graham 'Army of Cats' Pilling and myself have been screen-printing since 2005 and 2006 respectively. In fact, we first bonded over our love for the medium and Graham was the printing Overlord who showed me the righteous path and I have never once looked back.

Since 2011, we have kindly been asked back on a twice yearly basis by the West Yorkshire Print Workshop to run a screen-printing workshop based around the printed poster.

Every session has been highly sought after and sold out way in advance - must have something to do with the charming hosts... And every workshop has been a great deal of fun for myself and Graham, as well as all the students who graduate (with honours) into the wide world of screen-printing.

Here is a quick overview from this years event, which took place on the schizophrenic weather weekend of the 8th and 9th of February.

Graham doing a spot of quality control.

The first day of the workshop gives learners the skills and know-how of how to print. And so every student is given the opportunity to screen-print their own certificate (shown below) as designed by Graham.

The second day is dedicated to the printing of each student's designs and everybody gets the opportunity to print their own 2-colour design to take home. Don't worry, we're here to help throughout this process...

There will no doubt be another workshop this year, although it hasn't been announced yet. If you think this is something you'd fancy - and let's face it, of course it is - then feel free to drop West Yorkshire Print Worskhop a line at 01924 497646 or email and they'll be happy to help you out.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Harder Than You Think

Remember that post where I designed a sleeve for Laura Marling's 'The Beast'?

Well, that alongside 699 other individually crafted record sleeves raised over £30,000 for the Art Against Knives charity! Here's a little video from the day.

As well as contributing a print for Laura Marling, I also designed a cover for another band involved with the project, Public Enemy. A band of whom I am very fond of, having seen them live in Nottingham when I was 18 years old.

Above is the front cover of the design, which was digitally printed for the exhibition.

Thanks again to Kevin for asking me to be a part of the show. It's always great to know that you can make a little difference to a big cause!

If you want to see all the other covers for the project, then visit the Secret 7 site, which I highly recommend that you do.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

I Need My Girl

The National.

What a wonderful American band. Having just released their sixth studio album 'Trouble Will Find Me' I find myself constantly in discussion with friends and family about just how great this band are.

After purchasing the album last week I have listened to it every day. It is beautiful, sombre, restrained, complex, melodic and a whole host of other adjectives fans would adopt to articulate their praise and love for the NY five piece.

Early highlights include 'Fireproof', 'I Should Live in Salt' and 'I Need My Girl', the latter of which I have decided to artistically interpret using magazine cut-outs, acrylic paint and colour-transparent overlays.

'I Need My Girl'
Mixed Media (2013) with frame 33.5 x 28.5cm

Not sure whether to sell the piece yet, if there's any interest then I'll put it up in the twoducksdisco Big Cartel shop. Or email me at

If you haven't heard the album yet, I suggest you do so. Here's a live version of 'I Need My Girl'. Enjoy.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Beast

I was honoured to be asked to participate in this year's Secret 7 project, curated by Kevin King.

If you don't know, Secret 7 involves 700 artists/designers being given a blank sleeve each. The artist picks a song from a list of 7 bands/musicians, which they can illustrate in any way they see fit. Each 7" sleeve (including vinyl) is sold for £40, every penny of which goes to Art Against Knives.

I picked to illustrate 'The Beast' by Laura Marling using the print-making technique, linocut; a process which I felt suited Laura's traditional-folk style.

The opening exhibition took place in London at Mother, 10 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DD on Thursday 11th April, ahead of Record Store Day (Saturday 13th April).

Here's hoping that last year's £33,500 was topped!

Friday, 3 August 2012

No Direction Home

Due to the success of the End of the Road festival (an annual music event which leans more towards the contemporary folk end of the spectrum) the organisers saw fit to create a new summer attraction in the shape of No Direction Home.

Musically, the festival takes cues from the folk and Americana revivalist scene, this small festival (set in the grounds of Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire) attempts to bring a wealth of activities and music to a family orientated weekend.

No Direction Home Festival from End of the Road Films on Vimeo.

I was kindly selected by the organisers to design and screen-print a poster for the event and having already seen the lineup (including favourites of mine; The Low Anthem, Dirty Three and Lanterns on the Lake) I was more than happy to contribute a print which would be sold at the festival and online afterwards.

After a lot of false starts with the design, I settled on the above image which works as a collage of activities that will be taking place at the festival. The birds were mainly included as a reference to the festival's design aesthetic and also, birds are cool!

Here is an initial concept draft for the final poster and you can see the light grey circle, which I used as a template to keep all the elements in order.

Here are the 3 transparencies for the screen-print, which were printed off in small sections and then assembled using tape. This made the process feel much more hands on and organic.

Here is the first screen with the images burnt onto the mesh.

The pink / red paint is pulled over the mesh using a squeegee, pressing the ink through onto the paper below.

And here is the first colour on the paper.

Here are the posters with the first colour having been printed, drying on the racks.

The second screen is locked in place and the process is repeated.

This picture shows the blue paint, having been pulled across the screen.

A photo from underneath the screen.

In this picture, you can see two pieces of paper where the top left corner of the poster is. This is for registration purposes and ensures that every time I put the paper down on the screen-bed I know that when the second colour is 'pulled' it will line up perfectly with the first colour.

Onto the third and final screen. Here is a picture of the screen, locked in the bed.

The third colour has now been 'pulled' through the mesh and the paint is transferred onto the paper. And by the looks of things, it's looking good.

Here are the posters, drying on the racks waiting to be cropped and then signed and numbered.

Here is the final poster, which has been cropped to fit perfectly in a square frame from the Ikea 'Ribba' series. I considered this when designing the poster, that people would like something that they could frame cheaply and easily.

I hope thats given you an insight into how the poster was designed and printed. In addition to this process blog, I thought it would be insightful to include a small essay which was sent to me by a very talented freelance writer named Janine Redding, detailing the history of screen-printing.

Screen Printing: A Brief History

Whilst some members of the artistic community that are deeply involved with screen printing will be the first to swear that it is a “timeless” method of producing art/copies/what have you, there might equally be those that would be surprised to learn that – at least as far as the overall process of printing goes – screen-printing is a *relatively* young concept, having really only been popularised to a great extent in the last hundred years or so.

An interesting point to mention would be that screen printing as a whole has remained relatively faithful to the original/early technology that was employed since day one, chiefly the woven mesh/stencil tech. Naturally, certainly aspects have changed with time (a good example being the move from silk mesh to polyester), but screen printing has by and large remained delightfully free of the awkward need for the biggest monitors, fastest CPUs, the best broadband technology race that has so effected other areas of artistry (or indeed that has permeated life in general).

The First Appearance – Traversing the Globe

Technically, screen printing’s actual first appearance in the history books would have been way back around the time of China’s Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), in which it was scant more than a variation on a stencilling technique. Of course, this method flourished all over Asia and improved as the centuries rolled by; however, it wasn’t until around five hundred years later that it found its way to Europe/the West via trade routes and travellers.

Yet even at this proverbially late stage in the game, screen printing was still yet to take off in Europe, largely due to the fact that the requisite silk mesh was hard to come by, due to the limited number of them available by trade. This would have in turn driven up the price of the aforementioned screens, so a more profitable use for the process needed to be found – or even just a barely profitable usage, seeing as how screen printing was a fairly novel technology at the time, with not many commercial uses (in Europe, at least) found for it yet.

Widespread Use

Fast-forward to the early 20th century, where photography, printers, and photo-reactive chemical processes were all the rage. A trio of developers (Charles Peter, Roy Beck, and Edward Owens) would be largely responsible for furthering the commercial use (or at least the idea that it could be used commercially) of screen printing, via their experimentation with various chemicals to produce photo-reactive stencils (a method/idea which would – even then – take some time to find acceptance amongst the community), albeit these chemicals would prove to be somewhat toxic and dangerous, a problem which has – fortunately – been resolved for a good while now.

The 1930s would see the founding of the National Serigraphic Society (“seri” from the Latin for “silk”, a reference to the mesh used in the process) and screen printing was a veritable force in motion for both artistic communities and with great industrial printing applications.

Recent History and Pop Culture

An early adopter of the screen-printing-as-art philosophy was American artist and pop-culture icon Andy Warhol, particularly the numerous images of a screen-printed Marilyn Monroe. This rise and subsequent popularity of the both the artist Warhol and the screen printing method he employed would see a boom befall the screen printing industry and one that would continue on apace and is still a viable avenue of artistry to this day.

Arguably, perhaps one of the chief reasons that screen printing was and has remained such a popular mode of art, is because the materials required for basic screen printing are relatively cheap and easily available these days. Thanks in part to this, screen printing has become iconic, with its “non-professional” guise and seeming simplicity and has seen it grace everything from posters, to album covers, to shirts, to everywhere. Its prevalence is such that the Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center has stated that screen printing is perhaps the “most versatile of all printing processes”.

If past advancements and recent years/decades are any indication, then screen printing and the implications it may have (particularly as a medium for art) can only see further improvement and increased interest – no doubt culminating in many an intriguing work of art for many moons to come.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Go Forth and Print

Due to popular demand following last year's workshop that Graham 'Army of Cats' Pilling and I ran, we returned to the West Yorkshire Print Workshop to conduct another course based on the screen-printed gig poster.

The course took place over two consecutive days at the WYPW in Mirfield and included details on how to best design for the screen-printing medium, tips on specific printing techniques and industry knowledge and experience about working in the screen-printing field.

The six patrons who attended got to print a poster (designed by Graham - as modelled by me above) on the first day and learn about the process. Day two involved the attendees printing their own designs which they brought and with mine and Graham's help, were able to develop into an appropriate print. This would then be printed across the day and the results available to take home.

I was able to document the first day of the course, which involved the teachings of the process and hands on practise for all those who attended.

Here is Graham, debriefing the students whilst discussing the science of effective paint mixing.

Showing the course how to print, manually using a squeegee.

Here are some photos of the group, printing the first colour of Graham's print.

The first colour is down and the group have done a great job.

Here are pictures of the group printing the second colour.

The prints are complete and drying on the rack.

Here Graham is illustrating to the class various techniques that can be applied in Photoshop in how to make a suitable file for the screen-print process.

Graham, the illuminating beacon of screen-printing knowledge!

And here is Graham, modelling his wonderfully designed print.

If you like the look of this course and fancy enrolling for a weekend of screen-printing with two industry professionals, then get in touch with WYPW [ ] and demand us! Oh and there will be banter and hilarious anecdotes, guaranteed!