Adam Gee photographed, drawn and printed Portrait. The process from smart phone photograph to silk screen printed 30×24 printed portrait.

Adam Gee. Drawn and printed two colour silk screen, 30 x24, 2019

Having not met for 12 months or so it was a pleasure to catch up with Adam in the Welcome Trust tearoom. Together we made some breakthrough digital media projects when I was at Maverick Television and Adam at Channel 4 TV. From new talent online initiative Ideas Factory through to Bafta winning Embarrassing Bodies online we enjoyed making content and applications for distribution on the early internet to full blown fully functioning web channels. We discussed our recent activities which Adam shared with his customary enthusiasm and insights. I managed to discreetly make half a dozen smart phone pictures of Adam in full flight. On review I was happy to see one photograph that captured his enthusiasm and committed gesticulation.

blue frame denotes successful starting point

Back in the studio the small photo was blown up into 4 A3 images and composited into a singe A1 black and white image. A sheet of mark resist film was prepared with a mixture of carbon powder, washing up liquid and a dash of water being applied with a foam scouring pad. The pad has two surfaces: the rough scouring base and the softer foam. Each can be applied by holding the pad by the middle grooves.

There is much dependent upon the application of the powder mix. It can be altered by the pressure, lifts and which side is selected. The density will determine exposure for the final silk screen print; the level of eraser drawing to be used and the amount of drawing shadows back in with a graphite stick or brush with the powder mix. The scourer spreads gave the ground an energetic and dynamic sense of movement for the portrait to be drawn into and out of.

carbon powder mix with brushes and scrapers

Once the powder mix was dry the process of bringing Adam’s image through the background began by using erasers, brushes, graphite sticks and scraping blades.

Care had to be taken to ensure the dried background was not inadvertently rubbed off by resting on it and squashing the detail. The eraser drawing style was made to be as energetic as the background to reflect Adam’s committed communication style throughout. His hand was left to come through he background, as was his patterned shirt, but his face and vibrant hair were given detail. Additional darkened areas were applied with graphite stick and paintbrush with the powder mix.

In the print room the drawing on film was exposed at 10 light units, washed out, dried and prepared for printing.

black and red swatch

Using a mars black ink mixed with a portion of red ink the image was printed onto Canaletto and Fabriano Rosipina papers as a tests. Reviewing the image it had retained a good balance between the drawn detail and the powdered background, however the contrast to the white of the paper was stark.

First black and white print

A second approach was considered: perhaps a flat colour background could be spotted out on a screen to create a less stark overall printed image. A new 100 mesh screen was selected and placed over one of the recently printed images and stop out was applied around the edges of the image and screen. When printed this would create a flat overall background on the white paper for the portrait image and its background to be printed over. A Buff titanium (PW6 PBr24) ink was selected. Being a buff it is not intended to mimic a white flesh colour, but give a softened contrast to the dark ink of the portrait.

The result is a two colour print in an edition of 3, the first of which to be shared with the subject.

click to see the sharing experience
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