Screen star

Screenprinted illustration of a castle on a hill

I first encountered screenprinting at the London College of Printing (now LCC), where I was given an introduction to the method, before I dropped out of my course there and set off on this terrible career of mine. I loved spending time in the printing studios at LCP, and at the time, it was my biggest regret about never going back. A couple more flirtations followed (including a misguided attempt at making my own UV lightbox and photosensitising screens that didn’t go very well), and the last time I really tried to do any screenprinting was now somehow about twelve years ago.

My significant other got me some new screens and squeegees for my birthday this year, so I have spent the past couple of months teaching myself how to do it again. It took a couple of attempts at a couple of methods, but I am pleasantly surprised with my eventual results. This is a (nine-minute) video of the entire process.

I picked an illustration idea from the post-it archive and got to work tracing it, separating it into the two-colour print I had imagined, and scaling it for the size of print I wanted to make. Once that was prepared, I made my first attempt at preparing the screens.

The drawing fluid and screen block method was a pretty miserable failure for me, but it’s hard to tell how much of it was user-error, how much was because my mediums were old enough to walk themselves to secondary school, and how much was just the limitation of the technique. The drawing fluid part went OK, but though the screen block didn’t seem thicker than I remembered it being when it was new, it looked a lot thicker than what I had seen in other demonstrative videos on YouTube. It took ages to dry, began crumbling even when washing out the drawing fluid, and generally yielded miserably blurry, bleedy results.

After sulking for a bit, I heard about a technique using sticky vinyl and a plotter-cutter. I don’t have a plotter-cutter, but I am a patient person with a Stanley knife, so I gave it a shot. To quote Brian Butterfield, the results have been incredible. There was still plenty to learn though – in particular, the seagulls in the design ended up coming off the first screen because I think I handled their vinyl cutout pieces too much (better get the tweezers out!), so half of the prints don’t have the gulls in them at all.

Also, my favourite 3M 3434 blue painter’s tape is too sticky to transfer the smaller details to a screen, so that required an intense tweezer job too. I was convinced this was going to fail like the seagulls, so I didn’t bother recording that part of the process. I proved myself wrong; it held up way better than the gulls, and yielded brilliant results that even survived the washing of the screen at the end of the run. My next port of call would be to try some low-tack vinyl transfer tape, but that’s another project for another project.

There is still also a lot to be improved with regard to registration, but I have a couple of ideas for addressing that. I really liked the unpredictable results from my badly-mixed paint streaking through the blue layer, and that is a technique I will also do more to exploit in future printing projects. In all, it’s only a dozen prints, but each one is a little bit different, which I love – if they were all perfect then it wouldn’t have been worth it and they may as well have been giclee prints.

I have been sucked into the world of restoration videos on YouTube recently, particularly the channel of Hand Tool Rescue. The way I put this video together is a little inspired by his (and the whole subgenre’s) work. Making video is lots of work, and lots of overhead on disk space.

If you’d like to buy one of these prints you can email me at ricky@trickartt.com. They are 20x15cm / 8×6”, which is a standard picture frame size.

Wave and spin

Behold my latest record cover! Long-time collaborator Logistics has a habit of kindling inspiration in me, usually by bringing his music with some kind of twentieth-century art or design reference point that is totally in my wheelhouse.

Logistics - Waveforms EP cover

For this EP, Logistics gave me some images of library music sleeves, so I took these reference points and set about creating a unique piece of artwork that (hopefully) feels like it could be part of the same niche. I came up with a scheme to do a spin painting for the artwork. The technique is wildly unpredictable, and (as is the way in the topsy-turvy world of independent music) the constraints didn’t afford the luxury of creating an entire spin-painting turntable, but I managed to cobble together a setup using my power drill, some scraps of wood, and my communal back-garden on a sunny day.

The trial-and-error began. I discovered that acrylic paint was too thick and ink was too thin, but paint from a spray-can was just about the right consistency to drift with the centrifugal forces, but still stay opaque. A few attempts later I was starting to get results I was happy with.

A little colour-shifting later, the results pleased the label and Logistics himself, so it was on to the packaging details. The cover design was divided into thirds, so I found a slightly abstract way to divide the centre labels into thirds too.

Waveforms EP centre label

Because this is a cover for Hospital’s most-prolific musician and the reference point for the artwork was library music, I also went to the effort of presenting the inner sleeve as a library of Logistics’ music in itself. I combed through the entire back catalogue, fought it into a sensible (again thirds-based) layout, and after a bit of to-and-fro over what should and shouldn’t be included where, we have another satisfying detail for the project!

The Logistics Music Library, 2019

The record is available on Hospital Records now.

What’s In The Box?

2019 has been a productive year so far, and has featured a few more ambitious music-packaging projects than I usually get the pleasure of contributing toward. The project I’ve been most excited by this year has finally become real:

Jet Star meets Hospital stopmotion

Jet Star Meets Hospital is a collaboration album between Drum & Bass record-label-and-good-friends Hospital Records, and legendary reggae record label Jet Star Music. The album has been a long time coming. We have all worked on it for multiple years, through various moments of flipflopping between looking like it’s definitely going to happen and looking like it’s never going to see the light of day, but it’s finally here!

JSMH Dinked Centre Labels

The physical product is special. It’s eight 7″ 45RPM records, each of which have been ‘dinked’ (which means they have the huge centre holes, like classic reggae 7″s have). It’s a full version of the album on CD in a digipak packaging. It’s a pair of exclusive 7″ Hospital logo slipmats in a unique ‘Surgical Slippers’ packaging. And because centre holes are big and label copy is long for collaboration records, it’s also a minuiature poster/flyer of the artwork and credits too. And all of this is wrapped up in a miniature record box adorned with the artwork, and ready to fill with the rest of your 45RPM record collection.

Inside the JSMH box

It’s not often I get to design a package with so many individual parts, but doing all the pieces proved to be the easy bit. As is often the case in my world, the much harder part is the creative idea. We didn’t want to go too dumb with the reggae clichés, so we agreed on a cover design approach featuring all the names of the artists involved in the album. I found a nice old record sleeve from the seventies I liked as a starting point, but quickly found that fitting so many names around a central title using pre-designed type an unnecessarily difficult task, so quickly changed my approach to doing it all by hand.

JSMH Cover Design Process

This idea was sound, but direction came from Hospital to make the title more pronounced and to use this as an excuse to emphasise the 7″ format of the project, so we did that. Everyone on the Hospital side was happy, but when Jet Star saw it, they were concerned that it looked too much like one of their competitors’ albums, so back to the drawing board I went. The solution I ended up finding was to not throw all my nice hand-drawn type out completely, but to change its layout, wrapping it around the centre-label design in the middle. The idea got signed off, and after a few more foolish changes, we were approved enough for me to get working on everything else.

JSMH Box

Many elements of the package (the centre labels in particular) were inspired by some of Jet Star’s designs from the seventies. Using these and a little of my own inventiveness, the package came together like a dream. I was very excited to assemble my own box on a visit to Hospital’s offices earlier this month, and I’m very proud of the work!

My Alma Mater

America is pervasive: Every March, Twitter lights up with talk of March Madness, a huge college basketball knockout tournament, and I am gradually beginning to understand what’s fun about it. Even though I made a new hobby out of watching NBA basketball this winter (which is another story in itself), it’s not the March Madness games that caught my attention.

America is pervasive: It’s always puzzled me a little as to why American college-style clothing became such a thing in the UK, but it did, and it always made me a little happy that my American better-half has a genuine college hoodie from a real university that she, you know, actually graduated from.

As I don’t really have any skin in the game(s), I learned that the fun part of March Madness is to look at the bracket. Look at all those fancy schools, with their fancy logos that the world likes to emulate in fashion. It brings me a small amount of disappointment to think that Kentucky would be full of kids in ‘UK’ hoodies, and small amount of pleasure to think that there are probably thousands of students walking around in Houston wearing sweatshirts that say ‘UH’ in massive on them.

Because I’m neither American nor someone who even made it to a bachelors programme to drop out of, it all made me feel a little left-out. What I am, though, is a capable designer, so in the spirit of March Madness, I took it upon myself to create an alma mater of my own:

University of Great Hair

Here’s a little timelapse of the design process:

Now I don’t feel so left out. The finished result:

Rickmansland Calling

It’s a slow process, but I’ve been trying to get myself out to more portfolio reviews when I can get them. I’ll usually give people cat stickers or post-it notes, but I had an idea recently to use the tiny letterpress to make some calling cards. Not business cards- I’m far too independent and self-depreciating for them – just something to give someone, to hopefully remind them they met me.

Letterpressing alone would make for a nice and somewhat-unique thing in this world, but I had an idea for how to make them more interesting. I’m constantly drawing robots doing mundane things, which I’ve combined into the cards – along with my name, I’ve letterpressed in a template for a robot, which I can fill in for the recipient based on the mood of the encounter.

As I was printing something as small as intended with my little letterpress (for once), it gave a really good deep impression on the paper stock.

Check out the tiny video I made about making these tiny cards!

Now let’s hope I can find some interesting people to give them to.

Freezing in a Heatwave

A new record cover I created is released today! It’s the debut single for a new signing to Med School Music – a chap called Lakeway. Aside from the title, I was kind of given carte blanche with the direction for this project, so I ended up creating some artwork intended to feel ‘connected’ like nerves, which I then physically froze.

I made it by hammering some carefully-placed nails into a surface I painted, then winding cotton thread between the nails (it’s all one continuous piece again!) to form the letters. I was happy with the design at that point, but it needed to represent the frozen part of the title too, so (obviously?) I put the whole thing in my kitchen’s freezer. I sprayed it with water at intervals until the ice had built up enough around the cotton threads for the lettering to solidify satisfactorially.

It hung out with the frozen peas for a couple of days while we got final approval, then for a little something extra, I timelapsed the ice melting away from it again and reversed the result, so it was becoming frozen again. Harry at Hospital Records then swept in and edited the timelapse into some nice motion graphics to accompany the track uploads to YouTube.

It’s nice to have a bit of ice-cold artwork for this long hot summer we’ve been having in Britain!

On Line

I’ve been feeling good about a lot of the record covers to come out of my brain-hands lately, but the cover for New Blood 018 deserves a spot of text to go with it – perfect for the blog.

New Blood 018

This artwork was inspired by a visit to my brother, who managed to break his leg while taking his kids to the park, and was in real-hospital as a result of the accident. One of his ward-mades was getting a transfusion while I was visiting, and I found the vividness of the blood running from the bag and through its tubing partly fascinating and partly humbling as it squiggled all over this poor chap’s bed.

NB018 CD Reverse

The image stayed with me, so I took the idea of the constant line to the typography for this artwork, and designed a suite of artwork around the concept. My original version was just as bold as the blood I saw in the hospital that day, but the creators of an album series called ‘New Blood’ insisted that it was too bloody, so I changed the palette entirely to some classic clinical teal shades.

Sweetpea - Closer - custom typography

Ox7gen - Trinity - custom typography

As well as the typography that made the cover itself, I also sweated the details with the entire tracklisting, with every artist and title drawn in the same single-line style. I was really pleased with how it looks, but we all agreed it wasn’t the most legible, so we compromised and I created a design that had transcriptions too.

NB018 Digital booklet label copy

I continued the single-line concept through all aspects of the design, including all of the label copy, which I snaked on single weaving lines through the artwork on all formats. With most of my indulgences approved in the end, the album went off to press, and is out on Med School Music this week.

NB018 Vinyl LP back cover

More Pandas Than China

Lilly and I went on a summer holiday to Sardinia this year, and while we were there, we were astonished by the amount of Pandas everywhere. Of course, I’m not talking about the Chinese bears, but the Fiat manufactured in the 1980s and 90s.

It was almost as if Sardinia is where Italy sent its Pandas not to die but to just keep on living.

We were both charmed by these boxy little powerhouses, so it was a good cue to make Lilly a new piece of artwork for her birthday. I began researching the materials that were used to sell the car during its original run, but there was no escaping this being a car of the eighties:

As magnificent as those are, I was looking for something that spoke a bit more to how thirty years later, the cars were still so happy rattling through the dusty landscapes of the Mediterranean. The native Italian materials weren’t any more inspiring with their woefully stretched typography, but France proved to have some more playful typographic ideas for selling these little Fiats:

The only trouble is I had no idea what the French typography said, and online translation wasn’t being much help to me either. My first few attempts of running the full slogan ‘Les Voitures à Malices’ through the internet tried to tell me it meant ‘The Cars With Malice’ or ‘The Malicious Cars’, and I couldn’t imagine even the French would try and sell a car on the idea that it would harm you.

Instead I decided it must’ve been idiomatic, so I asked a French friend to help me (her response: ‘I’m so French it’s beyond belief’), who explained that it meant ‘cheeky, facetious, witty all at once’, and was like boite à malices, ‘a box with lots of stuff that would be fun for kids’; a box of tricks. That sounded perfect to me, so I had to get back into the other hard part, illustrating the car in a way that captured its humble boxiness.

My first couple of attempts looked too boyish, and like something from a video game. Definitely not the right flavour. Instead, a basic profile shot proved to be the winner, and when combined with a bit of the mountainous terrain of Sardinia and a little more of the French marketing materials, everything came together just right.

Of course, the most important thing in all of this is that Lilly loved the artwork, so we immediately put it up on the wall!

Another Post-it sketchbook is filled

Since I started making an effort to publish a new Post-it note every day, these books have been filling up a lot faster! I filled up my latest sketchbook in February, and it covers the time from Summer 2015 to now. It’s like watching my life flash before my eyes!

The Christmas Story

redcruiser

With Christmas well and truly over, hopefully everybody has received all the Santa Cruiser cards destined for them by now! Here’s the story (and a few pictures behind the design.

I really wanted to do this illustration I came up with last christmas I called ‘The Nutkraken’ for our cards this year, but even after drawing it all up properly, the idea was nixed by Lilly.

nutkraken

Back at the drawing board post-it pad, I set about coming up with some other ideas, including this one I called ‘Santa and his Elvis’. This was nixed too:

DSC_7549

Eventually we came back to trying to reflect what happened in the past year, and decided that getting bicycles was probably the biggest thing. I put Santa on various bicycles, including some more conventional bikes like our own, and fancy racing bikes like my cat stickers, but his rotund nature meant he was best suited to a very upright cruiser bike. Here’s the final sketch, before tidying up:

cruisesketch

Everything was manufactured and ready to print:

A photo posted by Ricky Trickartt (@trickartt) on

The pressing wasn’t without problems, but it came out pretty good in the end:

DSC_7581

…And for our digital-native friends I did a special gif version to email them!

multisanta

 
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