Silkscreen Artist

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Silkscreen Artist


The history of screen printing dates back to the Egyptians and Greeks as early as 2500 BC. But, silk screening also called serigraphy, which comes from the Latin word "Seri" (silk) and the Greek "graphein" (to write or draw) became most widely recognized in 1907 when, Samuel Simon of Manchester, England was awarded a patent for the process of using silk as a printing screen.

Silkcreen artists are not painters, nor are they printmakers. The art they produce falls somewhere in between. They create stencils, and use a silk, nylon, or other mesh screen to transfer the paint onto canvases, paper, clothing, and other fabrics. The results are blocks or shapes of color with defined edges. Each color is printed separately, with different stencils and different screens, so one design can take days to complete. Andy Warhol is one of the world's most well-known silkscreen artists--his technique was often to mass produce the same image (or stencil) but with different colors each time.

Silkscreen artists create meaningful art which reflects society back to its citizens. Silkscreen artists can comment on politics, nature, people, and cultures in their pieces. Sometimes the work is subtle, like a simple landscape, while others make more brash and daring statements which are usually left in galleries or museums, instead of taken home to sit above the living room couch.

SIlkscreen artists often work for themselves, and then try to sell the pieces later, but they also work on commission. This means someone might like their style, and ask for something special, to be custom-made. This could be a one-time contract, like making a set of curtains, but could also be a year's contract with a clothing design firm.

Because artists display their work, they must be prepared to undergo public criticism, and the bigger and more well-known they get, the more likely it is they will be reviewed and scrutinized. Public showings of their work are important ways to get their art out to the public, so the stress and pain the events can cause are often worth it if the artist's career is advanced by sales and positive feedback.
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  Interests and Skills  
Silkscreen artists need to be extremely creative, and dedicated to their work. Motivation is important for independent artists, who must be driven to work on their own. Silkscreen artists need to be brave, able to try new things, and remain productive even after receiving harsh criticisms. They should be able to work with new media, and be accepting of other ideas, points of view, and artistic tastes. They also need to be grounded enough to draw up contracts, meet with clients, and meet deadlines. Silkscreen artists should be risk-takers, who are willing to sacrifice job security for their passions.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Create using photographs, stencils, different screens, various kinds of paints, differing canvases
  • Make work on commission
  • Meet with clients, agents, and media representatives
  • Silkscreen artists spend most of their days creating art pieces. That involves many stages, from initial inspirations and planning sessions, to searching for appropriate materials, to the actual creation of the piece. They meet with many types of people, attend art openings for friends, and plan openings for themselves. They may also spend time planning future projects. They work alone, and usually spend time indoors. They may travel for inspiration, or if their work is being shown internationally.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Silkscreen artists usually work wherever they are inspired. Some work in studios, which they may share with other artists. If they are working on landscapes, they may do their initial planning outside. Artists who work in the commercial field will spend some time working at the company's offices. Silkscreen artists usually work alone, unless they work in a collaborative team, such as in clothing design. Artists can set their own hours, often working around another job. They may work steadily when the commissions are coming, or inspiration is flowing, and then slow down for a few weeks while waiting for new ideas.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Silkscreen artists can explore any medium; they can get into painting, sculpture, graphics, writing, acting, set design, fashion design, and interior decorating. Because silkscreen artists are industrious, creative, and self-sufficient, there are a number of careers open for them. They can become art instructors in public schools, private art programs, or with colleges and universities. They can apply their knowledge of art to the business side of it, and sell a clothing line, open a gallery, become an agent, or a dealer.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required path for a silkscreen artist. However, a silkscreen artist doesn't have to be self-taught. Silkscreen artists can work under the guidance of a mentor, or might choose to attend a university or college program. The benefit to this is exposure to a number of different art forms, including sculpture, painting, and textiles, as well as art history, and silkscreening techniques. Silkscreen artists can also meet fellow artists in school, and can use the school's gallery spaces to mount shows. In school, silkscreen artists are also forced to work at a set pace, teaching them discipline in their work. Courses in business and entrepreneurship are also useful.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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