What is a silkscreen print?
Silkscreen prints are works of art that can be said to start and end with considerations of color. They are made by a collaborative step-by-step process requiring a close working relationship between that artist and his paintings. Once a composition is decided upon, it is taken to the printing workshop where it is carefully assessed for color needs.
For each of the colors-and there can be dozens in a single print-the areas to be printed with that color drawn or painted on a polyester sheet. A photosensitized "silk screen" (these days made of fine-gauge polyester) is exposed to light through the polyester sheet. The light passes through the clear areas and hardens the photo emulsion. Then the unhardened emulsion is washed away, leaving the printing areas of the screen open, to allow ink to be squeezed through onto the paper during printing.
Each color is printed individually, which means that a print goes through the press as many times as there are colors. As printing proceeds, a series of proofing, or trials, let the artist correct for the exact colors he wants. The printer uses many technical and aesthetic devices to achieve this. For example, any single color in a print may be a combination of two or three different colors. The lustrous sheen of a blue may have been produced by overlapping transparent, opaque, and metallic silkscreen inks, or glazing the surface with other tones of blue. For silkscreen prints with forty or more colors, which is what McKnight's have, the problems involved just in getting the colors into the correct relationship with each other, let alone the composition into proper registration, can seem almost insurmountable. But they never are.
Thomas McKnight's silkscreen are in every way technical marvels, yet all the caring craft going into them has but one goal: to maximize the expressive impact of the images. We are struck by their overall sharpness, conveyed by the clear, brilliant colors and clean lines. This sharpness is an aspect of their beauty, an emphatic beauty that immediately speaks to an important part of the visual sensibility of the time-a love of definition in art and design. There is nothing impressionist about the world we see in the silkscreens; there are no quick glimpses but, rather, a great many time less moments.
What is a Giclée?
Giclée is a French word meaning “a spraying of ink” (pronounced “zhee-clay”). Giclées have the highest visual resolution available, as much as 1,800 dots per inch in which a variable dot size is used to create the color on the print. Over four million droplets of ink in 6 colors are sprayed from printer nozzles onto the media. Since no screens are used, the prints have a higher visual resolution than a lithograph print, and a color range far greater than a silkscreen print. Displaying the full color spectrum, giclée prints remain true to the original in both color and detail, and have a life of over 100 years.
What is an etching?
Drypoint etchings are made by scratching lines on a copper plate with a sharp instrument called a burin. This both grooves the plate and raises a burr. For printing, the plate is inked and wiped, and what is left is squeezed onto paper by the press. An engraving is printed similarly. The way you can tell a drypoint apart is that the burr softens the lines and makes them look velvety. My etchings use a method called Aquatint. The Aquatint component is brushed on with a resin powder, then immersed in acid. When it is printed, usually with several color plates, it looks like watercolor.
What is a poster?
A poster is a reproduction of an original painting or print by Thomas McKnight. It is printed on a high quality paper using five colors.
What do my paintings mean?
Why do paintings have to mean something? Why can’t their meaning be their mystery or they can mean one thing to me and another to you? A painting can act as a matrix or a kind of blueprint, with which we can each build our house of dreams. It has been said that we live in a silver age, a declining time like the classical Hellenistic period when many myths combine, separate and recombine, like quicksilver. In a golden age one song is paramount, in a silver age there is counterpoint – many melodies are sung at once.We are close to a turning point in the spiral of history – as in all Renaissances we go back to go forward. Mainstream “art” has descended into a chaotic stew where everything visual has been thrown out. Paradoxically everything is now possible. We can pluck out of the esthetic chaos individual elements that when combined can create a new art. Harmony, beauty, emotion and sensuality can spiral back into art after having been progressively eliminated in favor of an arid intellectuality. One purpose of art is to create a greater depth to life by combining outer and inner reality. A life without art is like seeing just one facet of a kaleidoscope. Just as history spirals upward, the direction of my art has likewise. After the first attempts at painting at about 13 – in the style of everyone from Rembrandt to Jackson Pollack, I eventually developed a romantic dark occult moonlit style somewhat akin to German romanticism. Stormy skies, lonely wanderers, high prospects over twilit plains and distant seas, empty rooms with nymphs gliding through. Out of this came a more sunlit period and instead of picturing the wanderer I became one, travelling to Mykonos, Venice, Japan, everywhere attempting to capture the essence of the place. The rooms became furnished, the gardens sprouted, the color became brighter, like Matisse or Dufy and they translated well into silkscreen prints. Another vein persisted during this time manifesting itself in images of Nubian nymphs and mythologies. These images gradually became more important to me especially when I began experimenting with making larger and more crusty paintings. Typical of the contrariness of artists I wanted to create works that had to be seen in person to be seen fully; this became my third major phase. It is about discovering new mythologies, finding the soul in a place, and creating harmonies of beauty halfway between sadness and ecstasy, like bel canto opera. Each change of phase was destined not willed. Each came upon me when the previous phase felt used up. The moonlit phase coincided with my wandering the earth searching for both love and artistic fulfillment. The sunlit phase coincided with marriage, worldly success and a search for places of earthly paradise. The most recent phase grew out of a desire for more spiritual richness and depth of subject and form. The sunshine needed more shadow to bring this about, and in the shadow I found again some of the subject matter I had been introduced to years before – nymphs in landscapes, lonely hilltops guarded by sphinxes, rooms where angels appear, walled gardens owned by Apollo but dedicated to Daphne. In my moonlit phase I painted the outside world to mirror my inside world. In my sunlit phase I painted the world, as it should ideally be. Now, I paint a world parallel to this one with its own suns and moons where the creatures of my imagination live. All are Arcadias, examples of the harmony and beauty we spend all our lives striving for but never attain. I have reached an age when I have to create what seems most important to me, not what someone else tells me I should do. The initial ideas come at any time out of the blue - as if by magic. I keep a blank book with me at all times and jot down quick sketches, which then become elaborated on canvas. I draw with charcoal and use the canvas like a blackboard erasing and drawing until the image seems right. When I am drawing I can sink at times almost into a trance imagining myself in the place or thing I am sketching. I become part of the body, the stone, the landscape. When the drawing is finished and seems harmonious I spray Fixatif on the charcoal and with a palette knife trowel on all kinds of the wonderful new gels that are available – mixed with sand, volcanic pumice, even crushed garnets. This builds up the surface until it has the consistency of an ancient battered peeling wall. It is now ready to paint. Using matte acrylics and old stiff brushes, I scumble on the paint battling with the rough surfaces to create deep textures, caressing the smoother surfaces of sky or flesh to create tones that glide into each other. Mostly, the paint is applied thinly, in layers that echo light. In the end I use smaller soft brushes to add detail – eyes, shadows, vines and tile patterns in bright colors that act like stars on a dark night sky and make the surface sparkle. I keep finished paintings around for awhile in my studio, both to remember what was done right and to see what has to be fixed. Forms never look right until they are right, even if I can’t put my finger on what is wrong immediately. At various stages I call in my wife who has an unerring eye as to what has to be changed. If she tells me that too much has to be fixed, I curse her, tell her to get out of my studio and then admit she is right after all. She derives great pleasure from this. I define a painting as very successful when it gives me ideas for others, when I can learn from it. It is as if I am just the intermediary between heaven and earth. The alchemical and Platonic idea of “as above, so below” is recreated in the work. The idea for a painting comes from the spirit and spark above, the execution out of the earth below. I often don’t know what a painting means specifically but I know it means something because it possesses a resonance, a sense of mystery about to be born but never quite revealing itself.