February is full of love and romance, mischief and chaos. There are couples who are snuggling together against the cold and dark and individuals railing and burning bright into the night. I adore this month as the very end to the winter season. It is the last month you’ll find fireplaces burning and see your breath hanging in the air. It is the darkness before the dawn and the last month to trudge through before you hit spring.
For this month, I wanted to go with a fiery colour scheme. And better than the usual 3-colour print, I wanted to try something new.
In silkscreen, there is a method called a split fountain (or rainbow roll, by some). It’s rather tricky, because you’re pulling 2+ colours across a screen. You can have your colours muddy up into a single dull shade, or you could have one colour overwhelm all your others. You want to have consistent prints (as screenprinters do) but there is room for happy accidents and playing with where the colours land, how vibrant they are, how thick they appear and more. It’s a fine way to introduce chaos into printmaking.
The premise of a split fountain is you’re printing with a gradient of colours. In the case of “Heart”, we’re using a tawny red with a tomato red center ending in the same brick red. You slap them equally (and thinly!) in a line, pull the squeegee & it all starts to blend. The first few prints will be rather tight and have an obvious contrast line. As you push the ink back and forth, it will all start to mix and muddy until it’s a much more subtle change.
One thing to take care of is that if you’re using two different brands of ink, they might react differently, especially if poured straight from the jar. My dark red was a TW mix that was rather thick. The bright red was straight Speedball red. The bright red was a lot more watery than the TW and so I had issues with the first 5 pulls, where it bled under the screen & was just too thin. Another thing to think of is whether one of your inks is more glossy than the others. This would make a strange sheen appear in only some places, which might be intention, but it also might now be. I had no issues with the matte/gloss levels of either ink.
Once you have the preferred mixture, it’s easy to push the ink back and forth in the same direction, so ensure that you get similar appearances in each print. But it will always have subtle nuances. And of course, since you need to use a small amount of ink to juggle all the colours, the minute that you try to refresh with more ink (especially for a large edition, or if you’re doing full page prints instead of small outlines like in this example) you’ll start messing with the proportions that appear as you print.
If you look closely at these three prints, you can see the sorts of variations that can appear in a single edition. From left to right, the first has the bright red highlight thin and on our right of the face. In the center image, the bright red is wider & spans most of the face (this was one of the earliest pulls, before the colours blended as tightly). In the third, the red highlight is centered more on our left side. This is all controlled by how well the inks are blended & where they are centered as you pull the squeegee down your screen.