your moment of zen : illustration resources and whatnot


silkscreening resources (updated 1.18)

this is a very quick list of stuff. there's so much more on the webs than there was when i first made this list (2007)! * first off:

buy yourself a copy of this book. andy macdougall also created squeegeeville. take a look.

* local shops:

the grease diner

bloom press

the w.o.r.k.s.

creative screen technologies

* online tutorials

here's a tutorial about reduction screen printing by artist Jim Winters.

an online (comic) pdf called diy silkscreening.

how to silkscreen posters and shirts

psprint's history and resources

screen a t-shirt at home

* materials

dick blick screen supplies page


need a detailed screen burned? ask the kind folks at creative screen technologies. you can even email a black and white jpg to be made into a screen!

cheap tee shirts

* inspiration

gigposters. a very active community of artists lives here.

reinventing screenprinting

the little friends of printmaking


dan mccarthy

Interview: Nat Swope, Bloom Press

This month's interview is with Nat Swope from Bloom Screen Printing in Oakland. Nat was kind enough to give us an interview (in between running his shop, teaching classes, and little league with his kid). Nat and I work on a few projects a year together for clients who need multiple prints, and he always does an amazing job. Q: Hi, Nat. How are you?

Doing fine, thanks.

Q: How did you first learn to screenprint?

My aunt Mary, who is an artist and art teacher, gave me a rudimentary introduction to it. I had already figured out stencils, cutting frisket, so screen printing made sense. A little bit later I got a job printing shirts. That's how I learned about production, on the clock. I didn't go to art school. I was into photography so exposing screens photographically was pretty exciting. This was the late '80's/early '90's so I caught the tail end of paste up before computers really came into play, which I always thought was helpful later on. Most art departments back then were still using copy cameras and rubylith. But the short answer is I learned how to screen print the same way you learn how to do anything: by doing it over and over again. The other thing that really accelerated the learning process was printing for other people. It led me down a lot of roads I would never have gone down had I only been doing my own work. Getting a glimpse into other people's processes has been invaluable.

Q: What about screenprinting gives you that special feeling inside?

Screen printing is a bit like assembling a puzzle and I like that. I like graphics and flat, clean color. I like paper. If things are going well it can be meditative and rhythmic. At this point though it's really about the people I'm working with. I've been lucky to work with a lot of people I genuinely admire.

Q: Can you tell me a few of your favorite clients?

Too many to name and I don't want to leave anyone out.

(book by Michael Bartalos)

Q: When a new client comes to you, what do you ask them?

Can I see a file before we talk about cost and deadlines?

Q: What's your favorite kind of job to print?

Again, it's the people I'm working with that matters the most. I like seeing what gets them excited. Often the client is responding to something I'm not really thinking about. My concerns are usually technical. I'm in problem solving mode and the artist is usually operating on a more emotional, gut level--do I like how it feels?

Q: Is there a kind of image that is _not_ served by being screenprinted?

Well, it has to be designed with the medium in mind. It's a flexible process but it can be unforgiving. If you don't understand spot color and key line you're going to have a hard time. Not everything has to be simple spot and trap, like a coloring book, but if you don't at least understand those things you're in for a rough ride. Less is more. It's also a fine line between surrendering to the process and being particular about certain things. Choose your battles. It's good to aim for perfect but perfection is unattainable. And boring.

Q: I know you used to have a machine-run press, but you gave it up to focus on hand work. What about doing all your prints by hand appeals to you?

Autos are great and there is nothing inherently better about things made by hand. Part of what I like about screen printing is that it is mechanical and I do not fetishize the hand made. The machine just kind of turned my studio into a factory and I just didn't really like it. I have more room to maneuver in my small space now.


Thanks again to Nat Swope. If you want to see some of the work in person (and take some goodies home as well), visit Bloom Press (2310 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) on May 3 during First Friday.

(clockwise from upper left: Steven Harrington, Will Adler, Nat Russell, PoorNo Graphics/Homer Flynn)

An Interview with Mrs. Vera

Inspiration Korner: vera

I was lucky enough to catch a word with Mrs. Vera (David Faulk), who is an amazing San Francisco artist and personality. David and Michael Johnstone (who created the photos above) are the fearless leaders of the Verasphere (pictured below). Here's the Verasphere traipsing down the runway for a show at the DeYoung museum. Each year for Pride, they splash San Francisco with enough color to make a rainbow blush. Read the full interview with Mrs. Vera after the photo.


All photos: Michael Johnstone

Dear Mrs. Vera, I hear you're a fan of the comics. Can you give me a few of your favorites?

It's been a long time since I read EVERYTHING...the completist/collector(former) in me misses that era of possible comprehensiveness, a ship that has long since sailed. I always was drawn to writers who could build long story lines and develop sub plots, and growing up for me that was Steve Englehart, who could really hit the head on stories that were pure fantasy but socially relevant and just soapy enough that they seemed ABOUT to become adult (gosh JUST LIKE ME!). At 13 that was Avengers, Dr. Strange, he took a whack at most of Marvel's and a bunch of DC's titles. I could not get enough, for years, but now relentless continuity just exhausts me, and I can't afford it anyway. But I still love the mythic qualities of superheroes and power struggles. Mrs. Vera is all about the fighting of crime and the leaping over of tall things, mostly grass, but still...

There are SO MANY great books out today, I'm astounded, having waded through decades of material half-heartedly in search of something to get excited by. I think the medium, it's writers in particular, have really come into unassailable artistic legitimacy, elevating the field higher than I'd imagined possible, and the art has evolved so much since my early days. It is all so much more sophisticated. I'm very writer-driven at this point still. I think Jonathan Hickman does amazing, and varied work really utilizing the medium. East of West, Manhattan Projects. His Fantastic Four was delightful, and his Avengers work is fascinatingly worked-out and intricate. Saga is amazing, and funny as hell. I like to use humor in my work, and I like it in the work of others as well. I thought Young Avengers was a hoot, and The Wicked and Divine is especially fun, because I'm a million years old now and the dialog is so, well, satisfyingly hip and young and clever. Joss Whedon's writing for same reason. Velvet and Lazarus and Hawkeye are like perfect screenplays. I've loved everything the Luna Brothers have done (Alex and Ada, Girls(so messed up!), The Sword. The list is HUGE, it's a renaissance really. Morning Glories, Silver Surfer (Michael Allred is such a stylish blend of down-to-earth and out-of-this-world), She hulk is a hoot, Rachel Rising a disturbing hoot. Grant Morrison always delivers. Darwyn Cooke too. Astro City. I like sprawling but contained universes. I could go on and on, so instead I'll mention two things I used to love, but found I eventually couldn't look at one more panel of! I LIVED for Cerebus, for years, but came to hate the book for reasons I still can't formulate to my satisfaction. It was like a descent into poor mental health that I just stood by and watched (yikes!). I also cannot read another X-men story. PLEASE don't ask me too. It's like watching ghosts playing tiddly-winks for ghost grapes. I'd buy THAT, of course. Zot was a masterpiece too. Wuv me some Wuvable Oaf. Oh lordy, the beat goes on....bottom line, comics have never been smarter.

What's your new studio like, and what can you do there that you couldn't do before?

San Francisco, I still love it and feel REALLY lucky to be here, but it's been rough making it work the past few years. I lost my Studio space- full of paintings- and had to move ALL of my Mrs. Vera kibble and kaboodle out of my apartment, and then lost my apartment. Visual Aid closed, the closest thing I'll probably ever get to gallery-esque representation, a huge loss to myself, and more importantly, the city. Anyway, It's all in a shipping container one can drive right up to now, but it has been three years of down-down-down-down-down-down-sizing and, well, depressing unproductivity. But I found a great place, and my apartment shares a wall with my partner-in-crime Michael's flat, in an amazing building in Hayes Valley. It's like a very poorly written sit com, and I have a feeling our dogs will get a spin-off series if anyone happened to tune in. Michael and I have been together 22 years, collaborating on the photos and costume shenanigans, but never actually lived in the same building until now. It's all TOO perfect, and I'm happier than I've been in years. I hasten to point out that this is NOT the San Francisco 2013-2015 Real Estate experience of ANYONE else I know, and I have a positive dread of being some poster child rainbow story of the moment because of my uncommon good fortune. At the moment I need to archive, I need to paint again, Mrs. Vera needs new outfits, I need to get GOING again. All of which can be achieved in my new space!

I think of Mrs. Vera as a summertime creature. What is wintertime like for Mrs. Vera?

I came to THIS planet to escape the summer of my home planet, which is 80,000 years long, but it looks like your beautiful Ice Age is Kaput. I only look like a 'Summer' because of the horrible accident I had as a child in the spray-tan factory, and also maybe because I lack the ability to sweat, and bees love me, and one of my feet is shaped just like a cinderblock-sized Ice Cream Sandwich. Go ahead, try and guess which foot! I'll never tell, a Lady needs her secrets after all.The best thing about winter, since you ask, is that you can make jello molds outdoors without running up your electric bill, and you can also pretend it's going to rain, probably, and people around here don't look at you as if your crazy. Okay, now I'm just projecting. Most people avoid making any kind of eye contact with me at all, during the winter, but that's just because they are jealous of my AMAZING silver diaper! Want me to make you one for the Pride Parade this year?

And Thanks, ever so much, for noticing I'm alive! It confirms my Doctor's theory that I am, so that's ONE less thing for me to worry about. I'm crossing it OFF the list!


Thank you thank you thank you for a lively lovely interview Mrs. Vera!


Subscribe to the Wertzeen

Friendlies: I'm attempting a little experiment over here. We (the royal we) have created a monthly inbox zine called Wertzeen. If you sign up, it will arrive, like a magic mist, in your email inbox. Once a month, and no more than once a month. It is a zine without the paper: a zeen. We’ll keep you informed not just of our illustrative scribblings and meanderings but also of the happenings of the Bay Area creative community. It will be good fun, and it means you no harm. It is free and easy. If this interests you, click on over to this page.

I'm posting issue #001 tomorrow, and I can't wait.



A few notes from the Alternative Press Expo

A few highlights from the Alternative Press Expo (a.k.a. 'The Temple of Spendy'): First of all, I have to mention my yearly APE companion: Anne-Maria. I love going to these things with AM. She talks to everyone. EVERYONE. She is not afraid tell the scary metal-obsessed tattooed boys that she wants their shirt. She draws out the shut-ins and makes them feel human again. She's a gem.

The Queer Comics Panel hosted by Justin Hall is always a lot of fun. A good discussion of Genre: Slice of Life books vs. Fantasy books. Sat with the Verasphere for this talk, and I think they should start a Mrs. Vera comic ! Was most interested in Cedric Hollows by Sina Grace. I need to get myself a copy. Liz Baillie was also amusing: need to check out 'My Brain Hurts'.

In other gay comics news: Wuvable Oaf. Bought a couple of issues, and they're hilarious. I was laughing at loud in the aisle at the image of Baby Wuvable Oaf emerging from his mother's loins, already sporting a thick beard and hairy arms. Too much.

Big news in lynda barry land (straight from the mouth of the D&Q guy): 'the near sighted monkey' is turning in to to a 'what it is' style work-book about drawing. All hail LYNDA BARRY!

A few new hardcover books (I budgeted $100 for the expo, aaand spent every thin dime) HOT POTATOE by Marc Bell, and Masterpiece Comics by Robert Sikoryak (who also gave a talk on Sunday with my friend Isabel Samaras). Got these fine fellows to sign my books.


kicking out the crutches

Friendlies, 'Kicking out the Crutches' is how my friend Isabel describes the evolution of her artwork. Her work (and mine, for that matter), used to have dark lines surrounding all the shapes and giving form to her drawings. Now there's nary a dark line in her paintings - she kicked out the crutches she used in her earlier work.

I took Isabel's advice and started going from finishes where the linework was everpresent to finishes where the line is hardly there at all. The line is there, but the shape defines the line instead of the other way around.



Client: Cracker

It wasn't easy for me to let this happen. Your work is essentially a collaboration with your Art Director, and your final piece - the final product - is so immediately public. The scrutiny can be a little difficult, especially when you're trying to branch out and do something new and different.

I've had some incredibly slow periods in my work when I've felt like the phone was never, ever going to ring again. At these times, I feel like my work is uninteresting, at best. My work relies so heavily on direct feedback from clients that when the phone stops ringing I instantly go into a bit of a panic. I end up on the couch with Auntie Mame on the tv and a bag of crispy fatty salties on my chest. It's ok when this happens every once in a while, but after a few days it gets dull. It's time to get off the couch and do something with yourself, fer chrissake.

Here's a quick list of stuff to do when the work dries up: This list is mostly for myself. Because it will dry up, I promise. Best to be prepared.

1. Use this time to try something new for your portfolio - or, hell, just for yourself. Look in an old sketchbook and expand on an old idea. You already have the map to the new place you want to be. Open it and take a look. Try a completely new media. This was the idea behind my dog blog (which is about to be taken down, so look at it while you still can). I made artwork about what I loved - dogs - and worked in flat color, which I had never dared to do before. It made me new clients and gave me a 'specialty' (dogs) I really enjoy.

2. Take a class at a place like the San Francisco Center for the Book. Taking classes here introduced me to monoprinting, which showed up in later work.

3. See what happens after you drink three espressos and let loose on the pages of your sketchbook.

4. What kind of promotion piece would you like to receive in the mail (hint: it's not a printed postcard from modern postcard) ? What would you put up on your wall? Look up on your wall, and make something like what you see there. Make a handful of hand-made promotions, put them in beautiful envelopes with a hand-written notes to the folks you'd like to work with.

5. Look at something new. Do an art date - all by yourself - at a gallery or museum. Go for a long, random walk in a part of town you've never been to before.

6. Get interested in other people's work and let it inspire you. Check out Drawn! and Illustration Mundo, two sites which consistently show amazing work.

7. Start a dream journal. Yes, I know, it's hokey. These images make for great illustrations.

8. Start a blog. Just like Penelope Trunk says: if you're interested in your field, your clients will like you more. One of my favorites: Rama's Portrait Party.

9. Do the opposite of reaching out: reach in. Unhook the internets, put the tv remote away, and draw and draw and draw. Don't leave the house until you have 15 new drawings. Remember to wash.

10. Chill out, man. Been working like a crazy person from 6 months straight without a weekend? How about a short road trip? As my friend Pete says, "As soon as you plan a vacation or turn up the stereo to dance around your apartment, the phone will start ringing again."

It's hard to realize that sometimes the reason that the phone isn't ringing has nothing to do with you. Companies that used to hire illustrators are going away fast. Remember that, and make work that will make you happy and interested in your work again. A by-product of this is that you will make potential clients interested.

Here's a list of 100 art ideas by Keri Smith, who inspires me greatly. Here's another list by Sister Corita.


The Long View : Art in Antarctica

My friend and amazing artist Michael Bartalos is taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime art project in Antarctica. Have a look see.

From the site: "Greetings and welcome to The Long View Project blog. My name is Michael Bartalos and I’m pleased to be designated the Academy’s first Affiliated Artist. I’ll soon be on my way to Antarctica on an exciting project at the crossroads of art and science, and you’re invited to follow along.

My ultimate objective is to create a very long piece of sculptural artwork using recycled materials from polar research facilities in order to raise international awareness of resource conservation and eco-preservation practices in Antarctica, and by extension, to promote and inspire sustainability worldwide. In the process, I expect to learn a whole lot about environmental issues, scientists’ lives on the ice, the history of polar exploration, and creativity’s role on the southern continent."


idea generation website links

here's a few i've stumbled across. do you have another? i get stuck all the time, it's good for me to have this in one place! *ugh. i hab a code in by dose.. <sniff>*

brian eno's oblique strategies. there's even a paperless version for your dashboard if you have a mac.

i just got a copy of wreck this journal and i can't wait to start. i wish i could "wreck" this blog.

lucid dreaming (have you seen the film "waking life"?)

cut up machine

wabi sabi

john alcorn

hack your way out of writers block


belief and technique for modern prose

This is amazing, and I wanted to share: it's Jack Kerouac's list of the attitudes necessary to writing. A writing teacher of mine gave this to me in college, and it's a good time for this list to be revealed to me again. This, I imagine, would work well for anyone's creative project. I'm reminded of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies deck (a set of cards I use almost daily) as well. In other news: Roma is slowly starting to do better. I spent a few days at the hospital last week, will again this week. I woke up today feeling like i was sitting at a table with Roma and we were/are eating, laughing, and enjoying ourselves.

It’s gonna happen.



1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening 3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house 4. Be in love with yr life 5. Something that you feel will find its own form 6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind 7. Blow as deep as you want to blow 8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind 9. The unspeakable visions of the individual 10. No time for poetry but exactly what is 11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest 12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you 13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time 15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog 16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye 17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself 18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea 19. Accept loss forever 20. Believe in the holy contour of life 21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind 22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better 23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning 24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge 25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it 26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form 27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness 28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better 29. You're a Genius all the time 30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven