The last couple of weeks, we here at Nakatomi Print labs have been working on a silk-screen print recreation of one of Bernie Wrightson’s CLASSIC paintings- “You’re New Around Here, Aren’t You?” from 1978.
This intensive, 10-screen project has been, by far, the most challenging and rewarding jobs we’ve ever had in the shop. We started with a great high-res scan of the original painting, which came to us as a surprise extra with the original Frankenstein line-art images last year. A good portion of Bernie’s paintings have NEVER been scanned digitally and we were very fortunate to be able to get our hands on this one. We sent the file to Nakatomi fellow, Jon Smith to separate for printing, as he’s had a long track record of getting amazing and vibrant photo-like results in his prints for years now. Our only instructions to Jon were to ‘do the art justice, and go with as many screens as you think you need.’ Jon came back to us with the file as a 10- screen adaptation (pictured above), along with an 11-screen variant. Bernie approved the regular AND the variant colorway- which was something we WEREN’T QUITE SURE how he’d feel about- us tinkering with his art like that, and we’re super-excited about the results.
So, we printed the films to burn the screens, and pre-racked the paper overnight to let it acclimate to the humidity in the room. Screen printing on paper can be very tricky- it expands and contracts with each color you lay down- you’re essentially wetting it, letting it dry, and then repeating the process again the next day with the next color. And on a print like this-registration is key. We were prepared- but over the course of a 10 color oversized print, you’ve got a LOT of opportunities to make an error, so we set our jaw, furrowed our brows, and set to the task at hand.
Screen 1- yellow. This early in the run, there’s not a lot of detail to show, but you gotta start somewhere, right? For large size jobs, we print on 26×40 parent sheets, and the edges get trimmed down to size- for this print, it’s 20×30. This print is being modeled by Alex Baber- our former intern, now full-fledged employee. He handles all the shipping and packing, as well as racking on our large jobs. He is tall. I am short. He is also a giant Doctor Who nerd, which works out great for me.
Screen 2- Green. This green had to be slightly transparent in order to create a bit of a subtle color change in the overlay with the yellow. The registration is nice and tight! Looks like the pre-racking did the job. This print is held by one of our two new printers (hired late last year) Tyler Skaggs. Tyler comes to us from the world of commercial-screen-printing. Formerly knocking out ‘WE BUY HOUSES’ signs 1000’s of times a day, he’s now super-excited to print ART. When he came to his job interview wearing a thread-bare 20 year old X-Men MOJO shirt, I knew we would get along. And luckily his skills as a printer were of a high quality, so I didn’t feel too bad about hiring someone based on an X-Men t-shirt.
Screen 3- Peach. This peach ink also needed to be transparent to add to the detail in the green and have an interaction with the yellow- no small feat. If as a painter, I had to mix a peach color, I’d mix yellow and red and white. BUT- white is not a transparent color. Luckily- our printers are BANG-ON great at mixing ink, and they sussed it out. You can see the forms taking shape here.
Screen 4 and 5- Red / Blue. Fourth screen down was red, and the fifth a blue. The blue was BARELY present in the image- you can see it in the shadow on the lady and the underside of the dragon. It adds a great hint of color in the shadow, which just makes the piece that much more vivid.
Screen 6- Purple. Now we’re talking! You can really see the print coming home here. At the top of the paper, under the registration marks, you can see our printed instructions to the printers working on it- color and transparency notes right on the screen and print itself, which we’ve found really improves communication between the artist and the person bringing the print to reality! Also- speaking of registration marks- STILL TIGHT. Pre-racking paper in Texas, where the weather and humidity can swing wildly is a MUST with these over-sized jobs.
Screen 7- Brown. Almost there! Jon did an amazing job adapting Bernie’s tree-texture. At this point, we’re done with the ‘colors’ and we’re going to follow it up with…
TWO layers of Transparent black! This is a neat screenprinting trick- you take a tiny bit of black ink, and mix it in a BUNCH of transparent base (essentially, colorless ink) and you can create a beautiful shadow layer on every single color you have, which essentially doubles the color range from just one screen. This print has two layers- a 50% and 25% black- doubling even that, giving the previous 8 colors the ability to print as 32. (I think? Math is not my strong suit…I make the art happen. Numbers are not my department.) Once we put down the first transparent black ink layer, every one in the shop said a collective ‘ooooooh’, as we knew we had helped birth something REALLY special into the world here. This print is modeled by our other full-time printer, the VERY TALL Dan Grissom. Dan was hired late last year as well, and used to run the paper department at another local production space, and has been a fantastic addition to our team. Dan is also an accomplished musician and graphic designer.
Here’s a detail shot from the finished print, which includes the 10th final layer- black ink.
We were really impressed with how the screenprinting process was still able to capture the look of Bernie’s line and brush-strokes from almost 40 years ago- reproduced here larger than this painting has ever been seen!
There is a special color variant which we will be debuting right before this print goes on sale to the general public- which also features a glow in the dark layer!
Stay tuned for release info and edition sizes and pricing. Join the NAKATOMI MAILING LIST HERE to get the official drop info!
The prints are currently in Bernie’s hands for signing, and will be on sale as soon as they’re in hand!
We really want to thank Bernie for allowing us to reproduce his work, Jon Smith for the stellar work on the separations, and I’d personally want to thank my team for the hard work they put in, bringing this piece to life!