A couple of months ago I drew an “Alien Robot Fish,” for one of Glen Southern’s Twitsketch daily topics (Twitsketch is up & running with a new forum over here. Drop by, find a topic & start sketching! All are welcome).

I was pretty happy with the sketch & a couple friends liked it too so I thought I’d see what the rest of the fish looked like. Turns out it looks like this:

Kinda cool. Little bit of a steampunk vibe but not totally Victorian precious. I dug it & started thinking that it might make a nice print. I’ve been slowly getting back into screenprinting, a few shirts here & there but always thinking that I’d like to do posters. I love working as a broadcast designer & it’s fun seeing my work on the screen but I really miss having a tangible artifact of my work. This fish may just fit the bill. I called up French Paper with a couple questions & they were kind enough to send me a half-dozen free sheets of Muscletone to test. The paper is just gorgeous. I went with a heavier stock than needed for straight screenprinting because I want to try watercolors over top of the ink.

I brought the sketch into Photoshop & inked over the lines with a basic brush, then brought it into Illustrator to smooth out the lines. I wound up with something a bit cleaner:

I like it, but I see a couple problems looming. The one screen I have that’s clean is pretty low resolution, great for t-shirts, not tight enough for paper. I’m probably going to get some blurring in the tinier hash marks & shading. Still, I’d rather get a print today that’s only okay than bitch & moan about not having the perfect screen & waiting until “later” to print it. I added “new screen material” to my lengthy “crap to buy for my assorted projects” list & moved forward.

The seam where I tape the two transparencies together may present some problems but we’ll see.

Well, I was right about the whole resolution thing, though it’s awfully hard to tell thanks to the utter crappiness of the iPhone camera.

I pulled three prints & though I’m happy I did them, the results are less than perfect. I need to go back to my Illustrator file & beef up a bunch of lines. I lost a ton of detail. Then, with a higher resolution screen I’ll be able to get more consistent linework. I also need to control the edges of the screen better. I like a little of the inky edges but I’d like to be able to eliminate them from some prints. I give the printing a B-, a passing grade with plenty of room for improvement.

But wait, there’s more! Next step on at least two of these is to start coloring with watercolors. The ink I’m using is water-soluble so I can’t go crazy but I think that if I use a wash around the outside & a drier brush inside the fish body I’ll be fine.

Well, maybe not fine, but good enough. My first inclination when faced with painting these was to pull the original sketches into Photoshop & do color variations until I found the “perfect” one. Only at that point would I run the risk of completely ruining the actual prints. That’s a way of working that I’m trying to get away from. I need to get better at jumping in & seeing what happens. If what I really wanted was certainty, I’d stay in the land of “ctrl – z” forever. The point of making something tangible is to actually touch something. Here are some closer shots of the two I painted (taken with my crappy iPhone camera):

Frankly, I’m not sold on the coloring of either one & I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the third, as yet uncolored print.

So, the prints didn’t come out as clean as I’d have liked and the coloring doesn’t work. Failure? Eh, not so much. And even if they are, #10 in the Cult of Done Manifesto is “Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.” The Cult of Done is a powerful thing. It really resonates with me. Other Cult of Done decrees I’ll gladly apply to today’s experiment:

2.     Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done. 3.      There is no editing stage. 6.      The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done. 7.      Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done. 8.      People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right. 12.    Done is the engine of more.

The thing is, I’m just trying to get better at making things. I’m borrowing an idea that Merlin Mann is a proponent of, simply that by having printed & painted these today, I’m three prints & two paintings better at making these than I was yesterday. I’m better at it than I’d have been if I’d waited for “the right screen” or waited to get a fancy fountain pen (which I’m totally jonesing for), instead of a Sharpie, for touching up my lines. Or if I’d waited ’till I had more space to print in, or a cooler image to print, or whatever. I’m trying to get beyond the bullshit and actually make things, because it’s damned fun to make things.