August 25, 2012

The Knighthood of E.K.

"For your sERvICes to the craft, KNEEL AND arise a knight of print."

Contribute a Tribute
I was asked to contribute a print as a surprise tribute to screenprinting instructor Eric Kneeland. "We should do something to let him know that we appreciate his hard work," the TA said. "The theme could be Eric as a superhero. He stays late to clean up after the class, goes to his other job, and then home to take care of his newborn daughter."

"I'll think about it," I said.

Thinking about Inking
I thought about a play on Eric's name, specifically his last name, Kneeland. Broken into 2 words, it was what you might say when knighting someone. From there, I started researching chivalry, the Middle Ages, knights, uncial letterforms, and the gorgeous Book of Kells with its illuminated letters and tiny illustrations.

With limited studio time remaining, I designed the print to:
  1. Minimize $ spent on supplies. I didn't want to buy any new supplies for this project, so I designed the print around the leftover 12" x 3.5" piece of photopolymer I had. Long and thin? Try a scroll or landscape print. What paper size would allow the least waste and fewest cuts?
  2. Minimize time spent in the studio. Printing a surprise for someone right under their nose is difficult. The less time spent in the studio, the better. To save time mixing and measuring ink, select colors based on what was already available. Cut paper at home. Choose a paper that makes printing as EASY as possible.
  3. Maximize coolness of print. I never feel justified spending time and energy to print designs I don't feel good about. I knew that Eric was interested in calligraphy, and thought about using traditional calligraphy in a modern way. Registering multiple colors would be easy if I used the jigsaw method (demonstrated below). Integrate small illustrations based on Eric's Bavarian heritage (like the lion rampant and the lozenge motif from the Bavarian coat of arms).
After deciding on a concept and basic layout, I started cutting paper prototypes and drawing letters by hand. Then I used tracing paper and drew over the parts I wanted to develop further, until I had the design I wanted.

Drawing letters by hand, making a plate, cutting plate for 2 colors.

I scanned it and traced it on the computer, cleaning things up as I went. For faster production and easy registration, the 2 ink colors don't overlap, so I could make the entire design as one plate, cut it up and position the entire design, only sticking the pieces I wanted to print, and then removing the rest.

Rives BFK is a great paper for printing damp. It's thick, soft, and retains moisture relatively well, so it didn't shrink too much while printing two colors on a summer day that was HOT AS HELL. 

Eric was *really* surprised when I asked him to kneel, presented him with the prints, and "knighted" him with the classroom's wooden pointer. 


  1. Awesome show and tell about the backstory behind the print. I also like the process of how you crafted the design by hand and then digitized it. I don't think most people understand that the whole thing takes a while to do and is not something one can churn out over night. Great job! I really love my copy and how the colors turned out. Very crisp and sharp lettering!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you like your copy. I agree that you've got to try printing in order to appreciate all the work that goes into making a print (but I think that goes for any craft/skill). Thanks for your input during the design phase, too!

  2. I love this! What a clever, sweet and thoughtful gift to Eric as well.