Why comics make good screenprints

Posted by John Patrick Reynolds on

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Screenprinting is very good at vivid colour and bold outline. Using comics as my material allows me to show off that strength. I love the expanses of colour in the screenprints pictued above and below.

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An added benefit of using images from vintage or classic comics such as The Beano, The Dandy, The Victor or Commando! in my screenprints – and iconic characters such as Dennis the Menace, The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx; other Beryl the Peril, Alf Tupper, Oor Wullie, The Broons, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Asterix, Obelix, Getafix, Dogmatix – is that people recognise the characters, but have not seen them in this context. This is one of the rolls traditionally played by art – to present familiar objects in unfamiliar ways and by doing so to make fresh again.

There is a kind of magic to this appropriation. This is very apparent with the screenprinting of individual letters. Once they are taken out of the context of words, then you appreciate them for their shapes and graphic qualities.

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In the same kind of way, once the panels are presented out of the context of the original story, they lose their place in the narrative and this can lend them a surreal quality. For instance, Desperate Dan suggests that, because there is nobody around, he can dress up as a clown. Which – when looked at without knowledge of the story – seems to be a non-sequitur, or at least to follow a kind of unusual logic. In the context of the original story, however, the speech bubble makes perfect sense.

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I grew up with British comics – they were big in the 1960s and children would buy perhaps two or three each week – and am still fond of them. Comics involve an imaginative and stylised versions of the world, and pretty much anything goes – they do not depict a literal interpretation of the world. The characters of The Beano, for instance, seem to inhabit a kind of parallel universe where Minnie the Minx can have a hippo as a pet and the only misgiving is that her parents can’t see the telly. I love the playfulness this allows.

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As a result of this fondness, my use of comics is not ironic – I hope to present them in a sympathetic way which presents their virtues as I see them. I select panels or details of panels for their sakes as pictures, asking you to enjoy them for their content and composition and for the colour and black outlines which screenprinting is so good at presenting.

John Reynolds, Maida Vale, London, 15 November 2014

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