Screen printing with Alastair Keady
Today we speak to Alastair Keady who is a graphic design graduate of the National College of Art & Design, in Dublin, and the Royal College of Art, in London. He’s worked as a designer, and design educator, for far too long to dwell on. He makes screen prints, out of the Damn Fine Print studio in Stoneybatter, Dublin, which he hand prints in small editions, or sometimes, as one-offs. He gets enormous enjoyment out of resolving print pieces, and hopes that others get as much enjoyment out of living with them.
What is your main practice? Did you study at University? (if so what in ?)
I’m a graphic designer and design educator. I studied Visual Communications at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and Graphic Design in the Royal College of Art.
How did you get into silk-screen printing?
I’ve always been interested in printing. I love the process generally, and made a lot of use of letterpress facilities in college, but never had the opportunity to screen print. I spent decades threatening to do a short course and see if it floated my boat, and finally I signed up for an introductory evening course in Damn Fine Print in Dublin. I caught the bug and eventually became a full time member. It’s great mental therapy, and allows near complete indulgence, in pursuing whatever direction motivates me, as opposed to a client or customer. And if others like the work, all the better.
You have lots of prints, do you have a favourite?
I think my ‘Dawn I – Gold’ piece is something of a milestone in the development of my work (see bottom left image) It was the first piece to incorporate gilding, and the motif of modular, evolving geometric elements. It started an ongoing body of pieces that take grids of circle and square elements, and manipulate them through colour, materiality, texture, and tone.
But if I were to pick a favourite, it would have to be ‘You’ve got to pick up every stitch’ (see bottom right image) It’s about as big as the print bed can cope with (170 x 110cm in two lining paper sections), and a good example of the modular, sorta monoprint, sorta not, approach that I tend to apply to my bigger pieces. If I arrive at a destination that doesn’t really look like screen print, I’m generally happy.
Do you like any other creative method? – if so which ones?
Gilding is part and parcel of my practice, and I’ve plans for glass gilding / screen print crossover pieces. I’d also like to try out carborundum and large scale woodblock.
What is your favourite design? Do you have any favourite designers?
In the graphic design sphere, I have great respect for the work and ethos of the late Wolfgang Weingart. In general, I like a lot of late modernism – late fifties to early seventies, and the designers and artists around that scene. My favourite design is the 1967 Fiat Dino Coupé by Bertone. ???? In the print-making sphere, I love the work of Palefroi, and Rod Clark’s Tatamigram process.
What inspires your designs, do you have a creative process you go through? If so what steps does this include?
Lots of mulling. Before I do the most rudimentary of sketches, I’ve had an idea brewing away for some time. Pieces tend to beget pieces. I’ll be halfway through a print, and it’ll prompt ideas for a variant, which will then mutate into something quite different. I’m also, as a habitual tweak-to-death culprit, fond of happy accidents. Everything allows for some degree of experimentation. I’m also a child when it comes to special finishes. I haven’t seen a glitter or special ink that hasn’t called out to me.
Do you have favourite themes you like to focus on?
Modular elements in grids. Circles and squares inter-playing. One of these things is not like the other. Geometric Sesame Street animations of the early seventies, basically.
Any advice for anyone that is thinking of starting their own independent brand?
Don’t wait around decades. Don’t bother with the brand, just focus on doing quality work and getting it exposed.
Any big plans for the future? Any cool collaborations lined up that we should watch out for?
A collaboration would be lovely. I tend to plough a solitary furrow. I have some ideas for lenticular and glass-gilded pieces that extend the possibilities of screen print out a bit, but that would probably require an exhibition, so I’m keeping my powder dry for a while longer.