Graphic t-shirts have become a staple of modern mass-production fashion, placing emphasis on quantity over quality. Annabelle Nicholas, a freshman art major and photography editor of The University News, strives to bring quality artistry to her t-shirts.
Her passion for the art of screen printing began during her high school years. “One year for spirit week, my highschool school screenprinted t-shirts and I immediately knew I wanted to do this myself,” said Nicholas. “I did some research and talked to a local artist who explained the process.”
The process of exposing bits of photo-sensitive liquid to light on silkscreens to create designs “is similar to the screenprinting process used in the art department’s printmaking studio,” Nicholas said. “But the hard part for me was that I had to build the system from scratch.”
Once her interest in screen printing grew, Nicholas began the intricate process of building her own home studio in order to create designs.
“I spent about a year and a half tinkering with my home system in my garage. It took so long because the many variables had to be just right. I had to convert part of my garage into a photo darkroom. I had to find a lightbulb with the right wattage and the correct position relative to the screen. I had to adjust my design process, beginning with simple paper cutouts and transitioning to graphics designed on my computer,” explained Nicholas.
Through a process of trial and error, Nicholas continued to improve her system and her design skills, working up towards creating more intricate designs. “All of these changes took time, but the better my system became, the more intricate my designs could be. My very first design was a simple outline of a coffee cup, but my later designs included a detailed face, intricate line designs, and multicolored images.”
Last semester, Nicholas, along with fellow art major Makenna Connors, worked to bring great screen printed art to students here on campus at the Fall Fest art sale.
In true UD fashion, they chose a classic work of art as inspiration for their design. “We based our design on the iconic Michelangelo painting “The Creation of Adam,” using a solid white square as the background for the hands of Adam and God, which form the negative space,” said Nicholas. “The sale was very successful for us and we sold out of almost everything.”
One could argue that their sale was made all the more successful by the uniqueness — and the eco-friendliness — of each piece sold. “We printed all of our designs on t-shirts we thrifted from a local thrift store, which made each shirt slightly different,” Nicholas explained.
If you happened to miss out on these great pieces, don’t worry! Nicholas plans to continue making more pieces with the ultimate goal of developing a side business with her art, so you’ll have more chances to pick up a Nicholas original in the future.