New Hope Assembly of God. Print by Peter McGouran, design by Dan Funderburgh.
The black ink hand-printed by Peter McGouran onto a thick stock of poster paper exuded a subtle and surprising energy. It hovered almost imperceptibly above the sky blues fit so tightly beside it, while trapping all light in its velvet textured, shineless void. The poster, commissioned by graphic artist Stephen Kelleher of Frankenstyles for one of his designs, was silk-screened at McGouran’s Bushwick studio, Polluted Eyeball.
Seeing the poster in person brings home the printer’s role in producing a designer’s work. It’s a visible contribution — more of a collaboration than a duplication. Comparing that to digital printing, McGouran says: “Offset printing is just a reproduction of a file. Everything done on a computer is really flat.”
“Screen printers have to make sure to separate their work from printing done on a computer,” he adds. Sometimes, that can include mixing additives into the ink, such as glitter to give the work a metallic shine.
A great example of the pronounced impact that a screen printing can have is Mesh Count, McGouran’s infrequently published magazine. Each issue is covered in a silk-screened wrap, giving it a handmade quality. 10 different wraps are created for every issue by different designers who print their own work. The content of the publication is meant to expose readers to the world of print making, and consists mainly of artist spotlights.
For a silk-screened image to be effective, the artist needs to intimately understand the printing process. “Some get it better than others. They need to think in layers,” McGouran says.
McGouran set up shop in the area about four years ago after the Williamsburg building he operated out of was sold with the intent of turning it into condos. The 36-year-old’s first work was tee shirts for the band Vic Thrill in 2000, for whom he was doing studio management. “I really wanted to make sure they had good merchandise, and so I started doing it myself.” That was the beginning of the journey for this self-taught print maker. And this path has led him to enjoy teaching others. “If I can service someone to help them avoid the frustrations I went through, then I’m glad to,” he says.
At his studio, he offers paid workshops for the public to learn the foundations of silk-screening. As a teacher, the group dynamics of these classes are very helpful, he points out. The range of people that attend ensures that all kinds of questions get asked. “While an artist experienced in a different field might ask a perceptive question that would benefit a house mom, she might ask a fundamental question that the guy next to her that took a printing class in college may be afraid to ask,” McGouran says.
Still, it’s the technical side of the work that McGouran enjoys most. “The best compliment I can get is having somebody say to me, ‘Wow, that was done by a person?’”