You Shoot Me In A Dream You Better Wake Up And Apologize

This is a Reservoir Dogs painting I called “Shoot Me In A Dream” that I just found while digging around my hard drive. It’s from 1998, when I was going through my Andy Warhol phase. I had taught myself how to screen print through a long trial and error process. YouTube tutorials did not exist and the only book I could find on the subject was something printed in the 70’s and needless to say, it left a lot to be desired. If memory serves me correctly, this painting is a 30” square canvas. This is one of the best scenes in the movie. Looking at it now takes me back to a time before Photoshop and smart phones with amazing photo editing apps that are so intuitive my three year old can figure them out.

Here’s a little story on how much work went into making art like this in 1998. First I had to find a photo for source material. There was no Google. I didn’t even own a computer. I was a huge Tarantino fan and was lucky enough to find a book of his screenplays for True Romance and Reservoir Dogs (both great movies).

Since I’m a night owl and lived in a college town the 24 hour Kinko’s became a home away from home. With Tarantino’s book as my late night companion I would go to Kinko’s in the middle of the night. I had to photocopy the image multiple times making slight changes to the contrast with each copy until I got it just how I wanted. To do this, I found it best to make photocopies of the previous photocopy. Eventually, when I got it just right I would make my last photocopy on clear mylar, which is basically a transparency. Some places called it acetate. Either way, it’s the same thing you’d use with an overhead projector.

This is not the transparency I used for the paintings in this blog. Those were much smaller and probably in a landfill at this point. Anyway, I don’t want to get into the in’s and out’s of how to make a screen print, but these were all the steps taken before making a screen, which is another lengthy process with a lot of steps involved.

I am very happy that my long nights at Kinko’s are a thing of the past, especially since they installed those “pay with credit card” boxes on the machines. In the old days you picked up this boxy looking key that you’d plug into the machine and it would count your copies. If you were sly you could hit the “copy” button on the machine, pull the key out and if you timed it just right the counter would not count your copy. When you were done you’d take the key to the counter and pay. Back then I didn’t have a debit card so paying with cash was nice. I fully embrace the technology and the ease at which it allows us to do things like adding contrast to a photo by simply sliding a bar from left to right in Photoshop.

However, I feel very fortunate that I had to learn screen printing the way that I did, without the help from computers and Google Image Search. Obviously, great tools that we all use on a daily basis, but there is something deeper happening when you learn without them. Think of the the DJ’s that learned their craft when the only option was vinyl records. Finding a rare record or a particular sound to sample took hours of digging through crates at record stores. Think of the photographers that learned their craft when the only option was film. They wouldn’t know how their photos would turn out until they developed their film so they had to have a good understanding of all the camera settings. With that comes a better appreciation for the craft. A proudness, I’d say, that you don’t get when making something becomes too easy.

Honestly, I will never make a screen print using the photocopy of a photocopy method again. I will also never use a film camera again (I actually have developed my own film and made prints in a darkroom before). Like I said, I totally embrace the new technology and the ease it allows us, but I’m a big proponent of the “know the rules before you can break them” philosophy and I think that relates to learning old school traditional methods. I realize that my nights at Kinko’s could be seen as “too easy” compared to how it was done before the photocopy machine was invented, but it is certainly an archaic way of doing things compared to how it can be done today.

I suppose this nostalgic walk down memory lane has reminded me not to take things for granted and to appreciate how awesome it is to be a creative person today. When that little rainbow wheel shows up during Photoshop I will remember that it could be worse. Instead of sitting at my dining room table with my laptop and hot cocoa I could be waiting in line at Kinko’s.

With that said, let’s all grab a bow and arrow and go hunt us some dinner!

– Jeff

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