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Serigraphy, Celebrities, and Joe Petro III

(March 2004) posted on Thu Mar 11, 2004

We revisit Kentucky printmaker Joe Petro III, a talented artist whose screen-printing skills have attracted attention from a wide variety of personalities.

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By Ed Newman

A lot of serigraphers overprint colors to achieve color variation, but Petro feels this approach builds up too much ink. "It'll quilt the ink together," he says. To get the soft, consistent finish he desires, he prints each color directly onto the paper, rather than on top of previously printed colors.

Petro uses standard, solvent-based poster screen-printing inks. From a small palette of basic ink colors, he blends a wide variety of printing colors. Sometimes, he also mixes a clear varnish into the inks to make the work child proof and scuff resistant. Over time, he's learned how much thinner or retarder should be added to each color to optimize its printability. He says, "Through trial and error, I found that some colors don't print as well as others due to the pigment used."

His eight screens are 4 x 6 ft in size and stretched with multifilament mesh. "It seems to work, and I can get pretty good details," he states. The larger screens give him a sense of freedom, enabling him to put one, two, three, or even four parts of an image onto one screen. His typical print sizes range from 4 x 5 to 38 x 50 in. With small designs, Petro may put the whole print on one screen, while larger prints may require several screens.

Petro still relies on the same screen-printing press he's used since opening his first studio. It consists of a 4 x 8-ft print table and screen holder with a manual one-armed squeegee carriage. "It's marine plywood and I don't need a vacuum," he says. "Most of my equipment I've built for my own needs. It's just the way I like to print and am comfortable printing."

Sought-after skill

Since his first profile in Screen Printing, Petro has enjoyed a growing collection of fans and an expanding network of collaborators that include renowned authors, entertainers, and artists. The following sections highlight several of the personalities with whom he has worked:


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