Bill Fick Sparks Action Through Screen Printing

Bill Fick is a printmaker, meaning he designs images to be reproduced and seen by many. Fick typically works in either linoleum relief printing or screen printing, but since June has turned his full attention to screen printing political messages. With his bold and graphic designs, Fick is responding in realtime to the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the election.

“This is a momentous time in our society and there is a lot of energy out there. I want to be a part of documenting and responding to the current moment,” explains Fick. “I’ve been looking at historical American political posters and thinking about how graphic art can drive action.”

With inks and paper chosen, and a screen ready to use, Fick can print a run of a hundred or more prints in a single afternoon. Screen printing is a low-tech way to communicate to many, and its power might be amplified in the context of a pandemic. Standing out from the digital deluge of school, work, news, and social media, these bold prints catch attention—and hopefully, influence action.

On June 4, Fick and his daughter passed out prints with a raised fist at a candlelight vigil for George Floyd in downtown Durham. Since June, he’s made more work to honor George Floyd, to confront white supremacy, and he’s recently shifted to get out the vote prints. You might see his work in and around downtown Durham, posted in home windows for neighbors to see or stapled to light posts.

Red and blue letters that read
Fick takes his inspiration from historical political posters, like this bold and simple design from the 1950s in support of President Eisenhower’s campaign.

“Screen printing is an immediate, quick way of making art, and getting a message out” says Fick. “The quality of a screen print sets it apart from the typical 8.5-by-11-inch flyer—we are so used to seeing that kind of material. The inks and paper choices you get with screen printing are more vibrant, more intriguing.” For example, the VOTE EARLY! print Fick produced stands out because of its unusual size, the quality of the textured card stock, and the saturation of the red and black.

“I’ve been looking at historical poster designs, mostly from the 1960s and 70s, and especially from Globe Poster, Hatch Show Print, and the Colby Poster Printing Company (no longer in business, but they were based in Los Angeles),” says Fick, who often scours Pinterest for images that catch his eye. “I’m going to continue to make images in support of racial justice, but now I’m focusing on encouraging people to vote, and to vote early.”

Follow Bill Fick on Instagramlearn more