When Chris Pritchett became frustrated with the political atmosphere of the country, he wanted to use his skills as a screen printer to make a positive change. As a Virginia Tech professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and an experienced artist, he decided to create 46 Posters.
46 Posters is a project that consists of Pritchett designing and screen printing a poster once a month. The posters depict Pritchett’s interpretation of various global and social issues, and all money raised by poster sales is donated to charities that represent these issues and have been marginalized by current administration.
“Instead of focusing on the thing I’m against, I try to focus on the things that I’m for, and what can I do to give back,” Pritchett said. “What can I do as a designer; what can I do as a printmaker? I’m already making posters; let me make a poster and talk about what I’m for.”
At the core, Pritchett’s screen printing is about helping others in the world.
The poster topics range from Planned Parenthood to the International Refugee Assistance Project to the Sierra Club. Pritchett explained the process of deciding how he designs the different prints, and how he’s still learning what inspires each piece.
“I try to think about what charity means to me, and I go from there,” Pritchett said. “(The next topic) is NAACP and helping with lawsuits that involve African Americans and involve young black men. I look back at iconography about justice and iconography about black culture.”
Pritchett also shared how he looks for inspiration in the works of others.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of a thousand amazing artists that have come before me, and I can look at what they’ve done and then look at my own path,” he said.
“This is what I’m doing and this is my voice in that conversation about the NAACP as an outsider.”
Producing each poster takes about a day. Pritchett spends several hours drawing poster concepts and will sometimes create three or four drawings before settling on one to finalize. To create the actual poster, he first separates the colors digitally using Photoshop and Illustrator and then layers different screens made of a frame and polyester mesh, with a different screen for each color.
Pritchett was introduced to screen printing while participating at the Chicago Studio as a Virginia Tech student. Feeling bad for the homeless population, he would have them draw in his sketchbook in exchange for a dollar.
“I’d come back and I’d have this sketchbook with these amazing drawings,” he said. “They were really touching, so how do I display them? I wanted to show the rest of the school.”
A fifth-year student suggested he produce them as screen prints and taught him how to make the posters. The homeless people’s drawings were soon displayed in the Cowgill Hall lobby, and now, 17 years after coming to Virginia Tech, Pritchett is teaching screen printing courses himself.
Pritchett’s goal with 46 Posters was to raise $5,000 by the end of 2017, but by March he’s already raised almost $4,000.
“(At) $5,000 I’d be really happy with myself that I’m able to give back in that way and that I’m able to convince enough people to give in that way,” Pritchett said.
He still aims to reach $5,000, but has hopes that the project will be able to go beyond that.
In the future, Pritchett is collaborating with the Town of Blacksburg to do a poster project celebrating public employees. He’s also planning a poster project to attract more tourists to Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
Pritchett’s work can be viewed and purchased at 46Posters.com.