Milosj de Groot is one of the most adventurous and experimental screen printers of his generation and an industry Instagram sensation. Images takes a close-up look at his highbuild masterpieces, which are a little bit mad and most definitely very special

For some time now, the team at Images has been avidly following one particular Instagram account: @madspecials, aka Milosj De Groot. The 43-year-old Dutch screen printer posts pictures of prints he’s created that look like miniature landscapes and high definition work that defies logic. It’s little wonder that earlier this year ink manufacturer Wilflex dubbed Milosj “The Jedi of the screen printing world”.

Milosj’s father was a screen printer, as was his maternal grandfather. “My father knew everything about printing and, just like me, he was very much into art, pottery, painting…” He introduced Milosj to the art of screen printing on a flatbed when Milosj was six years old: he loved it from the start.

At the age of 13, Milosj went to a school that specialised in graphical techniques – from technical drawings to using an old school Heidelberg press – but didn’t learn as much as he had hoped. At the age of 16 he had to find a job. “I didn’t know what to do, if I wanted to screen print. I loved it, but I didn’t like the fumes –my dad was always printing stickers and things like that, so he worked with volatile inks. I went through the Yellow Pages and saw a textile printing company. I applied for a job there, got hired and worked for them for a couple of years. At first I was a catcher, then within two months I was running a machine.

“It was an American 10-colour machine and great fun – I used to open the control unit and mess around with the compressor. I could get 1,300 T-shirts an hour out of it, but the mechanic didn’t like it that much as he had to come in each month to fix it!”

Milosj’s love of high-definition prints began in 1995 when he saw a special M&R print at a trade show

 

A passion for manuals

After ten years working at a print shop, mainly on a manual, he ended up at Fox Productions Clothing where he began as an auto machine operator, although his passion was – and still is – manual printing. “One day I took my chance. There was an order for 1,200 coach jackets with two-colour chest and twocolour back prints. My boss asked the guy on the manual machine how long it would take. He said a week and a half. I said two days. ‘No f**king way,’ he said.” In the end, it took Milosj two and a half days. He’s been printing on a manual ever since. In his current workplace, where he’s been for nine years and is production manager, he does a variety of work – he’d been doing high-density prints with gel, 150 an hour, on the day he spoke to Images – but it’s when he gets home to his four-colour Printex press that he really stretches his creativity.

His love of high definition prints began in 1995. He was at a trade show when he stopped by the M&R stand. “I remember the print well, it was a red and silver gel print with flames and they used brushes in the squeegee holder. I was amazed. I was like ‘This is my calling’. I’m like a dog, I grab something and never let go. I bought some capillary film and within one month I had results and they were amazing. The first wash tests were complete crap though – the print was left in the washing machine! If something doesn’t work, I want to know why. I try everything – put it through the dryer twice, five times – until I get it.

“Then I got into speciality inks. There was this guy called Steve Miller at Rutland Inks, he had a column called ‘Ask Steve’. So I emailed him a couple of times; he made beautiful high definition prints. The guy is a genius. Eventually, someone asked if I was on Instagram and I said ‘No’. That was three years ago. I’m on there now!”

Magna Colours noticed Milosj on Instagram and sent him a box of goodies to play with, while Ronald Van Kelst from PC Technology in Belgium now asks him to do live printing with speciality inks at trade shows.

Wilflex first spotted Milosj’s talent when one of the company’s technical guys visited with his ink supplier. “We looked in each others’ eyes and we knew it – we were made from the same block: fanatical about inks. He asked if I could spare some shirts for a show, so I sent some to the States. From there they sent me some inks to play with and asked me to join the Wilflex Original programme.
“I’m having the time of my life! Every ink needs a special approach because of its different viscosity, opacity, whatever. I love all the special inks; Rutland and Wilflex are my favourite inks to work with.”

Milosj is a third generation screen printer who first printed at the age of six. He’s passionate about manual screen printing and combining different creative techniques

 

Striving to be special

Milosj’s prints are particularly notable for their creative use of texture, with Milosj drawing inspiration from everything he sees. “I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll see this structure, this texture – I love textures,” he confirms.

Gaining an understanding of how special effects inks work and how to use them is important for printers who want to set themselves apart in the future, he believes. “As DTG and transfers keep getting better and better, I think screen printing is not going to be special anymore. Every guy on the street can push a button and load and unload a shirt.”

He happily hands out advice to those who ask on Instagram or via the Facebook groups he’s in, although he refuses to divulge detailed step-bystep instructions on how he creates specific designs. He thinks the key to understanding how inks work is experimentation, and so his advice aims to “tickle people into experimenting”.

High definition prints are extremely popular right now, although Milosj isn’t likely to limit himself – there’s a world of different textile printing inks out there to be experimented with and mastered: “There are so many inks – reflectives, those that change colour with heat and light – and so many techniques; it’s brilliant. I am passionate about printing, about combining techniques, having the vision to see it from the artwork through to the finished style… I’ll never stop experimenting and problem-solving.” Which is excellent news for his many Instagram followers, and for the creative future of textile screen printing generally.

www.instagram.com/madspecials