Friday, March 19, 2010

Surprise Art Box: Strigiformes, Stages I & II

April 24th marks the next Surprise Art Box group show, and heavens help me, I'm in it. Now, I'm not really an artist, I'm a designer. But I miss the brush and paints and the tangible satisfaction of the hand. Because my natural illustrative talents sort of dry up past verbatim rendering, I wanted to try solvent transfers (with a blender pen) to hopefully take my imagery to new and unforeseen levels using the transfer process as a buffer to explicit depiction.

Shown here are steps 1 and 2 of the complete process — the initial watercolor illustration (done from bird field guides) and the toner transfer on primed wood panel. To get the transfer I first scanned my watercolors in 8-bit grayscale, bumped up the contrast in Photoshop, flipped and printed them. I then photocopied the printouts with a toner photocopy machine. Note: you have to use toner, ink won't work; color photocopies are OK. Flipping the image is important (especially with type) because your print will come out backwards from what you see on the paper. I then held the photocopies face-down to the panels and used the blender pen to saturate the paper, transferring the toner to the wood. I should mention that I decided to do double transfers with multiple photocopy printouts, one atop the other, to darken the results, and I used a burnisher to help make the toner stick. Future steps are TBA, as I have no idea what I'll do next! Dare I introduce color? This is an organic if imprecise process. Stay tuned!

I should mention that I'm really into owls these days, and it was their spectral quality that led me to chose transfer printmaking as my image making method. I've been painting birds for a while, but when I found the owl illustrations in a 1961 second edition of Peterson's A Field Guide to Western Birds, I became enamored. They are no doubt agents of the spirit world — noiseless, mothlike, nocturnal, with almost tribal "facial disks" and feather tufts. My aspiration is that the imprecise nature of toner transfers will lend a ghostly character to these birds. So far I'm pretty happy with the results.

In case you're not already familiar, SABP was founded in 2009 by Bay Area artist Matthew Jervis. The basic idea was born of the mystery boxes available in specialty toy emporiums such as Kid Robot. An artist creates limited edition collections of 20 3"x3" pieces which are displayed in full but sold individually at random — the buyer doesn't know which one he'll get. "Its like a gumball machine full of cool art by awesome artists. Put yer money in, twist the knob and see which one you get." Be sure to check out Jervis' incredible 100 Faces project.

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