Next steps! Next steps! So the drawing was photographed, and the background was cleared away on the computer (so you don’t see shadows and the texture of the paper in the background, etc.) and now I’ve printed out the image. Next it needs to be photocopied, so some lines may need to be darkened so that they show up the way I want them to. Usually this means I trace over a lot of the contours in pencil.
So why am I photocopying this sucker? Photocopies are actually pretty neat: they are simply carbon that is heat-seared onto the paper, which means that you can separate them again! Something out of a laser printer won’t work in a gel transfer because the ink has saturated the fibers of the paper and cannot be removed again. But photocopies can be used for successful transfers by separating the carbon from the paper in a few different ways. Chemicals such as acetone can be used, but I prefer to use acrylic gel: nicer on the lungs and environment, and while it takes a lot longer, the print is usually richer looking in the end.
Here’s a little how-to that you can play with.
Acrylic gel is just acrylic paint without the pigment. To transfer an image this way, paint a layer of the gel onto the photocopy, and another layer on the surface you want to transfer your image onto (in this case, a canvas; I also do them on fabric, wood and paper in the Billions Pass Through this Landscape series). Stick’em together! Carefully rub the back of the paper to make sure that there are no bubbles or lumps of gel – it should be smooth and pressed together well. Let this dry (takes usually 2-4 hours depending on how much gel you’ve used, and the type of surface it’s on).
Once dry, soak the paper with a wet rag and gently rub away at the paper. Depending on the surface you’re transferring onto, the gel may tear easily leaving your image a little tattered (I still do this) so take your time. You are slowly removing the fiber layers of the paper from behind until you get down to the photocopied image, revealing the carbon to be stuck in the gel. Ta da! Easy peasy.
In this picture where I appear to be really excited about image transfers, I’ve already wet the birds at the bottom, so the paper has become translucent, revealing the image underneath. The birds at the top of the canvas are still dry, so you can’t see them at all. If I photographed the whole thing dry, it would just look like a white canvas. You probably know what a white canvas looks like.
Oh yeah, and you’ll probably get little white paper lumps EVERYWHERE.
The image will look great while wet, but once it’s dry you’ll be able to see all the little white fibers still stuck. At this point I just use my fingers (I often use my hands for the whole thing) to rub away the extra bits. This can take a few rounds of rubbing, letting it dry, rubbing, letting it dry, to get it all. I’ve done transfers until I had no fingerprints before. I was like Ringo screaming I’VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS! Transferring images onto 30 canvases at once seemed like a good idea…
This one tore easily (bah!) but once I’ve painted it you probably (hopefully!) won’t be able to tell. It’s okay, it’s all part of the process! Everything is process! I don’t really feel the need to hide these things.
Next step: COLOUR!