With the base images applied – I got working on the details of the piece. It was nice to leave the relative tightness of the stencils behind and start filling in freehand. I was a little tentative at first – even though the Montana cans use a constant pressure technology and provide a range of nozzles it felt to me that the paint was shooting out of a gun – faster than applying oil paint with a brush at any rate.
I did get used to it and I even got to like the effect that miss-aimed sprays had on the paintings. Since I was using large areas of black paint in the graphic – the splatters and specs of color from nearby areas worked from my point of view.
I did have to paint the top as well – if you don’t feel like climbing the tree here is what you might miss.
I signed the piece using a stenciled signature – and applied the Public Art Sticker. I also cleaned the concrete base on the transformer.
I wrapped up by applying a clear-coat – this protects the pigments from UV light and slows the bleaching out process then I applied an anti-graffiti coat – done.
The box had a coat of green (oil based) paint – it was in pretty good shape so I wouldn’t need to scrape it down at all. It had a small amount of graffiti – and the usual white dielectric substance one finds any where there are birds. I was able to get it prepped for priming with a wire brush and some sandpaper. After washing it down I gave it three coats of acrylic primer. Then I laid on a base coat of tile gray.
For this project I used Montana Gold and Montana Black acrylic lacquer. This paint comes with interchangeable nozzles that produce a range of spray widths for detail work to area coverage. To start out and get used to the handling of the paint I applied a base code of Roof Gray – you can see the contrast between the priming white and the first coat of spray paint above.
With the stencils I wanted to produce scaled images that would help me set the drawing up very quickly. I expected to have to work on the images from the first layer of spray paint I put down. For the text on the bottles I actually went out and bought stencil paper and cut some stencils that could transfer a final image. I tried using the sticky mylar that is sold for stencils but found it impossible to manage – the stencil paper worked great.
To get a crisp image you need to have the stencil pressed right up against the surface – this I did for the text – but not for the main images you can see that the initial images are soft/blurry around the edges – glue dots got me close enough.
Avoiding time at the site transferring my design was one of my goals. Drawing is part of the process that is often most constrained for me and I like it to be very exact -side effects of an engineering degree- but I also need the luxury to get it right – doing a lot of drawing at the site would have forced me to rush thru it and that would lead to trouble later on when it came time to paint.
The cow patterns that I was using for this piece were derived from woodblocks that I had worked on in 2013. They in turn were derived from drawings and paintings of rare-breed cattle that I have been doing over the past number of years. I was very happy with the woodblocks themselves – but never happy with the quality of the print I was able to produce from them – the flat graphic nature of the woodblocks were ideal subjects for this project and I was glad I got to use them in some context.
In my studio I assembled the enlarged designs on sheets of kraft paper that I had reinforced with a couple of coats of acrylic gesso. I glued the design to the kraft sheets with some hide skin glue that I have, then prepared to cut with some Exacto blades.
The first hurdle I hit was that no matter how sharp the blade there were always corners or angles that would tear as I cut the design. I though I would have to take out my ruler and set square and go back to the grid method. Luckily I came up with a simple solution – I used clear packing table to tape over every edge that I needed to cut. This served to reenforce the cut edge – and made cutting much easier, faster, and eliminated the tear problem.
Another thing to bear in mind when making a big stencil is that you can’t really cut it out exactly to match the image you are aiming to produce. If you have a shape that is not attached to anything cutting it out completely will cut it right out of the stencil and you’ll have a hard time placing it when you come to do the transfer – so you need to leave supports in. In the picture below you can see these supports as horizontal and vertical rectangles that keep the stencil placed in its frame and hold it together. You can see a couple of pieces of masking tape too where I forgot this and had to add reenforcement back in.
Here’s the a couple of shots of the first stencil under construction in my studio.
Last year I participated in a public art project in my home town of Arlington Ma. the project was funded by Arlington Public Art.
This project pushed me out of the comfort of my air-conditioned studio into the summer heat – working in public also means taking questions from curious passersby.
The first problem I had to overcome was how to scale my design up from A4 to transformer proportions – my box was 56″ x 44″ in its largest dimensions (front and back) – the sides being less – and though only visible from the abutting tree – the top was also part of the project.
The classic way to size up is to draw a grid on your original then – create a grid the size of your final piece with similar proportions and copy it over – I’ve done this many times and it’s very tedious.
I used an online re-sizer – to quickly resize my designs – once satisfied with the results – I could print them out and take them to my studio for the next step.