The girl covered in green oil paint…
Nothing is safe. My face, my hair, my neck, my clothes, and every inch of my hands. Covered in green oil paint smudges. Let me tell you what great looks you get working at a coffee shop and handing people coffee and baked goods and sandwiches with green tinted hands. It always goes over real well. Any cuts on my hands have bathed in mineral spirits far too often this past week and a half. Currently my headphones, computer charger, and memory card reader all have tinges of green. I can’t escape it! I went to practice sew in the fuzz on a dry cactus piece today and some residual green got pulled into the fibers. It’s madness.
And madness is the perfect way to describe these past couple of days. The curse of being a visual artist and a recovering perfectionist hit me hard. So oil paint was borderline risky to begin with. It has a great rich color, but metal is not particularly porous. What are my two options? To prepare the metal by blasting it with an intense pressure hose of sand to give it a rough grit, or cover the piece in gesso as a primer. There was no way my semi-fragile piece was going near the sandblaster, and primer would not only take away the texture I carefully hammered in, but also give it a flat painted look instead of letting some of the metal shine through.
So I darkened the metal, and went for it and hoped for the best. I was told to wait a week to let it dry. Small nightmare for a student approaching the impending show deadline. But I started to work on my next piece. I painted the first piece (from the last blog which was in fact my second piece that I was able to join while repairing the broken one). A few days later I did some light touch up on the first one to be painted and finally having fixed the other broken piece, painted that one to match. I walked away for a few days. But something was off. The first one to be painted was a flat matte color. Brilliant emerald, but matte without a doubt and a little sparse. The second one to be painted was a matching brilliant emerald but nice and shiny. I thought maybe it needed to dry and kept waiting it out. Nothing. It was a slight difference but completely driving me mad. Although I intent to seal it with a gloss coat anyways, I liked the second one better. It looked more metallic. If only I could have painted them at the same time…
So today I tried to figure out the changing factor. I added a hint of yellow the second time, maybe that was the shine. I nervously decided to repaint the first piece, knowing I’ll have to let it sit a few more days. I finished and dabbed off the paint with the shammy just like the first. It was still pretty matte. I plop it next to the other one and instantly realize they’re now two different shades. Oh no, the people in the metals studio assure me. It’s just wet, it’s just the light. You’re just imagining it. Oh no, one was yellow emerald and the other was now a bluish dark green… and matte. I dug up old photos of the first one while it was wet (back when they matched) No, it wasn’t this dark. Maybe it was the layers of paint that were now too thick? After leaving and coming back I decide this will haunt me, and crunch myself for time again by taking some sandpaper and steel wool to the whole thing to eat off some of the paint layers. This time I add slightly more light green and yellow. I frantically paint it on and buff it off. Closer in color, but still darker. I keep pushing more paint off. Finally it looks much closer. I’m green shade paranoid now, but feeling finally like I have achieved a nice match.
The one great success was adding white to the raised dots. I wanted this detail that was lost when I painted the pieces green. Mike the studio coordinator suggested thinning out acrylic paint and then drybrushing to hit the top raised pieces. I tried this tentatively. Definitely did not work by any stretch of the imagination. Switched over to gesso which is thicker and would combat the green. Brush strokes showing up on the non raised metal. I would have to hand paint each one. Finally an actual use for all the wooden toothpicks I bought. I spent a few hours sitting there trying to locate each raised bump and try not to shake and get as close to the top as possible. I’m thrilled with the effect. It adds this wonderful organic and alive look and really helps bring out the contours and converging points. The only downside is that it’s hard to tell the dots are actually raised metal instead of just a paint detail. But I can happily get past that. I did briefly try exposing the copper instead of white but it wasn’t as strong of an effect and would have been lost with the more brown ish wool fuzz.
I’m looking into fiber optics for my cactus spikes to not overwhelm the piece. About to sacrifice a friend’s fiber option lamp to get the nice transparent plastic fibers. We’ll see how that goes and if I’ll need to find another option or if that will be the winning material.
As for the next piece, I am working on an arm piece based off of little coccolithophores from the ocean that can only be examined under a microscope. They having this great tiling of these pierced forms and I think it will make for a visually interesting piece with depth that I can wrap around the arm in clusters. I knew the cutouts were going to be ridiculously time consuming so I looking into water jet cutting and laser cutting and quickly found this was not plausible for the small size I was working with. I can’t make it out to be a quick process, it’s definitely not. I sharpie the design, cut out the piece, file the edges, drill one hole for the circle and a good twenty-two holes on the outer edge for the cut outs. I put a tiny sawblade in a hole, tighten it to the frame, cut away metal, loosen the blade, pull it out, put it in the next hole, re-attach and tighten the blade and cut again… twenty-some times. Still, that’s metal, that’s how it goes, I love hand-crafting for a reason, so I’ve gotten about six basic cut-outs done. I’ll be soldering a band in along with a texture piece to mimic the photograph and then I will ideally hammer the sides down slightly. I imagine the pieces being riveted together and working almost like scales on the arm, but only covering a part of the forearm.
And that’s my update. Crazy nervous about how soon the show is coming up. Hoping for a very productive few weeks.