Slow Instagrams with color copy transfers

While working on a detailed painting for a while it can start to feel stale. In between paintings I want a way to make looser, more expressive images, as well as just to make more images. I want to play with composition, texture, and color, but still have something figurative that tells a bit of a story. I also want results quickly.

I often use color and black and white laser prints as photo references for paintings because I can scribble on them, or fold over one edge to change the composition. They’re also small and can be tucked away when I’m not working. (If anyone ever chastises you for using photographic references, hit them over the head with this book)

I copied some recent photos onto a thumb-drive and made may way to my favorite art store, FedEx Office, and made a few color laser prints. Before printing, I opened these in Photoshop and flipped the images horizontally so they appear reversed or mirrored on screen.

I printed these images at 4” square so I could line up three images together in a 12” x 4” triptych. Note to self: maybe make a contact sheet in Pixelmator or Photos and save a few bucks on prints.

After taping off a block of space on my water-color pad I roughly cut out each image, then folded the edges up to give me a bit of a guide. I lined up the photo and then positioned face-down then taped it in place. With the photo in place I saturated the back with a ChartPak blender marker and burnished the paper with a spoon.

The ChartPak blender is basically an acetone marker - it’s intended to dissolve markers for blending purposes. It also breaks down the bond between laser toner and pinter paper. By saturating the back of the image and pressing it into paper, the toner lifts off the printer paper and becomes embedded onto the opposite paper. This is why I flip the images - so the reversed image is reversed again to appear correct.

By nature the transfer will be looser and rougher. Blacks and solid colors will transfer better than intricate details. If the target surface is rough, you can expect the image not to reach all the nooks and crannies. This will give you a nicely degraded look.

Once the image has dried it can be painted on or drawn on and should be fairly stable. I like to use a palette knife to spread a thin layer of clear acrylic medium over the transferred image to seal it into place.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402