This month I thought I’d take y’all through my largest copper painting to date, Rabbit Moon. The first thing I did was to do an exploratory work on Duralar to nail my drawing. Here is a video making that piece.
I had the foresight to scan the above work when it was just a line drawing. I had the line art printed in reverse on mylar to the scale of my 18×24 copper sheet. Laying it face down on cleaned copper, I ironed the back of the mylar, and ta-da, it transferred the toner-ink to my surface! You have to do this with a laser printer, inkjet will not work with this method.
It will usually not transfer perfect, and I fix the drawing with FW Acrylic ink and embrace the texture of the happy accidents of the process!
Once the drawing in on the copper, I start the painting with washes of FW ink. FW ink sticks very well to the copper. However if you have a problem area because of the toner, what I do is go over the area with a little original Windex on a sponge. That is usually enough to get your ink to stick. And when I say it sticks well, I have to use nail polish remover to get FW ink off the copper.
After I established washes over the Rabbit, I jumped right into engraving his fur. Getting the engraving done early keeps flecks of copper out of your paint later. I am esssentially just drawing the fur with sharp pointy things. I use a carbide scribe for much of the work, but will use traditional gravers, x-actos, and even go to a dental drill sometimes.
A problem you may run into when painting the copper is that, while copper is a middle value by nature, it can also reflect light. So that lovely middle value passage you did, viewed from another angle, becomes a hyper bright highlight!!!
The way around this is to dull the reflective quality of copper in specific areas with paint. I usually only do this in the flesh zones as I like the effect elsewhere. You can see me filling in the silhouette of the figure with a middle value of Acrylic Ink. Translucent enough that I can see the drawing still, and have ‘some’ light still bounce off the copper beneath for luminosity- but opaque enough that is knocks down that high reflection.
Wanting to understand my value hierarchy, I blast in the red background using oil based enamel paint. (1shot sign painters enamel) I call oil based enamel the ‘gouache’ of oilpaint because it coats sooooooo well. If I were to do this stage with tube paint it would take so many coats. Like the brand of the paint says, I am able to do this stage in one shot. And it dries so fast I can get back to work.
All righty-roo, now that my middle values are on the playground, time for the real paint work to happen. I am using Gamblin Fast Matte oil paint for this stage. I really want her almost ghostly, so I am staying in the higher values for the most part. I work through the torso, pulling my brush directionally to dictate light over form and not just patterns/patches/shapes of light.
Moving to the face, I break out the make-up sponge to establish a tonal slurry I can work my brush into. Having this scumble on there helps you pull those sweet blends. It can’t be too soupy, more like, oh I don’t know, car wax consistency or shoe polish? Almost zero medium is used.
Checking my drawing with the Mylar printout here.
Problem. I hate this face. Ugh. Take the time and re-do it.
Because I have the file of original line drawing, and it is to scale, I can go back into Photoshop and fix this head digitally. Then print it out again on laser transfer paper and use that to fix my drawing on the real thing. In the end folks, we should paint to please ourselves, so if you know something is wrong, and will bug you everytime you look at it, even if no one else notices, re-do it.
I sponge color over the old face, obliterating it. I let that dry and then reestablish that drawing.
Ahh much better. I can live with that.
Lets paint a hand!! Watch how I pull those strokes, and how I work what is behind the hand at the same time as the hand, letting me think about edges and value to make things pop.
We keep working that paint down the leg.
The final painting task is to paint the cat tail plants along the bottom. For this I once again go to sign painter oil based enamel. I mix two values of the red and do the lighter first. Once dry, do the darker.
The finishing move is to use the dental drill and zap in the twinkling stars through the paint.
I seal the painting up. This will stop the copper from oxidizing. My go to varnish is Gamblin’s GAMVAR! Love that stuff. Reproducing this work is tough. Which is by design in many respects. In this digital age, I want to make works of art that can only be appreciated in person, because this will change as you walk if front of it and the light dances on the engraved surface.
So what I do is take the art and have it shot by a pro. I usually composite 3 photos to get the one image. As you can imagine one of the photos is just for the light reflection. But the results can get us close to reality, if frozen in time.
And that is all folks. thanks for going on the journey with me. I will have this piece at Illuxcon if you want to see it in person!