Earth Memory Paintings

2015-Present (North Carolina)

Office Doodle
One of my office doodles

I am a perpetual doodler. In meetings at work, I’ll often fill the corner of a notebook page with tiny designs that allow me to concentrate on whatever topic is at hand. I also draw in earnest, mostly in sketchbooks and not from life but more out of what one of my art teachers dubbed “mucking about” (so doodling but for art’s sake). Occasionally, a drawing directly informs one of my paintings but not all that often. There is no schematic involving underlying form writ into oily canvas translation. Still, I’ve always wanted to bring this mental vagabonding of the pen into my paintings directly. It occurred to me that the acrylic transfer painting process would be a way to merge these two personally disparate endeavors into a single form. A while back, I wrote a post about a version that I created of Ando Hiroshige’s Evening Snow at Kanbara where I visually analyzed the poetics and process involved in the construction of a Edo-era woodblock print. Creating acrylic transfer painting feels like an extension of those ideas projected onto canvas.

The process to produce an acrylic transfer involves multiple steps. I begin with a drawing on paper, which is often photocopied directly or photographed on a cell phone, digitally modified, then printed out. I cut up the printouts and work back in to create a new image which is again photocopied. When I arrive at a final design, I apply many layers of gel over the photocopy in order to produce the acrylic transfer. Eventually, I soak the photocopy in water and rub the paper off the back to produce a translucent plastic sheet bearing the image lifted by the gel. This sheet curls as it drys, so it must be flattened by placing it under weight.

Like all things reproduced, there is a little bit of damage or change involved. Sometimes not all of the toner is pulled up from the image, the translucency of the acrylic sheet introduces the possibility of new color, and I transformed something that was on paper into plastic, which is a kind of alchemy in a low magic sort of way. After I have the sheet dried and flattened, I engage in the process of painting a canvas in order to deepen color, add elements to the transferred image, and provide a background. Sometimes, I layer multiple transfer sheets on one canvas to provide further complexity and depth. To finish, I glue the components together then varnish to protect the final product from sunlight.

Throughout the process, I feel like a distinct personality working at each stage of a production line. Publisher, artist, woodcarver, printer, and Shogunate censor all collaborated to release an Edo-era woodblock print into the market. In these Earth Memory acrylic transfer paintings, though, it is just me working through an internalized system of divided and sometimes conflicting parts who come together to bring formerly disparate practices together into one. And all of this, in a fictional sense, happens in some extra-terrestrial bunker or space station with a divided self looking back at something he knows nothing about and building a type of floating world that never really was.