In January 2019 I started to paint a series of paintings under the working title “Thank You For The Music”. Idea in a nutshell is to repaint artwork from albums that are important to me. Repaint, not copy. Well, to be honest, there is a slight doze of that included as well.
Let me explain this a bit. Around year 2000, when graffiti made space for computer graphics and Photoshop became my main tool, the idea of combining my spray painted works with illustrations I’d do at the computer was born. But at that point my skills with Photoshop were really not that good, so I ditched the idea.
Years later, when my Photoshop skills were much more developed I didn’t wanna use the idea anymore. I’ve gotten more and more into the actual painting – with spraypaint and brushes – instead and Photoshop was merely a tool for editing material for my portfolio. But on some early day of December 2018 I was listening to Sepultura‘s “Chaos AD” album. From a vinyl. And holding the album cover on my hand. I gotta say, the album is one of the best albums released in the early nineties and it also has one of the coolest album covers as well, entitled as “Cacophony”. Created by none other than illustrator Michael R. Whelan. The artwork made a huge impact already when the album was released and the effect never faded. It still is damn good looking cover and suites the music perfectly. And at that point I also realised that I would love to combine it with my graffiti lettering. I just wasn’t sure how, because I sure as hell wouldn’t wanna spoil the actual cover by painting over it. Scanning and printing it and then trying to paint on the paper wouldn’t do the trick either. It needed more. I also didn’t want to just try to replicate it by painting it. Then I remembered a rather popular picture transfer technique which was introduced to me by artist Janne Siltanen.
This technique is rather simple: you just choose the picture you wanna begin working with, flip it horizontally at Photoshop, print it thru laser printer (very important, regular color jet printer won’t work), spread gesso or acrylic paint on a hard surface (plywood or mdf) and then place the print on top of it, print facing down towards the wet primer. And then squeeze/press the picture firmly, put some weight on it and leave it to dry. I always wait for whole day, but I suppose that’s a bit overkill. Once it’s dry, then you moist the paper so that the whole area is wet and start scraping the paper off, either with your fingers or sponge or whatever suites your needs best, as long as it ain’t too hard so the actual print you want to leave intact does not scrape off. The final result looks a bit like glued poster you see… well, everywhere if you know where to look. And the best aspect is that you never can be 100% sure how the outcome will be, it nearly ever is exact, sharp copy but it has clearly visible paler and rubbed off sections here and there. But the actual surface is still closer to the primer than laser printed copy. Which means that it won’t reject paint so you can continue working on it. By painting or gluing or, well, what ever really. And this is where the actual fun begins.
So, I decided to scan the artwork, edit it (a lot) in Photoshop, adding my sketches to the picture as well as various details here and there and resizing the image to fit A3 size, which I decided to be the size I wanted to print ’em to. I made two different version from the picture, but printed two versions from the first one. So in total I had three pictures, one black and white, one colour and one black and white which was toned to beige. It also had different graffiti letters than the other two. One I transferred onto a plywood, two onto cheaper fibre board. And then the real editing begun: I used mainly Posca black and white markers as well as acrylic paint to enhance certain sections from the artwork as well as to paint the fill ins of the graffiti letterings. Once that was done, I sprayed ’em a bit, mainly with transparent black and white to add some depth and vignette effect. The result was very different from the original artwork yet it still was visible. And finally I sprayed a good layer of varnish on them. Cos I know it’s gonna tone the actual artwork a bit towards yellow, which would only enhance the idea of glued posters that have been exposed to direct sunlight for months.
Since I enjoyed a lot creating these three pieces, I wanted to take few more steps in this fan boy path. So I decided to do individual “graff meets album cover” paintings based on few other important albums for me as well. Ministry, Megadeth, Machine Head and Testament are the few bands that are going thru the “graff treatment”. But soon I realised that what the heck, I’ve done fair share of album artwork myself, so why not use sections from those too? And so I did. Just to keep me busy, if nothing else. I expect to finish this series by the end of March, if not sooner.
Gesso, plywood and laser print
Scrubbing the paper off the surface
Few different artwork on the table
Enhancing the transferred image
Two paintings waiting to get varnish on 'em.
Those who are familiar with my older work and know that heavy metal has always had a huge impact in everything I do, might remember my band names in graffiti -themed paintings I created for Art Goes Kapakka -festival in 2015. If not, well, do check my post about it. In short, the theme was to paint band names in graffiti letters that have also performed at the same venue where the exhibition took place. And to use colour scheme from selected albums from the band at hand too. So I consider this “Thank You For The Music” series a rather clear continuation to this music/graffiti theme. Also I do admit that these are much, much more honest fan artwork. Because that’s what I am. A fan. To metal music. And to many illustrators/artists that create visuals for the bands I listen to.