Converse – Drawing on sneakers

I have recently been experimenting with drawing on trainers, specifically; white Converse (or cheaper alternatives!). Although most of my work is ink on paper, I also enjoy branching out and seeing what materials allow me to draw on other surfaces such as walls, plasticwindows or even eggshells.

Initially, I tried both Sharpies and fine line permanent markers on old converse (grey) and cheap white canvas sneakers.

As you can see, although not dreadful, there is some bleeding into the material. The permanent markers gave me far more control than sharpies, so those were definitely the right pen – but how would I get the line to be crisper and cleaner and more like my work on paper? Especially as I wanted to move on from cheap canvas shoes to real Converse – and you don’t want to mess those up at £40+ per pair.

So, as with all things art supplies, I asked my friends at Jacksons Art what they’d suggest to help prime this kind of canvas so that I could create a cleaner line effect.

The recommendation from Jacksons was to experiment. Helpfully, they suggested 4 different types of primer that might work. And so the experiment began.

***

The following is an arts materials review. No doubt, I am not using the materials for their intended purpose and therefore apologise to the manufacturers if I am in any way criticising their products  – I’m just trying to find a hack that works for this purpose.

***

Types of primer:

  1. Golden Matte Medium
  2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium
  3. Liquitex clear gesso
  4. Winsor & Newton clear gesso

Next, I took a Converse sneaker (this was actually my own pair of size 8s that I was testing..!) and marked out 4 squares for the test.

I then applied each medium/gesso to the patch of canvas directly above, let it dry, assessed the effect, then drew on top to see how the permanent marker interacted with the gesso.

Findings – impact of gesso on canvas

What I was looking for was a light gesso, that wouldn’t make the canvas too stiff, wouldn’t remove the texture of the material, and wouldn’t darken or dirty that brilliant white.

  1. Golden Matte Medium

This one had the biggest impact on the material in that it darkened it considerably, even when dry. This picture is of the heel of the shoe which I thought might have contributed, but I did another test near the toe and it did the same thing.

2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium &  3. Liquitex clear gesso

These two were probably best in terms of impact/effect on the canvas – they neither left dark stains, nor were so thick that they obscured the texture of the canvas.

4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

This one came out the thickest, obscuring the most of the canvas texture. Unlike the Golden Matte Medium, it didnt darken the material and kept it nice and white, but it almost looked like a thickly primed painting canvas.

Findings – drawing on gesso

For the next stage, once the gesso was dry I use the permanent marker to create some sample drawings.

Note: if you see someone with partially drawn on white converse, that will be me..

  1. Golden Matte Medium

This didn’t work for me. It felt like I was drawing on hard lumpy plastic or hardened glue. You can probably see from the way the roof of the turret is bumpy where I lost control of my pen on the uneven surface. Control is absolutely paramount to me so this, combined with the darkening effect puts this gesso in last place for me in this test.

2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium

This one was much easier to draw on than the Golden Matte (non-Fluid), but still felt a little bit scratchy compared to the next.

3. Liquitex Clear Gesso

The thing I liked about this one, was the ease of drawing (i.e. smoothness), compared to the level of detail I could achieve.

4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

Remember, this is the one that went on thickest and removed the texture of the canvas. It was relatively easy to draw on (because it had smoothed out the texture underneath) and the black seemed to look blacker as a result. However, for some reason it seemed that I couldn’t get the same level of detail as the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear. Take a look at the hat in the drawing, and the way the lines are almost blurring together.

Conclusion

I’m keeping the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear, and would definitely buy both in future for this purpose, depending on what I could get my hands on. However, I’m starting with the Liquitex on all my current projects and commissions.

Now check out the difference between primed and unprimed – the expensive blimmin failure that was this pair of baby/kids Converse!!

Here are links to the products used in this test and in these sneakers (coming soon to my Etsy store).

 

Note: Jacksons don’t currently stock the permanent markers, so I had to spend a ton on Amazon. Tweet them and they tend to supply once you demand. 🙂

Golden Matte Medium

Golden Fluid Matte Medium

Liquitex Clear Gesso

Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso

 

 

 

Advertisements

Gilding – “Change”

 

“Change” Limited edition hand-finished print, 23ct leaf on paper

I’ve been asked a few times about my method and process for gilding, suggestions on materials etc so here we go.

First off, I have to say that all materials knowledge is nabbed wholesale from Julie Caves at Jacksons Art Supplies who gave me all the recommendations that got me started. So any art supply links in this website will go to Jacksons. I’m sure other art supply shops also exist.

Enough caveats. Let’s talk materials.

Art supplies and materials for working with gold leaf on paper

1. Acrylic adhesive
Special adhesive for metal leaf, Polyvine acrylic gold size  available here. This is what you’re going to use to make the surface the gold adheres to.

2. Brushes
I use one for use with the adhesive above, and one for working with the gold leaf. Only the glue brush shown here, so keep an eye out for a black brush in other pictures. I use brushes that look significantly different so that I don’t mix them up.

3. Soap
Any kind of surfactant can be used, but I use Escoda or DaVinci specialist artist brush soap which is gentle enough not to mess with the glue. Escoda is with olive oil, dontcha know.

4. Varnish/lacquer
This is C Roberson & Co’s Universal Lacquer but don’t get confused, it’s for use on gold leaf.

5. Gold leaf
I use 23ct gold leaf, 20g. It comes in transfer sheets which are really easy to work with and one pack lasts for ages.

6. Gloves (cloth)
You can buy these from tons of places – they’re light cotton gloves. Breathable enough that your hands don’t sweat, thick enough that the oil on your skin won’t tarnish the gold.

Right that’s enough on the shopping list, now what do we do with them.

 

Method for Gilding on paper

Here’s how I used the above supplies to create my recent work “Change” which is on display right now at Chiara Williams Contemporary Art exhibition “Afternoon Tea” in Margate.

Step one – planning
First I created a grid to plan out the original drawing. This helps ensure that the buildings form the kind of overall shape I’m aiming for.

Step two – drawing
At this stage I’m drawing the detail of each building, but as I know I’m turning into a digital plate, I don’t have to worry too much about lines going over or minor errors. That’s what Photoshop is for.

Step three – digital print edition (giclee)
The drawing is finished as a digital plate and the edition is printed using archival ink on cotton rag paper.

Step four – creating the tear
In order to recreate the idea of Kintsugi or Kintsukuoroi, the work on paper becomes more sculptural, as the physical form of the paper combines with the content of the drawing.

Each print in the edition of 10 is hand-torn. Although the tear starts and ends in approximately the same location, the path of the tear naturally differs, meaning that each print in the edition is unique, while the original image itself remains consistent.

Step five – adhesive
The print is then carefully reassembled, with the two pieces matched back together as closely as possible. The glue or adhesive is then applied using a small brush. It’s absolutely essential that you take real care at this stage as the gold will stick exactly where you place the glue on the paper.

Here are some hints.

  • Use a separate brush only for this stage.
  • Pour some of the glue into a palette (I find ceramic is best for this) so that you can close the full bottle up as soon as possible after use
  • Apply a small amount of soap to the brush before introducing the brush to the adhesive, otherwise you’ll end up with your brush hairs glued permanently together really quickly
  • Follow the instructions on the bottle closely. In the example of the Polyvine, there are stated times to allow the glue to air dry and become tacky BEFORE even applying the gold. And then there’s a drying period after, before you can touch it or apply lacquer.
  • Wash the brush with more soap as soon as you can after you’ve made the line you want.

TOP TIP: As I found when I made my first Kintsugi print, make sure that the original work is 100% dry before you use glue and gold, otherwise this happens..

d’oh!!!

Step six – gilding!
Once the glue line is tacky (because you’ve followed the instructions, right? Then you need to take a sheet on gold leaf and apply it gold side down on the glued area, pressing firmly from the back.
As it’s a transfer, the gold should lift away from the sheet and adhere to the paper, where the glue is place.

Then, you’re going to want to press the gold to the paper, and this is where you’re going to use those important gloves.

TOP TIP: I find that using just one glove on my right hand makes me focus on what I’m doing and prevents me getting gold or glue all over the place.

And the last stage of the gold bit, is to brush away the excess. This is where you’re going to use your second brush – not the one you used for glue!!

Assuming that you’ve allowed the adhesive to tackify properly (new word, you heard it here first) then you can use the brush to scrub gently at the edge of the line. This will remove all tiny crumbs of gold and give you a really crisp line.

Again, as you’re going to have flecks of gold flying around at this point, you will need to be completely sure that everything else on the page which is not the line you’re trying to create, is completely dry. No wet ink, no spots of glue. There’s nothing more depressing than adding a smear of glue where you don’t want one. Trust me..;)

Step 7 (Final step) – Varnish/Lacquer
Having left the work to dry completely (and following the instructions on the bottle of adhesive), you can then varnish the line of gold leaf that you’ve applied. If like me you’re applying fine lines, you’ll want to use a small brush to make sure you control the line. You want to be lacquering ONLY the gold and not the rest of the paper, because it will really show up if you’re hanging in an exhibition.

Here I used the same brush as I’ve used for the adhesive. I don’t use soap this time, but I do make sure I’ve cleaned it thoroughly before and straight after use.

Then, more drying because you need to let the lacquer dry.

Hey, I never said this wasn’t tedious.

Finished.

And there you go. Gold line complete.

This hand-finished edition, “Change” is on display in margate until 16th July.

More info on the work.
More info on the exhibition.