I needed money wallpaper for my latest piece, “Material Girl” and had to find a way to make it myself. It turns out that all of those unrelated workshops where I learn seemingly useless trivia has come in handy. I had a vague memory of being told that images on paper could be captured by painting over them with gel medium. Once dry, the paper can be wetted and washed away, leaving the image on the plastic layer. I asked about this at the art supply store, but no one there had a clue. It didn’t stop me from trying.
Since “Material Girl” is about materialism and greed I bought some fashion magazines and found pictures of expensive clothes and accessories. My first attempts didn’t work out well. The images that I chose were so large that they were lost when I cut them into smaller shapes. I put a thick layer of gel medium over the images, but the brush strokes left grooves in the surface that tore easily when I rubbed away the paper. Also, I used a high gloss gel and the end results were just too shiny.
Back to the drawing board, I acquired a jar of matte gel and applied 2 coats to the magazine pages. With the first coat, I brushed top to bottom, and in the second coat I brushed side to side. The thicker layer held up better when removing the paper, but it also made the images less clear.
Once the gel medium dries, it’s time to plunge it into water. Let it soak for a short period of time, maybe 30 seconds. Then lay it out on a flat surface with the gel side down, smooth it out as best you can and begin rubbing until the paper starts to roll up and off of the surface. I used my fingers at first as it allows you to feel the process and adjust pressure. This was really important in my first attempts as the gel layer was thin and tore easily. However, with a second layer of gel, the surface is more stable and can hold up to more pressure. I found that I could use a wash cloth to rub off the paper. This was much quicker. I do caution that it is through trial and error that one finds the best pressure for working quickly without being destructive.
With the paper removed, lay the pages on a smooth surface one more time to dry. It is important to smooth
out each page and gently shape it. Once dry, it is also important to gently lift the pages as they will have a tendancy to stick to the surface, especially around the edges.
I cut my shapes into dollar signs strung together. I’m hoping they will look like wallpaper stripes. In my second attempt, I chose several pages that had smaller images and looked similar overall. Even though I cut my shapes from several pages, they all have a similar look. In this way, I achieve some continuity of design. My next challenge it to figure out how to attach these plastic stripes to the fabric surface. Check back for more on that