Thursday, October 22, 2009

Multilayer Reflection Art - "Polycrylic"

My good and loyal friend Lauren Carr, talented and creative in her own right (see introduced me to this medium.

Lauren uses it for her paintings. She paints a layer of background on a framed mirror, covers it with a layer of clear acrylic, then paints another layer of the painting and covers it in acrylic, and so on until the image is finished. This method gives her work a fascinating depth:

So, after our brainstorming session, Lauren and I came up with the idea of using a mirror for the background of a 3D image created by imbedding cutouts from one of my photographs at different levels in clear acrylic. The results were fantastic!

The idea was to sandwich matching positive and negative images together so that, when you look at the piece, you see the positive image on the surface, but the mirror will reflect the negative images behind them. In addition, the images would be suspended in several layers of acrylic at different levels, thus providing interest. Here's the finished piece as seen from the front.

Here's the piece from a 45-degree angle. You can see the negative images reflecting off the mirror behind the positive ones.

Below are the illustrated steps we did to accomplish this piece of art:

1. First I printed two copies of my black-and-white photograph "Prayer" in my darkroom. The image is a photo of five different mirror shards reflecting the same subject.

Next I printed two negative images of the same photo:

2. Then I cut out all the mirror shards in all four prints. I ended up with five positive images of mirror shards and five negative images of the same shards.

3. Another good and loyal friend, Ron Urbanovitch, owner of No Naked Walls Art, Frame and Imaging Center in Port Richey, FL, made me a framed mirror. He mounted a mirror at the back of a frame that was about one inch or so deep. Notice how he used black foamcore spacers to keep the mirror to the back of the frame:

4. Through Lauren, I bought a half-gallon each of both parts of an acrylic epoxy mix. She gets it at and has wonderful things to say about this vendor.

It cost about $50 for this amount. You can find it in smaller amounts at craft stores, but the price per ounce is much less this way.

5. Then we measured equal amounts of each one of the acrylic parts. It is important to measure precisely because if the mixture isn't exactly equal, the result is a sticky substance that won't harden.

6. We poured the parts together in a larger container. Notice we used disposable, recycled yogurt containers. Once you use a container for mixing, the leftover acrylic hardens in the cups and they can't be used again.

7. We stirred the mixture for five to ten minutes until it became clear. This is the signal that the parts are mixed thoroughly.

8. We poured a layer of the acrylic onto the mirror in the frame. There was enough to make a layer about 1/4 inch deep.

9. We tilted the mirror to allow the very thick, viscous acrylic to coat the entire surface. At this point the acrylic is the consistency of honey.

10. Since there are about a million bubbles in the acrylic from stirring it, we used ClearCote's Eat-A-Bubble.

Laying the frame on a level surface, we sprayed the surface lightly with the Eat-A-Bubble. It breaks the surface tension and the tiny bubbles disappear immediately.

There are still another million bubbles or so in the acrylic, so we sprayed the surface again in about 20 minutes.

Truthfully, most of the bubbles would probably reach the surface and burst on their own, but this was much more fun. I've heard you can use rubbing alcohol for this, but I haven't tried that.

Eventually all of the bubbles disappear.

11. It is nearly impossible to keep dust and lint from landing on the surface, and if there is a pet in the house or fruit flies in the area the problem is worse.

Therefore, as the acrylic slowly hardens, you must keep an eye on it. Check it every 15 minutes or so. You can use a straight pin, a toothpick or even a fingernail to pick out any foreign object that lands on the surface. You can do this until the acrylic is too hard to flow back to a level surface. Depending on temperature and humidity, you can do this for a couple or three hours after the acrylic is poured.

12. After the first layer was completely hardened, we poured a second layer using the same method as described above.

13. Despite our best efforts, a dog hair landed on the second layer that didn't get noticed until after it was hardened.

So, we used an Xacto knife to scratch it out of the surface. Because we were adding another layer, the scratches were filled in by the next pour.

You can also use an emery board or nail file to scratch out hairs and lint stuck in the hardened acrylic.

In the same way, if you have large bubbles hardened in to the acrylic you can drill them out because the next layer of acrylic will fill in the hole. Make sure the hole is fairly large or air will get trapped in the hole and just leave a larger bubble.

14. This photo shows the scratched area from removing the hair. It also shows another problem that surfaced in this process: since the positive and negative images were not attached to each other, nor were they attached to the preceding layer of acrylic, the edges floated up in the layer of acrylic that was poured on top of them.

It was then I learned to glue the positive images to the matching negative ones, then glue the whole thing to the acrylic before pouring another layer. I diluted some white glue with water and used an artist brush to brush it onto the back of the positive image. Then I stuck the negative image to it. Then I brushed the glue solution onto the negative image before positioning it on the acrylic.

I pressed the whole thing under books overnight to make sure all the glue was dry.

15. Then I poured the next layer of acrylic.

16. I kept adding more images with each layer of acrylic until I had all the images positioned in the frame and set in acrylic.

I really love the way this turned out. However, if I had it to do over again, I would not pour so many layers of acrylic. This is solely because the piece weighs nearly 10 pounds!

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At January 6, 2010 at 3:09 AM , Blogger Lauren Carr said...

OUTSTANDING! I think you got the three-d(ish) effect that is possible. I look forward to your next project...

At January 9, 2010 at 9:15 PM , Blogger Jewelbabe said...

Wow! Can't wait to see this in person! It looks like it turned out great! And what a fab tutorial!


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