up all night

i was up all night finishing the dolphin.

except it wasn’t precisely all night.  and i didn’t actually finish the dolphin.

nope, i hit a stopping place.  i’ve got to hang out and watch paint dry for awhile before i can do anything else.

not exactly anything else, because i still have the book / fin to paint in.  and then i have to put some ageing on the base.  but i can’t varnish the damned thing until the acrylic i put on last night finishes drying.

or else.

so okay fine.

that’s why i’m writing this blog entry now, because i can.  because i’m not going to wait until i’m finished in a few minutes and then write it all up at once.  because i won’t be finished in a few minutes.  because i’ve told my sponsor and the aquarium that i’m going to wait until over the weekend to drop it off at the loading dock.

so okay fine.  i’ve had three hours of sleep and i’m going to sit down and start on the lettering on the book / fin in a moment.  but first some more coffee.  i’m still a little shaky.

last blog post, i spent all day washing the paper off the backs of the printed pages.  when i came to the studio after leaving them all night, collected them and started looking at the individual pages, i realized that they still had loads of paper on the backs.  so i washed them all over again.  this time the bits of paper came off much more easily, but i still had to spend three to five minutes per page.  times 32 and half a dozen small pictures besides.  this time i used very little water in the bottom of a plastic tray, and didn’t bother emptying the water out after every page, but let it gray up and cloud with all the paper particles.

turns out i left one or two pages stuck to the fridge overnight, and they glued themselves right onto the surface of the fridge.  the acrylic page came up finally, but not without stretching and tearing, and i had to peel the torn part up with a fingernail and glue it into place later.  there’s a reason why you put them acrylic side down to let the ex-paper side dry and then pull them off and turn them over onto a nonstick surface to let the acrylic dry.

or that was the theory.  i found that it didn’t matter what side i stuck to the mirror after washing the paper off.  as long as i peeled them off the mirror before they dried, it didn’t matter a bit.

when they’d dried on one side, stuck to the mirror, i transferred the pages to the futon couch and laid them down acrylic side up to dry.  you can see white areas in some of the pages.  that’s acrylic that’s still wet.  wet because it’s been in the water.  it’s dried acrylic, meaning it’s not going to change shape or anything, but it’s like de-cured when it’s in this state.  it puffs up and blisters, it’s opaque, it looks creepy.

but all you have to do is let it dry, and it’ll turn into the clear stable plastic we know and love (except for the ammonia smell).

here’s a closeup view of the scene above.  you can see the splotch of white on the lower left.  when they finish drying they’ll be slightly more translucent.  like old-timey fake parchment.

hours later, when everything was dry, i took the pages up and sorted them out.  i had a few pages from several different sources – history of atlanta, history of the library, an article from the library’s website formatted into columns, and a bunch of photos.  i had printed everything out at a certain dpi without thinking about it.  as they came out of the printer i thought how gumby everything looked, and considered reprinting everything slightly smaller.  old books were often 5×7 or smaller, and the pages were tiny in some of them.  surely smaller would be better.

but when it came time to place everything with blue tape, it seemed as if i might have instinctively made them the right size.  cool.

at that point i took a break, had dinner and a dog walk, and got a couple of hours of sleep.  then, when the dog woke me up scratching, i came back to the studio, grabbed my gallon tub of acrylic gel medium, and sat on the floor in front of the base.

i started with the formatted history of the library that i found on the library’s own website.  i’d stuck it into columns in my word processor, put it into an old font (garamond), and then cut the columns up after it was all coated out.  once i made double sure that the columns were in the right order, i started in the upper left of the curl of waves that cascades down the very back of the dolphin’s base.

this is a particularly handsome fall of waves, and it’s too bad it’s in the back because nobody ever sees it.  but it’s where i put a fall of washers when i did the dolphin for home depot.

so i took a length of column and slapped two fingers of gel medium onto the back, smoothed it over the surface, and laid it down starting at the top of the waves.

when the printouts still had paper on them and i fitted them to the waves, they crumpled right up and were ugly and bulky and you couldn’t read them.  but once i had replaced the paper with plastic, the pages became much more flexible.

anchoring the strip at the top, i smoothed and pulled and bunched the strip around the cascading wave, smoothing it up along the rises and crumpling it over the falls.  this takes plenty of gel medium on the fingers, to avoid sticking and pulling.  if you keep it wet, then you can continue to mess with it until you have it exactly the way you want it.  then, when it gets tacky, you stop and  grab another one.

i made sure the text flowed from one column to another, butting the strips together and holding the top down while placing the rest of the strip.  it got a little awkward on the lower right, but the text follows, so it can be read.  there’s only a few places where i had to fold one line over another, and since it’s translucent, it looks a little dark, kind of bluish where there are a couple of lines over each other.  but basically it looks kind of cool.

it took all night.  i started about 11:30, and then it was 5 in the morning.  i glued the last photo on as the birds were starting to make noise.

i was amazed at the stretchiness of the acrylic.  it’s as if it was vacuum packed onto the waves.  i even was able to put the map on without any folding over or wrinkling at all.

later, as things  began to dry, i started seeing bubbles and blisters in the pages.  i suspected it would go down as the acrylic dried, and tried to leave it alone.

i sat around for half an hour this morning, when i was all done, leaning against the edge of the futon couch and turning the dolly this way and that with my foot, regarding the base.  it looked so much different than i had imagined.  it fit the curves of the waves so much tighter than i’d imagined.  it’s such a much cooler effect than i’d expected, and i’m going to be interested to find ways to use it in other aspects of making art.

then to bed, and now, to painting.


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