I’ve always thought that there aren’t enough exhibitions for street artists, so when dot-art sent out an opportunity to curate a group show, I decided to do something about it. There are 2 other ‘similar’ artists on their books in that they work with spraypaint, and after a few emails back and forth, I put a proposal in to the agency for consideration. We were selected to run our own exhibition for 6 weeks as part of the Biennial Fringe, and we settled on calling it AEROSOL.
Now that the easy part was out of the way, it was time to come up with some work. I had initially thought of doing some more abstract street art for it, but I had recently started getting really inspired by street artists who do screenprints of their work. Knowing I could do anything I wanted meant I panicked a little bit! But I set about making a list which included: Screenprinted, Pop Art, Include Spraypaint and CMYK Colour Scheme.
A conversation with Robin Ross reminded a conversation I had with one of my friends about wanting to hand draw screenprinting positives, and he gave me loads of tips about creating them using tracing paper. Maybe I could spraypaint them? As the deadline drew closer, I was complaining to someone that I hadn’t got much (any) work done and she suggested doing an Amy Winehouse print. Nice idea! Where would it fit in? I didn’t know, but I got into the studio and started working.
First step was finding a portrait of Amy which would work as a screenprint and give me some room to play around with it. I converted the greyscale image to a halftone pattern and printed it off in A2 (or 4x A4’s…) Then I got some tracing paper and painted some positives with Posca pens and spraypaint. When exposing the screens at The Bluecoat, the emulsion was very thick and still quite wet on the screen, which meant that some of the halftone detailing on her jacket in the bottom left corner was lost. Being street art, and a bit ‘down and dirty’ I figured it would add to the effect I was going for in the first place! As the layers started building up, I felt more comfortable that I was onto a winning idea, and after hand finishing the prints with some glitter detailing it got an amazing response on social media.
Amy Winehouse is part of the 27 Club, maybe I could do portraits other great musicians who unfortunately also died at that age. After doing a bit of research, I settled on Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. I followed exactly the same process of printing the A2 images, hand painting the positives and screenprinting the images in a CMYK colour scheme. I love these colours, as not only do they nod towards my background of print design, but they create perfect reds, blues and greens (which I was always told was impossible as red and blue are primary colours) I don’t remember much about that day in the studio, except the fact I was fired up to print 4 images with 4 layers each, meaning I’d have to expose and strip my A1 screen 8 times. It was a LONG day, but I’m happy with the results.
I didn’t want to be seen as ‘cashing in’ on these musician’s deaths, and a few months previous I saw a stand at Liverpool Sound City run by Help Musicians UK which really stuck with me, so I specified that 10% of my takings from the exhibition would be donated to them. After mounting and framing the images, the exhibition launch went well and it was great to see such a pop of colour in the gallery for 6 weeks.
Thanks again to Lucy and Jess from dot-art for doing such an amazing job of hosting and promoting the exhibition, and to Adam from Cass Art Liverpool for donating some acrylic and spraypaint! Pictures from the launch courtesy of Sam Phillips.