Saturday, May 3, 2008

Confessions of a spray-paint addict

I tried to stay away, but the urge was too powerful.

I began using spray paint in 1998, when I noticed that a studio neighbor was using it and I liked the soft edges it left in his (mostly oil) paintings. From the moment I shook my first can and hit that spray button, I was hooked! I developed all kinds of ways to make the paint dry in uneven pools, I layered it to “mix” new colors, combined it with collage and oil stick marks, sprayed through found-object and hand-cut stencils, and tried all kinds of experimental tricks. I loved it! It was like working with a giant crayon.

It also felt like a subversive way to work. I thought of gangs of kids bombing subway cars parked in silent night-time train yards. It felt like a very “non fine art” way to create.

But when I moved my studio to the basement of my home three years ago, I figured spray paint as a medium would be out. I didn’t want any chemical smells sneaking up through the floor, or lingering in my living room the way they did in my former warehouse studio. So I gave away my new or almost-new cans to a friend who’s a graffiti artist, and took the older or almost empty cans to my town’s hazardous waste disposal day. I thought my spray painting days were over.

But last week, when I accompanied my husband on a trip to the hardware store to buy some toilet repair supplies, I spied a row of sweet new Krylon colors as we passed the paint aisle. I told myself to forget it, that spray paint was out of my life forever.

But I couldn’t get that vision of the Krylon aisle out of my imagination! So this morning I found myself standing at the register of the hardware store with four cans: Periwinkle, Oxford Blue, Burgundy and Purple. My hands were trembling with excitement as I handed my money over to the cashier. I was about to re-enter the world of spray paint!

I experimented by spraying onto a small piece of cloth in my studio this afternoon – with the door opened to the back yard, two fans blasting, and wearing a respirator – and it didn’t seem bad at all down there. A few hours later, there is no lingering smell at all. So I’m going to try making one painting and see how it goes. (I’m spraying lines onto cloth and cutting it into collage pieces, rather than spraying multiple layers onto the surface of the entire canvas, so it should be less intense than some of the other spray-painted series I’ve made.)

So it seems that I’m a spray-paint artist once again!

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