Process: phototransfers

My birch tree paintings are mixed media, they feature images of tree trunks. I’m often asked about why I use transfers and not just paint the birches. It would certainly be easier to just paint them. If you’ve ever tried using photo transfers you’ll know how messy and difficult they are and just how much work.

How? Firstly there is the photography, I have to hunt down interesting bark, scouting out locations. I treat them as portraits, there are multiple sittings, I want to get them from their best angle in their best light. Then there is the processing of the photo to make sure that the markings will stand out in the phototransfer as well as they do in nature. And then there is the actual process which involves sticking down the image on the canvas, leaving it to dry and then laboriously scraping off the paper backing: very difficult in the larger pieces.

Why? There is an element of the contrast between the solid never changing trunk which I use over and over again in different paintings; and the fleeting foliage that is never the same twice, changing with the seasons and the time of day.

After printing out the photos I stick them to the canvas using acrylic medium. Then I leave them to dry:

After the photo has been left to dry I wet the phototransfer and peel off the top layer of paper. It’s really satisfying when it comes off in one strip.

After taking off the top layer I soak them again and scrub off the paper. Once they’ve dried I add a protective coat of medium or varnish.