Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Poker Faces' zine Part 1: Preparation and Painting

Recently I’ve been working on two small zines, both of them made especially for BAZE, the Christmas exhibition at Hand Held Gallery.

The first of these is called Poker Faces. It is illustrated with five small paintings on the backs of old playing cards, sourced earlier this year from a charity shop in Ballarat.

For many years I’ve been drawn to miniature portraits, especially those from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Painstakingly painted on vellum, they were then glued onto playing card supports. I was aware of this connection when I made the paintings, although of course, aside from a slight increase in scale, the main distinction is that my ‘portraits’ are painted directly onto the cards.

Playing cards have a plastic coating from which directly applied paint would chip off very easily, so I began with a thin layer of clear acrylic sealer. Once the cards had been suitably prepared, the surfaces were not only more stable, but also extremely receptive to the paint and a pleasure to work on. The figures’ basic shapes were initially blocked in with gesso. Once this had dried (it didn’t take long during the recent heat wave) I lightly penciled in a few key outlines. The paintings’ surfaces were gradually built up with thin layers of acrylic paint combined with a satin medium. The medium, which is also a varnish, doubled as a protective coating over the finished works. 

Above left: the finished painting  

Pictured below: the work in various stages of progress