With the Gallery 1988 Crazy4Cult 7 exhibition opening in NYC tonight, I thought I’d give you all a little gander at how a piece like Been Here Since Forever – one of two pieces I’ll have on show – makes its way out of my mind-brain and into the real world.
After sitting around for a week with a pencil up my nose, I decided to create a piece based on John Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi classic They Live.
I had a few different directions in mind but I went for the one I felt would be the most fun. The film itself is so 80’s, but there’s no clue as to how long the aliens have actually been here. I wanted to do something that differed from the hundreds of other They Live pieces out there: no sunglasses, no OBEY, just a simple daguerreotype portrait of one of the film’s antagonists. A simple idea, they’ve Been Here Since Forever.
Once the hard part is out of the way, it’s time to get my reference material together, pull the pencil out of my nose and get cracking.
I’ll do quite a few difference drawings, usually tracing over the previous versions on a lightbox and tweaking them until I’m happy enough.
I’ll then scan the final pencil work into the computer machine and trace everything in Adobe Illustrator. I’m not a big fan of the old ‘auto-trace’ function so everything is done manually using an old A5 sized Wacom Intuos 3. Don’t let a machine try and do what you can do better yourself.
Once the riveting digital line work is done, I give every piece a unique code number. This helps me know where everything goes once it’s all been cut. I’ll then explode the drawing and lay all the pieces out onto A4 sheets ready for printing.
Once all the outlines have been printed onto sheets of acid free paper (usually a type of Fabriano), I’ll cut everything out by hand using a Swann-Morton scalpel and a lot of 10A blades. I’ll then take everything to my gargantuan spray fume extractor and paint everything with spray paint, mainly MTN94.
Once I’m happy with the colours, I’ll bring all the millions of bits of paper back to my studio via a skittish scramble across a gusty courtyard. I’ll then sit down heavily in a chair covered in dog hair, exhale loudly like a man 20 years my senior, stick on a podcast and start assembling everything. Probably my favourite part of the whole process.
All the adhesives I use are acid-free and permanent. The key to adding the depth to the work is these small adhesive foam squares you can get in various depths. If I want a subtle effect, I’ll use a 1mm thick square that will add just a little shadow. If I want more I’ll use a 2mm, a 3mm or a combination. A vital tool at this point is my trusty tweezers. They’re lethally pointed and great for fiddling around with all the tiny bits.
When everything is assembled, I’ll paint a nice background onto another sheet of paper before sticking this down to a sheet of archival foam core. Plonk the main piece on top, making sure he’s as central as possible before sticking him down properly.
Get the old boy framed up then he’s ready for his long trip to NYC!
This piece will be on show alongside another one of my paper pieces, The Werewolf.
So to all you New Yorkers who like cult films, art, schmoozing and free alcohol, get yourself over to the Crazy4Cult show, opening tonight!