My brother had his 50th birthday this year and I decided that I wanted to make him a Powertex Wall Art Tui. I have previously made a Powertex Wall Art picture of a wood pigeon for my outdoor space using the Powertex image transfer medium and was looking for a chance to do another one. My brother has paintings with circular centres of native birds and plants and I thought it would be great to make something for his new barbeque area that would tie in with these.
I found a wonderful photo of a tui that I thought would look amazing with flax flowers. For image transfer you need to remember that the image will be reversed and to plan your picture accordingly. Start with a laser printed image scaled to the appropriate size for your piece.
I had somewhat of a false start with this one: I had a large circular piece of polystyrene that I thought would be the perfect foundation for this project. I have used Powertex products previously on polystyrene so I assumed that the image transfer medium would work on it also – it didn’t! so I had to start all over again and find a different base. The image transfer process works best on a pale background. In hindsight I could have probably painted the polystyrene first with white Powertex medium but I wanted a dark green background so didn’t think of that at the time. It was extremely frustrating because it is quite a lengthy process to get to the point where I discovered that the image wasn’t sticking to the polystyrene.
Through this process and lots of ‘googling’ I discovered that you can in fact get large round canvases from specialist art supply stores such as Gordon Harris. It took me a while to find the right enlargement for my photo and to realize that you could get a mirror image printed.
Start by tearing around the laser printed image to give a more ‘organic’ look. I used the original photo to get the right positioning of my image on the canvas and then marked around the edge in pencil. Then thinly spread the Powertex image transfer medium over the image (face up) and the marked area of the canvas. I used a lot more medium than was required but after my first experience I was determined to get it to stick! Place the image face down over the marked area and then use a credit card or similar to gently remove any air bubbles – wiping away any excess medium.
The next step is to heat set the image for 10 minutes using a heat gun. You can set up a cardboard box with a heat gun poked through a hole in the top so that you don’t have to hold the heat gun for 10 minutes but as this was the second time I was going through this I really wanted to make sure nothing was going to go wrong so I did it by hand.
Once the image is heat set, you lightly wet the surface and start to rub off the paper using a gentle circular rubbing motion. I had a moment of panic when one patch started to come off the canvas! but I carefully worked around it and the rest was okay. Thankfully it avoided the main image and I was pretty sure I could rescue it by painting over it. Removal of the paper takes SO MUCH LONGER than you might expect. When you think you have it all removed, dry the surface with the heat gun and you can see the white haze of any paper still there. The final result still won’t look very clear and sharp but then comes the magic trick: applying a coat of varnish really brings out the clarity and sharpness of the photo.
I painted around the image using green Powertex medium and managed to disguise the missing bit. I also painted the whole of the canvas including the back and sides to make sure it was totally waterproofed.
Then I used brown Powertex medium and mixed it with Easy3Dflex powder (~ 1:1) to make a ‘clay’ which I sculpted into place to extend the branch the tui is sitting on. I marked into the clay so that it would look like textured bark – Easy3Dflex also cracks as it dries which creates extra texture.
Unfortunately I forgot to take photos as I was doing the last stages. I found a flax flower branch (without the flowers) that was the right size and curving the right way, and flattened it under a box for a week or so until it sat mostly flat. Then I used some of the left over brown clay and brown medium to attach the branch to the canvas. I then mixed up some more clay using red Powertex medium (and the rest of the leftover brown clay) and formed little sausages of clay that I moulded around the flower stalks, leaving the ends of the stalks free to look like the flower stamens.
When all the clay had dried, I used Powertex Colortrix powders mixed with varnish to accentuate the colours. I used terragreen and bronze powders for the branch; bronze on the flower branch; and red pearl and rich gold on the flowers.
My brother was very pleased with the picture – I haven’t yet seen where he has finally hung it.