RE-create’s studio times are always full of creativity and innovation, with youth trying new art materials and experimenting with new ideas. The staff at RE-create try to come up with new projects for the whole studio to try that include interesting materials and the chance to do some self-reflection.
One of our favorite alternative mediums is that of photo transfer, where an image is transferred onto wood or canvas using acrylic gel medium, a kind of clear gel that hardens to a plastic finish. When an image is transferred onto wood, the gel medium captures the ink from the photo in the gel, which hardens. Once it is dry, we completely rub away the paper that the image was printed on, leaving just the ink and image on the wood.
We recently combined this medium with the theme of self-portraiture, and are aiming to tell the world who we are through the arts for our self-portrait project.
A lovely part of having a strong team of volunteers who are also artists is that they often inspire the youth who attend studio times with what they are personally making. Volunteers are encouraged to bring the artwork that they are working on to studio time, and in doing so, youth often come up with new ideas, or try to imitate our volunteers, learning in the process.
In the past we have built on this dynamic by putting on exhibitions like the “Inspired by our Volunteers” show, where youth made art inspired by the artwork of our volunteers, which was hung in the studio for a few months beforehand. This self-portrait project has been no exception to the trend of volunteers influencing youth.
As we got started on the self-portrait show, Randy, our Youth Outreach Worker, made a dynamic, colour-filled piece, with his self-portrait in the middle. Over the coming weeks, this piece was displayed on our project idea table, and many youth saw it and tried photo transfer as a result.
Photo transfer is a medium that takes a large amount of patience, as pieces need to dry for 24 hours as part of the first step, and then the paper needs to be softened and rubbed off. As new youth have engaged in this process, more experienced youth have come alongside them, full of encouragement and empathy, as they know first-hand how tough and discouraging the process can be.
Photo transfer also contains the tricky element of surprise; not every piece works out and sometimes the ink rubs off too soon, ruining the image. Engaging in photo transfer has taught our youth a lot about letting go, embracing their artistic mistakes, and creating anew when something doesn’t work out.
The final pieces, some of which you can see here, are bright, full of colour, and contain symbolism and mixed media that the youth feel reflect their identity and personality. Our dream is to have enough youth complete this project to fill a wall with these self-portraits. These pieces reflect our community, but also perseverance and commitment to a sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding medium.
Keep your eyes peeled for a show of self-portraits at an Art Crawl at some point in the future!
Meghan Schuurman is the Studio Coordinator for REcreate Outreach Art Studio.