Digital collage artist Sarah Bush uses the reflective surface of metal to create an effect of depth in her imagery. To see more of her work, please visit her website.
My digital collages on brushed metal have evolved over several years from small 5” x 7” works on glass into 30” x 40” pieces on brushed metal. In late 2008, I was experimenting with water slide decal transfers as I designed a line of craft projects for a retail entertainment startup. When I transferred vintage photos onto mirror to emulate the feeling of old silver prints, I really liked the weird depth created by the mirror reflecting through the images. I decided to try using transfers this way with my own artwork.
I slowly started to build a personal digital image library by scanning scores of my own physical drawings, collages, and photographs into Photoshop. As I began to combine these images, I realized that while I’ve always enjoyed designing on the computer, I’ve also always been conflicted about its inherent coldness as a medium. I decided to take advantage of what I like best about graphics technology but strive to somehow retain the warmth of traditional art-making.
In addition, I wanted to focus on using those Photoshop tools that create effects unavailable to me in any other medium, rather than using its ability to mimic traditional art tools that already exist in the physical world, like paint brushes or markers.
Working within these self-imposed parameters, I created a small body of work I liked and had a couple of shows; but I was itching to work bigger and the transfer paper had serious size limitations. The largest image I could make was 8” x 10.” I spent months researching alternatives and making samples, but nothing seemed right.
Eventually, I discovered metal prints. I liked that the dyes of the ink are actually infused into the metal rather than just sitting on the surface, but I generally didn’t like the available finishes; they either felt too glossy or too plastic-like to express the depth I wanted.
Finally, I found a company that offers metal prints with a sheer matte finish and I knew I’d found my solution. This finish allows the metal to really shine through the image to help create a glowing depth by reflecting the available light. For me, this glowing effect also references the backlit computer space where the image is created—a kind of “truth to materials” thing I really like.
I also find it interesting that the reflective glow created by the cool, hard nature of the metal also helps express the warmth so important to me; qualities I initially thought would come only from the imagery itself. I’m very pleased with this resolution between content and form.
Most of my current work is now either 24” x 32” or 30” x 40.” My biggest ongoing technical challenges are managing the enormous Photoshop files as I work and the fact that I have no bright white in the final piece. Whatever is white as I work on the computer becomes clear when the image is infused into the metal. Because of that, I usually have to order one or two small samples to resolve any color issues this creates. When I’m finally happy, I print the image full size.
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