How to make Xerox transfer art – with Marlene Weisman | IN THE STUDIO


Welcome to a special episode of IN THE STUDIO. My name is Marlene Weisman, we’re here
in my Brooklyn studio. This is a special takeover edition of IN THE STUDIO in conjunction with Club 57. Club 57 was a club that was located on Saint
Mark’s Place, downtown in New York City. It was more than just a downtown club that
showcased bands, it was really a hotbed of creativity and art. In that era, I was a graphic designer for
a lot of the downtown clubs. I did a lot of work for the Peppermint Lounge,
Danceteria, Tramps, and The Bottom Line. I’d do the newspaper ads, and street posters
and fliers. Doing graphics then was a very tactile and
physical thing. We would have to make an actual, physical,
mechanical, and we use Xeroxes all through doing graphics. I have a little notebook here. This is what I looked like going to the clubs. But talking back about the black and white
Xerox aesthetic, I have some samples of band fliers because I kept a few of these, too. And bands really wanted to have that Xerox-y
anti-art quality to them. It was a mixture of things. It was a DIY, do-it-yourself aesthetic. People didn’t want to be perceived as sell-outs
or too fancy. They just wanted really barebones fliers,
and as you can see in this flier, there are a lot of little elements that were pasted
in and a lot of hand lettering. So while I was doing that kind of graphic
design I got the idea that maybe the Xerox machine
would be a great source of doing art. I happened to see a flier for a show at Club 57 that Keith Haring put together. And I saw this and got really excited because
that’s exactly what I was doing. I brought three pieces down and he looked
at them, and he said, “These are great. Put them up.” And thus began my association with Club 57. A lot of memories from that time, a lot of
not memories, but it was great to be part of New York City in that era. So what is Xerox art? Well, you can simply Xerox something, cut
it up, paste it into a collage, and then say you’re finished, but what I’m going to do
is take it a step further and show the technique of taking a reproduced piece out of a Xerox
machine, placing it on a piece of paper, and transferring the ink off to make a whole new
piece of art on a different piece of paper. And the possibilities are endless. I have a narrative piece that’s I call a memoir
type piece. I have a collage piece that I’ve coupled the
Xerox transfers with pieces of painting that I’ve done. I also did a Warhol-ian piece, so a piece
in the style of what Andy would have done with repeated images. So with this technique, you can choose cold-pressed
and hot-pressed paper. There are benefits to each one when doing
Xerox transfers. Hot-pressed sometimes will work over better
with the transfer because there’s less tooth to it. It’s so smooth, the surface, to receive the
toner. So let’s talk about the solvent part of a
Xerox transfer. In the ’80s, I used acetone which is not
the safest chemical to use. You have to be a little careful. There are now things that you can use as well,
a golden gel or matte mediums work, gesso works. You can even use packing tape that are a lot
less toxic. You can always get a more familiar product
which is nail polish remover. This will work as well. Again, safe handling is really important. I would only use a little bit at a time, pouring
it into a metal cup or a glass cup. So another element of Xerox transfer art,
of course, is the Xeroxes themselves. I have a big folder of images that I organized. When I make the images, I do them in a few
different sizes because there’s nothing worse than getting back to your studio and saying,
“Oh, I wish I had that 50% smaller!” You have to, of course, make sure that you’re
using a Xerox machine that is toner-based, not laser, toner-based because that’s the
chemical that will…I think it’s a powder that will come off and onto your substrate,
onto your paper. So final supplies that are good to have on
hand for doing Xerox transfer art is tape, a good artist tape, so gentle on the paper. You’ll need a burnisher. I have the burnisher I actually used back
in the Club 57 days. Maybe it’s my lucky burnisher, but readily
available. But more readily available is something called
a bone folder and this can be bought at any art supply store. You’ll need a kitchen sponge, a plain kitchen
sponge which I’ll show in a demonstration. We’re going to cut into strips. So having some scissors handy is really good. And the other thing I would recommend are
to have pencils and other media to draw and paint into the compositions when you’re done
with them. So, enough talking here, let’s make an art
piece. Here we go. I’m going to take a piece of Xerox here. I think I will cut out the piece I’m going
to transfer. I’m doing that because I think it will avoid
getting unwanted Xerox transfer onto there because I don’t want this piece, but I want
this piece, and I’m leaving a lot of white space around what I’m cutting because we need
some room to tape around the sides. So here’s one element. I think I’m going to place that down for now. Okay, so, I think I have a nice amount of
images. Now we have our elements and I’m going
to move them around a little bit. And again, remember, when you’re transferring,
everything is the opposite direction. So what I’m doing is now looking through the
back of the paper, and now I have a little bit of an idea of what I want to do. I think I’m going to start with the bottom
image. So I’m going to put these aside. And I’m going to make a little flap with the
tape and securely tape it down. This way, if I want to go over an area of
the transfer, I can do that. The next thing you’re going to do is take
your acetone. I’ll use the polish remover in this case. You don’t need that much, just a little bit. And I’m also going to cut a piece of sponge. Dab a little bit on the sponge, get it wet
a little bit and then go over your area. And you can see the image through the back And then really quickly, really quickly start burnishing. I don’t know if this is working, but we’ll
find out. I have a good feeling that it is transferring. So I’ll do a little…another section at a
time, and I will…I’m holding down the paper really tightly. So there’s very little gapping between the
Xerox and the paper. Now, this may be a little too much, we’ll
see, acetone, because the sponge kind of fell in there which you should leave it out of
the little cup. But a good sign is when you start seeing the
transfer getting light on the back, you know, that maybe something is going on that you
are getting the effect you want. So I’m going to take a little peek. It looks good, okay, but I’m not going to
lift it up yet, so I’m going to keep going courageously. Very quickly because I don’t want the acetone
to just spread and blur the image. All right, so let’s see what we get, the big
reveal, in a minute. So now I see a little part I missed. So I didn’t lift it up fully yet. So I’m going to do that again. Sometimes missing part of an image makes it
more interesting. So again, in all great art, accidents are
a really fun part. So let’s see. Well, pretty good. So that is how you do a transfer. And again, it really transformed the image
which was a Xerox of a Dover book of an old engraving, but it really put a lot
of depth into the image. I want to fill out this other area with this
other mysterious piece of machinery. I think this is a printing press. I’m not really sure what this is. It’s some kind of piston engine. I’m going to fill in the space here and in
this case I’m off the edge, so that’s okay. You should have proper ventilation. I have a fan going usually because
these fumes get a little overwhelming after a while, but it’s no worse than taking off
your nail polish. And as you can see, the back emerging, it
really gives you a good guide. It doesn’t matter what direction you’re burnishing. It could be any direction, really. Okay, let’s see if I…oh, there, so there
we go. Now I have my unusual machine which I can
draw and paint into. I can choose to connect these. Let’s see what happens. Okay, did we get a transfer? Carefully take off the tape because you don’t
want to rip the paper. And not bad. We lost a little over here, but that’s an
easy draw into. And we have a scissor-wielding angel for everyone
to enjoy. Okay. Well, let’s see. And we got a nice transfer. And because I cut that away, it kind of, you
know, works with the composition. I like to have the images be different sizes
because then you get a kind of a feeling of a flow, which is fun. So I generally know where I’m going to put
these and it also brings your eye down into the machine. You know, I think maybe it will be interesting
to make one of these clocks kind of coming off from the edge of the page. Wow, okay, looking good. I’m just going to tape this little guy down
here. And there we go. Okay, I think that what I’d like to do is
see if I could connect these two elements to make them a full whimsical, mysterious
machine. How I like to do that is to use Prismacolor
pencils and also waterproof felt tip pens that the cartoonists use or illustrators use. So pretty much I’m just extending the lines
to kind of connect these two. Maybe I’ll go back in with this pencil now
and again, another thing you can work on for hours and you could just keep going. So I think I finished playing with this a
little bit. I can go in more, but for demonstration’s
sakes, maybe we’ll go on to some color. I have my Dr. Martin’s inks. I haven’t used these in a long time. And you’ll see how dense these are. You could just take a teeny and that’s already
so dense. That was just a teeny, little dab but I’ll
lighten it. Sometimes I even use a little piece of board
to mix my color. A little yellow, let’s see what we get. But as you can see I’m using very small quantities
of these. They go a long way. So I added a nice little gradient effect. It gives a little interest. The beauty of using these watercolors is that
the tones show through. And you can keep building. If you thought you went too light and you
wanted more color, you can just go over it. And it’s just great how the transfers hold
up to water media. And this hot-pressed mixed media
paper is holding up pretty well too. It’s not buckling at all. So the machine is looking good. I like the color in there and I think that
to complete the piece, I think it would make sense to bring some color up so the obvious
place is to add some color to the clocks, to the stopwatches. If you want to tone down a color, I’ve done
this in many of my pieces. I can just go over it again with a Prismacolor
pencil. Just checking if it’s dry. Okay so we finished the gears and we finished
the watches and added our color. And I think there’s one more spot that color
could be put in to complete the piece. Okay so I think this is an interesting place
to stop. I think if I kept going, I would maybe define
the wing a little more, work with my pencils again like I had shown on connecting the machine. I think that maybe I regret the color. I think maybe this worked—had more punch
as a black and white piece. But I think that it was good for demonstration
purposes to show how you can add color and how the translucent vibrancy of the color
kind of plays with the toner. You can take this in any direction. There are a lot of things you can do. What I like to do is be a little less illustrative
and maybe go a little more painterly. I have an example up there of something I’ve
worked on that I was inspired by Corey’s video on the de Kooning paintings and I started
playing with firm brush strokes. And maybe if I worked on this a little more,
I would start putting elements like that and take this to a whole different area a little
more edgy which I would like to do. But for our purposes, I think we did well. I hope you enjoyed learning about Xerox transfer
techniques and a little bit about Club 57 and what it was like downtown in New York
City in the 1970s and 1980s. I hope you get a chance to come to see the
Club 57 exhibition. If you have any questions about what you’ve
seen, leave them in the comments section. I had a blast guest hosting. Be sure to hit the subscribe button to see
more videos from the Museum of Modern Art and thanks for watching.

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