Free-Range Reader recommends opening that Pandora’s Box of photos and using them

Posted in Blogs, Visual Art

ZIA GIPSON, Jan. 25, 2013

“Using Your Photos Creatively”

In this day of Iphoneology and Instagram many of us end up with thousands of images. Instead of relegating them to permanent storage, books on image and photo transfer give us ways to use images for personal expression or in making one-of-a-kind gifts. Today’s Free-Range Reader looks at library resources that help the image-overloaded move images from one surface (usually paper or a transparency) to another. If you can’t get that piece of cloth, thick paper, or piece of wood into your printer, photo transfers might be just the thing.


Start with some exotic paper and add one or more layers of photographic imagery. Start with a piece of wood you’ve sanded smooth and add photos of trees. Start with a beautiful handmade book and transfer photos of your kids, or use an image from the Internet’s Wikimedia Commons, with it’s a database of 15,266, 845 freely usable media files. (Be sure to read the rules for using these mostly free pictures.) Image transfer makes for a fun art-as-science-with-technology process to pass a rainy day.

Sno-Isle Libraries has a number of good references (search “photo transfer” or “image transfer”).  Two books I’ve used that are in the library system are “Image Transfer Workshop-Mixed Media Techniques for Successful Transfers” by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson 2009 and “Image Transfer-Creating Art with Your Photography” by Ellen Horovitz  2011.

Horovitz’ book has one significant advantage over the earlier volume: her informational grid, “Transfer Summary for Papers and Solvents,” which organizes the complex options for method name, paper type, printer type, and process into an easy-to-use chart that helps you compare your options and avoid flipping back and forth in the book.

I’ve had the most success getting recognizable deep black images by printing my pictures onto transparencies and transferring them to moistened paper using hand sanitizer. The active ingredient in the sanitizer is alcohol, and the alcohol gel releases a film coating from the plastic transfer sheet. Pressure with a burnishing tool moves the gooey film image to the receiving surface of the paper. (Of course, this method works only if you can get your printer to load and print a transparency. I suggest making an offering to Ganeesh the Hindu god, who removes impediments. Light some incense. Throw some salt over your left shoulder. Or throw the incense and torch the salt. Whatever works.) If all else fails, check the Internet for tips on how to print on transparencies without endangering your printer.

Horovitz is somewhat cavalier in her advice about using the concentrated house-cleaning product Citrasolv as a release agent when using transparencies. While she cautions the reader to use acetone in a well-ventilated area, her observation that super-concentrated CitraSolve has “a lovely orange scent” implies that it is exempt from safety precautions. Yikes! Just because it doesn’t smell bad doesn’t mean it should be inhaled. Be good to your body. Use good ventilation, a respirator, and eye protection, especially if you plan on spraying liquids.

Sno-Isle has several other photo and transfer books.  “Mixed Emulsions: Altered Art Techniques for Photographic Imagery” by actress Angela Cartwright (Brigitta in the film “The Sound of Music”) and Karen Michel’s “The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery: Mixed Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artists Journals, and More” are two more resources.

I urge you to choose a book and experiment until you end up with something you find interesting. Start small and don’t worry about what you’re going to do with the results.

Time’s a’wastin’!  Let’s get to the studio, basement, dining room table, or garage and get all those pictures out of the phone and into the light of day!

Catches of the Day at Sno-Isle Libraries: “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” by Maryanne Wolf; “Eyewitness Handbooks: Butterflies and Moths” by David Carter; and “Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art” by Karen Kramer Russell.

Next Up: A trip to Japan via furoshiki, the art of wrapping with fabric.

In the meantime, don’t forget to put libraries and librarians in your bedtime prayers. I love my library!

Coming up:

Freeland Library Book Sale: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2 at the library.
Clinton Library Book Sale: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, at Clinton Progressive Hall.

Zia Gipson is a mixed-media artist working on a series of 108 collages that incorporate printmaking, stamping, drawing, painting, and other forms of mark-making. She’s active in the artists’ groups Whidbey Island Surface Design and Northwest Designer Craftsmen.



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