I have always admired work that has a coat of epoxy resin on it. Something about the gloss has always made me want to try it. I have also always been quite fearful of trying epoxy resin, thinking that it was extremely toxic (and many types are) and hard to work with.
However, last year I came across Art Resin at my local art supply store, saw that it was non-toxic, and thought I'd give it a whirl. I must admit, my first few projects were less than breathtaking, but after a few tries I began to have a lot of success with it. I thought I'd share some "tips and tricks" that I've learned along the way!
Prep: First, I prep wooden cradled board by painting the edges and about 1/4 of an inch of the front with black acrylic paint. While this is drying I trim down my photos, as I've found that cradled wooden board is never truly the size it say it is! Once the board is dry I "mount" the photo to the board using PVA glue. I initially tried this step using a spray adhesive, but discovered that it was much more prone to air bubbles between the board and the photograph with spray adhesive. I typically let the mounted photograph sit overnight before I resin it.
Mixing the Resin: Before I do anything, including picking up a bottle of resin, I put a pair of nitrile gloves on- this stuff is seriously sticky! I pour out equal amounts of resin and hardener and give it a good four minute stir. Note: I know the directions say three, but I always like to give it an extra minute! About a year ago, I didn't mix the combination well enough and had "soft spots" over part of the piece. If this happens to you, don't panic- you can fix it! But the "fix" is a real pain compared to an extra minute of stir time!
After four minutes has passed, you are ready to go!
My set up: I work in a community workspace, which means that shortly after I do a resin pour, somebody might come and use a band saw right next to my piece, creating tons of dust, which would be a disaster for the resin! Here's my solution. I have a short box that sits on the table, and sit an old cigar box inside of it. The cradled board then rests on top of the cigar box. The short box catches all the epoxy that drips off the piece. Once I'm done with the resin work I set a larger, tall box on top of the table. This prevents dust from landing in my fresh epoxy, and also serves as a reminder to my fellow artists that they should not move the box!
Pouring the resin: I start in the center, and push the resin out to the sides. Once the top is completely covered, I'll push a small amount of resin onto the side of the board, then use my finger to push it along the sides, until I have a somewhat even coat. Don't worry, I'll come back and touch this up later.
At this point, it looks quite terrible because the entire thing is covered with air bubbles. Now it's time for the blow torch! The blow torch is key to art resin, and there is no reason to be afraid of it. In fact, the only time I've ever injured myself while using Art Resin, it was with a heat gun. They don't get all the air bubbles, they blow dust around, and the metal on the rim becomes really hot and can burn yourself quite badly.
Just sweep the blow torch back and forth across your piece, working in an organized fashion. I do this once across the entire piece, then work on the edges a bit more, then come back and take a second "sweep" with the blow torch.
Edges: I've probably done over 50 art resin pieces, and I still find the sides to be the trickiest part. You remember that I've already spread resin onto the sides, so now I just need to come back and touch it up. Traditionally I have just run my finger around the edges, which works ok, but I recently purchased a silicone spatula (although it looks more like a knife to me), that i run around the edges. This seems to work a bit better than my not so flat finger....
Finishing up: I'll take one more turn with the blowtorch, then call it quits. I cover the work with a tall box that I mentioned earlier, and let it rest for 24 hours. At this point you can throw it on the wall to finish curing, but the cure is not "complete" for 72 hours.
What I love about Art Resin: I was first drawn to art resin because I loved that high gloss, but since I've been working with it I've come to love so much more. I really enjoy the process of "finishing" art with resin. I HATE framing, and have always felt like it really "dated" my art. Rather than drop $50 on mat board and a cheap frame, then spend the afternoon measuring and cutting, I get to spend less money and play with a blowtorch. What's not to love about that?
One of the things I really love about Art Resin, is that no matter how badly you might mess up the first time, there is almost always a solution. Just a few weeks ago I left a piece in my hot car with a cellophane wrapper on top of it. The cellophane melted right onto my brand new, finished artwork! I was able to pick out most of the cellophane, then sand the surface and pour another coat of epoxy on it. You never would know that it was once a total disaster!
Like everything, working with resin takes practice and patience, but I totally recommend buying a starter pack and experimenting with the possibilities!