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wheatpaste-paintbrush

Pasty Process

Learn how to wheatpaste.

May 5, 2011, 1:00 am
By Rani Molla

If you're wondering what those good-looking kids are doing plastered on the side of Warehouse 21, they're part of a wheatpaste art installation by Anne Staveley. If you're wondering how to do your own wheatpastes, check out our handy how-to guide below.

Staveley, a photographer who specializes in black-and-white images, spread the huge pictures of numerous local teens on the west wall of the teen center, using large printouts of her photos and a simple substance called wheatpaste.


Anne Staveley puts up wheatpastes at W21.
Credits: Lydia Gonzales
Wheatpaste  has been used for commercial postering purposes since the 1800s. It's been a popular public-art medium for decades, brought into the mainstream most notably by Shepard Fairey in his Obey campaign. Santa Fe has recently seen a resurgence of the technique for graffiti (and more orthodox art) purposes.

Wheatpaste's popularity is due in part to its existence in a graffiti grey area. The technique—in which images on paper are plastered like wallpaper on buildings—is simultaneously more welcome and harder to get rid of than graffiti. Additionally, wheatpaste itself is cheap and easy to make and, since the majority of the work (creating the images) can be done at home, putting up wheatpastes is quicker to do than graffiti, lessening the chances of artists getting caught. 

Here're instructions on how to make and apply wheatpastes, along with some special insider tips.  All you need are ideas for the images you want to create.

 Wheat Paste Recipe (adopted/adapted from ehow.com):
*This recipe is for a small batch, so multiply amounts according to size of project.

  • Begin by heating 1 cup of water on the stove top in a medium-sized saucepan pan. The pan needs to be large enough to allow you to stir the ingredients without splashing.

  • Measure 3 tbsp. of wheat or all-purpose white flour into the measuring cup. Add and just enough cold water to the flour to make a thin paste, whisking out all of the lumps.

  • Pour the cold flour mixture slowly into the pan of hot water, stirring constantly. Bring it to a boil, continuing to stir until it thickens. Once the mixture comes to a boil, it has reached its full thickness. Add 1 tbsp. of sugar to make a stronger paste. (Wheatpaste should be a glue-like consistency.)

  • Remove your wheat flour paste from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

  • Put your paste in a huge bucket or plastic soda bottle (depending on the size of the project).

Additional Recipe Tips:

  • Add a clear gloss medium to the paste (approx. 20 percent of the volume) to make your piece more permanent

  • In freezing conditions, add salt (approx 10 percent of the volume).

  • Add seaweed powder to the mix to increase the stickiness.
  • Store extra wheatpaste in the fridge, where it can last for months (until it gets moldy).
  • If you want to skip all this work, buy some wallpaper glue from a hardware store.

How to Wheatpaste:

  • Put on image on thin paper because it will stay up more easily.
  • Use a heavy-duty brush. Brushes work much better and are easier to work with than rollers.

  • As with any street art, location is key. Find a flat surface (usually a building) that will best accommodate your piece. Beware of silicone stucco; it can be slippery.
  • With the brush, spread an even coating of wheatpaste on the surface. If you have a larger piece, cut it into sections and do this process one piece at a time.
  • Press the paper against the wheatpaste, smoothing it out with your hands and then with the brush.
  • Add extra wheatpaste at the corners and intersections of the paper.
  • Go over the whole thing with a light glaze of wheatpaste.
  • Run.

Extra Tips:

  • If you can help it, put up your wheatpastes on windless days. Wind makes the process way more difficult.
  • Be creative in your designs. Sure you can simply use a computer printout, but watercolors, acrylics, spraypaint and even markers work great (and look even better).

  • The bigger the better. Wheatpastes lend themselves wonderfully to large works, and large works get a lot more notice.


Anne Staveley: Enormous Wheatpaste Photoshow

Through the summer

Warehouse 21
1614 Paseo de Peralta
989-4423

 

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