The Anatomy of a Background

I love when other artist wander up to my work and become mesmerized with the background.  For me, the background is actually more important than the main image because this is where I hide the meaning. However, as an artist in Central Wisconsin, there is a flipside to this.  People in my neck of the woods don’t understand the steep price tag I place on pieces.  Well, for those interested in the process, and to better understand the cost placed on fine art, here is how I create an image.  Prepare yourself….it’s quite the process.

Step 1: The Framing

I start by making a frame and nailing down a piece of plywood, hardboard, or masonite. Once this is accomplished, I coat the top with Bondo and sand down with a 60 grit.

Step 2: The Background Image

Next I create a stencil for the background.  On occasion, I’ll reuse stencils if they fit the narrative, but this piece is getting its own one-time-use stencil. I use an overhead projector and a inkjet transparency for the words…because I have horrid handwriting. After this I use an X-Acto to remove the lettering.

Step 3: Spray the Stencil

Now I spray paint the background image with Rustoleum 2X.  Ive included the main image in here to make it easier to remove.

Step 4: Stain the Bondo

I discovered this when I would use the beginning process to create relief plates.  I really liked how the plate would look after the first run. I later figured out that Bondo is highly absorbent of both water and oil based paints.

Step 5: Make a Mess

I use a natural paint thinner in a spray bottle to loosen up the oil-based relief ink and make it easier to spread.  I recommend using gloves and an old rag. You’ll see why coming up.

Step 6: Start Cleaning

After my mess I continue to use the thinner to remove the ink.  This process will take about three passes to remove the desired amount of ink.

Step 7: Let the Image Dry

Next comes the hard part so take some time and prepare yourself for some work.

Step 8: Sand the Image

Next I use a 100 grit to take away some of the black and let the texture of the 60 grit show.  I do this by hand because the sander removes too much of the ink.

After that I remove all the paint and stain in the main image so the image will be easier to draw and paint later. I use a palm sander for the large area and then a sanding block for the edges.  I use a 150 grit for this step.

*Special Note:  Use safety gear for all sanding.  I suffered way to many eye and lung infections while inventing this process.  For a while, I wanted to keep this to myself…well because I invented it, but if you’re passionate enough to give it a go…by all means.

Step 9: Apply Secondary Background Images

Next I use a water-based ink to apply my trademark images and signature.

I use ink in spray bottles to do the stencils and then I use water to make the stencil more transparent.

Step 10: Create a Rough Sketch of the Front Image

Now that the background is done I can finally get ready to start painting.  I use a 2-6B to draw this out.

Step 11: The Painting….To be continued.




As a father of a teenage daughter, I often think about women’s rights and the many cultural influences she faces today.  This piece is about the absurd amount of pressure young women face when trying to conform to the media depiction of beauty.  It’s about the moving in the wrong direction as a country and the depression caused by feeling inferior. Simon says: “See Jane run.  Jane is pretty.”

Trust Simon


“Did you serve?”  This question forced an inward examination.  What did I serve? In what context do I receive this question? I enlisted in the military if that’s what you’re referring to.  I was young, dumb and signed the line.  Then, after I “served” my designated time, they decided I was too valuable to let go, so I “served” another year.  Then someone asked me to talk about it.  “They told me what to do, and I did it.  I didn’t ask questions.”  My response made me question the role of authority not only in the military industrial complex but also in the societal influence of the United States.  Simon represents those that attempt to control or influence our actions.  They are the man behind the curtain.  They are the famed instructor of the children’s game. Remember, trust Simon….he only has your best interests in mind.