Of course this is all Jason Kronenwald’s fault, an artist who uses gum as his medium of choice. He had a show in Toronto a few years ago, exhibiting his series of Gum Blonde portraits of famous blonde starlets. The idea seemed unique and impressive at the time. So much so that I gathered my kids, drove to the nearest Walmart, and bought a crap load of gum for all of us. For a brief moment, I was the coolest mother on the planet. For the sake of art, I was asking my children to chew gum, as much as they wanted, with or without sugar, as long as we had a decent palette to work with. Then the ick factor set in. It’s one thing to chew the stuff, it’s quite another to store saliva laden globs of gum for weeks on end. We became so grossed out by the process, we gave up and joyfully tossed our chewed bits away. Upon reflection and sad to have been defeated by a bit of saliva, I realized scale was the problem. This guy’s work is done on huge pieces of plywood which inspired us to aim big as well, instead of doing the opposite. So this project aims small. Miniature canvasses are used, which means commitment to chewing and storing is shorter, and the ickiness becomes acceptable. Plus it was fun.
- canvas board or stretched canvas (think small)
- gum in a variety of colours
- plastic container for storage
1. Select the size of canvas you want to work with. We used 3″ x 3″ canvasses which came with cute little easels. The amount of gum required will be based on your canvas size and the colours you want. Now it’s true that this type of work can be icky, but it’s not like you’ll be using gum supplied to you by a team of chewers like Jason does. It will be your own. Your assignment is now to chew the gum and store until needed. Normally, you tend to chew gum until the flavour is gone, and that’s what you should aim for so that’s it’s easier to work with. Also, you can combine colours when chewing, to provide more colour options. The gum can be stored in a plastic container, but make sure the different colours don’t touch each other. An ice cube tray or plastic egg carton works well for this.
2. Once you’re ready to work with the gum, you’ll need to soften it. Place it in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Now it’s just a matter of spreading it onto the canvas board to create your design. Make sure to keep that bowl with warm water handy so you can dip your fingers in when necessary, to remove some of the stickiness. You can achieve interesting effects like marbling, by twisting long pieces of gum together. And if you find the gum isn’t staying put, try working with smaller pieces.
Fun book for children: Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist by Ruth Shapiro
Artists working with gum:
Ben Wilson: BBC Video and Telegraph article
Maurizio Savini: http://bibi.org/2008/01/maurizio_savini/
Jason Kronenwald: http://www.gumblondes.com/