You may know that Mars is known as the red planet, but did you know that Mars is red because it’s covered in rust? Part-time screen printer Barry Abrams decided to take this fact and run with it. He created a print of Mars that is made out of selectively rusted sheet metal and black ink (to show the parts that appear dark).
Abrams’ started his build by cutting a sheet of cold rolled steel into shape, and then cleaning it with muriatic acid. From there, he applied an adhesive vinyl mask in a circular shape, and sprayed hydrogen peroxide on the uncovered surface to make it rapidly rust.
From there, it was a matter of normal screen printing techniques—of which he gives an overview in this separate printing project—and using a picture of Mars to transfer the needed image to a screen for printing. The screen was then lined up with the rusted metal, and the appropriate black ink was applied. This newly-printed image then cured with the help of a heat gun, and, after applying a simple wooden frame to hide the edges, he had a beautiful representation of our planetary neighbor!
If you’re wondering where Abrams learned these techniques, his training is based off of watching YouTube videos, and attending a workshop at a local screen printer. He started printing posters in the summer of 2016, and, after doing that for about a year, now has a nicely set up basement shop that includes tools that he mostly built himself! These include a vacuum table top, exposure unit, and drying rack. Because he built them himself, when something stops working, he knows exactly how to fix it!
As for the actual sheet metal rusting process, Abrams says that:
I googled it. A few years ago, I participated in a local art show featuring typographic pieces. I had been doing something similar with wood and wood stain, but thought it would be interesting to see if I could do something similar with steel and rust. I figured out the rusting process while a designer friend with excellent typography skills designed the artwork. I found a tutorial on how to purposefully rust steel, and it seemed pretty straightforward, but they were just trying to rust the whole piece. I didn’t know if I could do a mask to selectively rust a part of it, but I gave it a shot, and it worked!
If you think the results look spectacular, you’re not the only one. After receiving an overwhelming response to his initial Reddit post, Abrams did a run of 20 pre-orders for the print. They sold out in just 10 minutes! Once he’s able to wrap this up, he plans on doing a second run. However, he doesn’t want to take on more than he can handle.
For more of Abrams’ printing work, you can see an art gallery show of his prints here, or buy them from his Ply Prints and Plywood storefront. If you’ll be in the Chicago area in September, he’ll be showing off his art—along with his wife Katie, who’s work can be seen here—at the Renegade Craft Fair on September 9th and 10th, and at Madefest on September 22nd and 23rd in nearby Champaign.