Trash Day: beer cans

I live in a neighborhood populated mainly by college students and other younglings who are new to the finer points of trash disposal (which is why I have such easy pickings). Among their favorite pastimes is celebrating their newly-minted adult identities by getting shitfaced drunk. So finding a use for the squashed beer cans that litter the neighborhood was inevitable.

As you can see, the kids have crap taste in beer, plus a fondness for alco-pop. :

A few things have intrigued me about these cans, and I’ve been pondering the creative possibilities for a while. First: shiny! Second: The various crumpled textures of aluminum pounded flat underfoot, and/or run over by cars. Third: The colors and graphics.

I got the idea to paint drunk portraits on them. No, not portraits painted while drunk, but rather of drunk individuals. Smashed people on smashed cans, you know? So I went online, looked at photos of drunk students (maybe I’m old, but I can’t believe the pics people post of themselves), and sketched a composite of a few good candidates (so no, this isn’t a specific individual). Then I got out the acrylics and went at it. Here’s an in-progress shot:

And here it is, finished:

The color looks terrible in this photo; it’s much more subtle in real life. But I’m pretty happy with it, and had a great time painting it.

Painting on smashed cans does pose some problems, however. While the texture is interesting, it helps if the can has been driven over a few times and thus pressed completely flat. I started another portrait on the Mike’s Hard Mango Punch can, but it’s still got a lot of high-relief creases that weren’t exactly a joy to work around.

Also, integrating the creases and tears in the can into the design–aligning painted elements to take advantage of them–makes for a much better result. That was one thing I failed to consider when I started painting on the Mike’s can, but managed to do fairly well on the finished Bud Light portrait (the lash line of the right eye is positioned over a tear in the can, and the flattened bottom seemed a likely position for the chin). So maybe I could do some creative flattening of cans in the future, in order to get the most aesthetically useful crease patterns?  Hey, I’m a nerd–don’t underestimate the lengths I’ll go to when sufficiently obsessed.

I think I’ll also paint future beer can portraits in alkyd, rather than acrylic; I can get smoother brushwork, which might look better on the rough surface than the hatchiness of acrylic.

Next week’s Trash Day project: well, it’s a toss-up. It’s either wheat flour (which qualifies as trash since I went grain-free) or clear plastic produce clamshells. I suspect both will end up being ridiculously labor-intensive.