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About this blog: John Barry is the creator of trAction Painting, a process/performance genre in which he applies paint to large surfaces with bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled conveyances. With Bill Carmel and other associates, he has bro...  (More)

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"Skaint" Ain't in the Dictionary

Uploaded: Dec 13, 2011

The portmanteau neologism "skaint" (verb) means "to apply paint to a canvas or other flat surface with the wheels of quad or inline skates."

Skainting: nominal, gerundive, or adjectival form of skaint

Skainter: one who skaints

Example: "I plan to skaint over a 9 x 12 drop cloth, and my skainting effort will result in a large abstract skainting.

Skainting is related to "action painting," a term coined by American art critic Harold Rosenburg in 1952. It is closely associated with abstract expressionism, whose most renowned exponent was Jackson Pollock. Whereas Pollock applied his paint by splattering, dribbling, and smearing it on a surface with a brush or a stick or directly from the can, skainters lay down pigment by rolling it across the surface as they skate. Additional effects can be effected by braking: dragging the wheels of one skate behind the other to retard motion.

Because of contact between wheels and surface and because the wheels pull the skainter along, the genre is also known as "traction painting." Some have dubbed it "A,B-track expressionism," with A standing for the numeral 1 and B for 2, a reference to the number of tracks produced, depending on the type of skates employed.

With four narrow wheels in single file, inline skates produce fine, almost wispy tracks. With their two pairs of wide parallel wheels, quads produce bold, fat double lines.

The ideal method of paint application is to pour pigment into a plastic basin large enough to accommodate the skates, with room to move the wheels back and forth and side to side so that they pick up as much paint as possible. Mutiple basins can be used if more than one color at a time id desired. Because of the need to continually clean the basins, to avoid gumming up the axles, and because of its short drying time, acrylic or latex paint is a must for skainting. (As to gumming up the axles, that's entirely related to the skainter's skill level.)

The quality of lines varies with the skainter's skill level. For example, quick turns can rapidly alter a track's trajectory. A quad maestro can lean heavily into a turn and decrease a track's width. In any case, it is necessary to make any moves quickly, as paint on the wheels is rapidly expended. Then, back to the basin to rebathe the wheels.

Different surfaces produce different results and challenges. Even stretched tight, canvas may sometimes move under a pirouette or an abrupt turn. If gesso is not first applied, canvas will absorb paint, resulting in a less brilliant surface. (Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used as a preparation for substrates such as wood panels, canvas, and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.) On the other hand, triple-gessoing a 9 x 12 canvas is a substantial undertaking.

Hard, immovable surfaces such as plywood or MDF (medium-density fibreboard) are easier to skaint on, but the paint slickens the surface, making a slip more possible than on canvas. Also, these materials are heavy, making hanging the finished product more of a challenge.

Skainting is closely related to another action genre that also developed in California, "pogo pointillism."

John A. Barry is a writer and avocational artist. To share anything art-related, call him at 314-9528 or email jobarry@pacbell.net

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