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By John A. Barry And Bill Carmel

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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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T’s for You

Uploaded: Aug 12, 2020
By John A. Barry

What to do if you have 25 medium and large white crew-neck T-shirts, two wheelchairs, a BMX bike, a large quantity of acrylic paint, and lots of time on your hands? I ask rhetorically.

What I did was revive my trAction Painting skills. trAction Painting is a process genre I created in 201l. I paint large horizontal surfaces with bikes, wheelchairs, scooters, skates, etc., that have paint flowing to the wheels, which deposit paint as I roll.



I hadn’t done any trAction work in a while, owing to worsening back problems. But, with some much-needed assistance, I had the T’s taped to a 12 x 9–foot and a 8 x 6–foot canvas on my garage studio floor. Most of the shirts were on the underlying canvases, but parts of some extended onto the concrete.



With the onerous work out of the way, I started the easy part. I used the wheelchairs to apply salmon, blue, green, red, and purple—after which I topped those five hues off with yellow, laid down with the bike. The wheelchair tires have no tread, making for unadorned lines. whereas the bike tires have tread, making for patterned lines.



The result of this activity was 25 shirts with the fronts painted. Shirts on the periphery got a bit less paint than those in the center.



Some shirts were made of heavy cotton, some light. The lightweight ones allowed plenty of paint bleed-through to the back; the heavyweights, not so much. My assistant and I used brushes, inline-skate-wheel rollers, and toy trucks to augment the décor of the shirt backs that were short on bleed-through.

So now I have a large pile of painted T-shirts, three of which were spoken for, leaving 22. But I had several left over from a similar, smaller-scale project a couple years ago.


Current inventory:

Medium T’s: 13 (one of which is gray)
Large T’s: 12
Extra large T: 1
2 women’s, 1 white, 1 gray, sizes unknown…medium-ish

What to do with them is now the question.

If you would like one, please contact me at [email protected] There is no direct charge to you, but I would be most appreciative if you would make a donation to one or more of the following organizations:

Hope Solutions

Meals on Wheels

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano

Each shirt comes with care instructions.

If you take a shirt and make a donation, thank you!



We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

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