I love stickers. Big and small, matte, glossy, or sparkly, flat or puffy, I love them all.
I suspect my love for stickers came from the sorts of things I could get as kids, the one sticker card in the back of each pack of Topps Star Wars Cars, or full packs of Wacky Packages stickers making fun of merchandise, or the Garbage Pail Kid sticker cards, Colorforms, and those scratch off images like decals that came with a big backdrop to compose your superhero scene on. I remember the one for Hulk being particularly exciting, that version of Doc Samson a real ass kicker.
I have an entire drawer dedicated to stickers, and some of the stickers in there may never end up adhere to anything, nothing has ever seemed suitable. The anatomically correct Coop devil girls for instance. Or the Scratch ‘n Sniff promotional air freshener from De La Soul that can be peeled apart into twin stickers that both smell largely suspect. I have sticker books, sticker magazines, promotional stickers from companies, business cards that turn out to be stickers. I have stickers from Prague, London, Hawaii, and many other places we’ve travelled abroad.
San Diego Comic Con supplied bushels of stickers for my drawer, overflowing into a second drawer for a while, so much great swag, free and paid for, laden with snappy art and logos and text bits, website domains and all sorts of other tidbits. The cool thing about promotional stickers it that when they’re free, they’re also typically guilt free, customize, alter, excise, and mash-up to make collages like ransom notes of Dead Kennedy album inserts or David Hockney style photo collages to accurately capture a single thing, item or emotion, theme or expression. Purchased stickers become keyframes, highlights, the central jewels the rest of the visual noise clusters around, or beneath, or creeping over the borders of.
I only have a couple bumper stickers, one for the band Meat Beat Manifesto that I believe might have come with a 12 inch or perhaps I picked it up at their show in Cincinnati back in 1991. The other is for WRFL 88.1 fm. I believe Jed got me that one a few years after I’d moved on from Kentucky, something to remember the days with. I’ve not been willing to ever peel the backs off either of those and stick them to anything, though I have taped them via their corners to a few sketchbooks through the years the way my parents used to put photos into albums with those tiny black triangles, except my triangles were wide yellow swatches of painter’s tape.
Speaking of tape, love that too, and have a vast array of types and sizes at my disposal. Perhaps The Crow inspired all the black and blue electrical tape I used to occasionally wrap around my fingers like some Hot Topic fashion statement while bored in the office of the Kenwood Twin after the money had been counted, deposit made, and concession restocked. Or maybe KMFDM?
I have rolls of gaffer tape from my stint in film school, the plum, yellow, and magenta rolls are my favorites. A half inch wide, somewhat waxy, and easy to tear as paper, it’s the stuff PAs on film sets use to mark spots for actors or equipment, or tag equipment with when the tag is temporary. Takes a Sharpie mark like a dream.
I’ll be sad when I run out of it, as I use it to secure vellum or sheets of paper when I’m working larger scale to my big drafting table free cycled to me from the occupants of a house soon after demolished on 12th, replaced by Smurf scale townhouse condos to cash in on the Vancouver housing bubble. At least I saved something out of that house where once bands rocked out all night in the basement and where costume parties inspired greatness from geeks out of all walks of Vancouver hipsters and hapsters. And my pal Celine doesn’t work on shows like Smallville anymore so no good trying to steal rolls from her anymore. Hope she didn’t miss that plum color roll...
I have rolls of EZ tear rubberish clear medical tape, white cloth sports tape like the sort soccer pros tape their toes up with, or I use for climbing after ripping off callous on a bouldering problem I should’ve solved differently. Or at least, should have solved. Duct tape, scotch tape single and double sided, white correction tape, different widths of black designer tape intended for making print worthy boxes or underscores to graphic design poster challenges. Safety tape, hazard tape, electrical tape, holiday tape printed with tiny XMas trees and holly leaves and happily gaming reindeer birthday tape Technicolor banded like Fruit Stripe gum or billowing with balloons.
And it’s only one small step for man from tape to Band-Aides. Clear, pink, beige, cloth, flexible, narrow, round, wide, just shy of skin graft. Printed, patterned, thin plastic kid’s accompaniments to a kiss from Mama to make it all better. Pokemon, Scooby, Snoopy, Pac-Man, black Pirate ones with little skulls and crossbones on them. Bright colors to ward of hunters, dark colors for more formal nights out on the town. And no matter how many boxes and bags of bandages have been stashed in assorted cupboards and cabinets throughout the house, there never seems to be a suitable one when there’s fluid flow gushing with enough force as to measure your internal PSI through the arc and cadence of the output. As with fresh tattoos, n a pinch, cellophane and medical tape or Scotch tape for the win.
Stickers aren’t just a fashion accessory, though. There is a sort of therapy to picking out and arranging stickers on a new sketchbook, as though the choices you make and emergent outcomes somehow lays bare a part of your psyche and helps to infuse or charge up the blank book with something of your personality, an expression of self through adhesive labels, what gets displayed, or covered up, or cut away, or folded over.
A painter for Wizards of the Coast named Brom once chat with me a bit through email about craft, I’d asked some questions after seeing a write up on his work in How To magazine. I’d wondered why none of his blank canvases were ever actually blank. He’d said the first thing he does of kill the white, the blank. He picks a color and swaths the canvas with it, sometimes a solid tone, sometimes a gradient or splotchy, flecked tone with anomalies throughout. The tone of that base backdrop often carries through the whole piece, he said, though there is no harm in replacing the background entirely as the piece takes on a life of its own. The important thing is destroying that store bought white, the empty void of product, the threat of the blank. I talked briefly with David Mack once at SDCC as he brush painted a woman from the crowd with india ink onto a background canvas that appeared to be a page from a Life Magazine, or maybe the French version of Photo, something oversized with a big photo or two in the main body, something dark he’d smeared over to obscure with diluted ink before beginning the woman’s portrait. I asked about his background and he said it gave the canvas life before he built his own piece, gave the image a starting place, a note like Jazz. Since then I’ve noticed Ashley Wood and Dave McKean both have numerous pieces laid in on top of mixed materials, images, paint washes, photographs, old street signage, poster bills, even safety stickers like you’d see on the side of public transit.
I haven’t had the gumption to paint over stickers yet, but I do find that branding the new books with bands of brilliant stickers helps make the books personal, particularly when there are fond memories triggered from many of the stickers. The barrage of collage breaks down some of the intimidation a blank, crisp, new book poses, all that white, empty paper waiting to be filled with whatever I can best bring to bear. Waiting for meaning, purpose, integrity, content.
And sometimes, every now and then, aren’t we all?