Happy Earth Day!

We asked Megan Berkheiser and Mike Caldwell (the artists behind the 2012 poster Smarter, Greener, Better) to explain how they made the model featured in our spring poster. Read on to learn about their intricate process.

1. This piece originated from simple, 2D pencil sketches. Can you talk a little bit about the process that took it from there to the complex 3D model that was photographed for the poster?

One of the aspects my partner and I find beautiful about New York City is the vast texture of buildings, which create a unique urban landscape.  It was not possible to fabricate all of our favorite neighborhoods; instead each element was created in the poster by hand with simple paper and balsa wood materials (with the exception of the subway car) to capture the essence of NY. First, cardboard silhouettes of buildings were cut to create a green mosaic.  Paste-papers were made to stylize the leaves and water to reveal the MTA map behind the painted texture. The flowers are created out of crepe paper with subway letters and numbers for the stamen while the bridge was fabricated from balsa-wood.  Once all of the elements were assembled, the dimensional illo was lit and photographed to resemble and early morning in Spring when the flowers have just opened.

2. Have you always used found and recycled materials in your work? Where do you go to find them?

Yes, indeed!  Found objects have been the inspiration for many Pushart illustrations due to their beautiful patina of age and timeless design.  Most of the findings come from everyday unwanted objects, which are discarded in dumpsters, junkyards, yard sales, church or school bazaars and flea markets as well as second hand shops.  Once the original function of an object has been looked beyond, transformation into something with a new purpose is possible due to the miniature scale used to create many of our illustrations.

3. As artists, what kind of things do you do to look after the environment? Do you have any recommendations for other artists regarding sustainable art practice?

Pushart strives to care about the environment by rescuing artifacts whenever possible for reuse. We scour our trash from cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, fruit crates, mail, plastic & glass containers, inside of tissue boxes, old books, broken machines & gadgets, clock parts, broken computers, scraps of fabric, lathe/wood from old buildings, wire hangers, doll parts, wheels, gears to make use of the scraps which would normally be discarded.  Looking at commonplace objects and seeing them in a new light, the possibilities are endless!

See more photos of the process here. And if you want a copy of this poster or other MTA Arts for Transit posters, visit the Transit Museum Store!

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