How It's Done

Anodic Painting of Titanium

A sheet of pristine Titanium is taped to a flat glass plate. Using a wood block wrapped in Al Oxide Scotchbrite abrasive, the surface is worked in alternating horizontal and vertical strokes. This is continued until the metal takes on a fine silk like appearance. These fine scratches act as light gathering facets, catching light from different angles and illuminating the surface. During the course of a day, the piece will appear to morph from dark to a near internal glow as the light orientation changes.

 

After cleaning, a sheet of wet adhesive masking is applied to the metal. It is squeegeed  to remove air pockets and allowed to dry for a day or two. This produces a smooth perfectly masked surface. The tape is then cut and removed during the steps of anodizing.

 

Anodizing the reactive metals is different than anodizing aluminum. Voltage is applied to the metal through an electrolyte, in this case soapy water, and an oxide is grown on the surface. This oxide is transparent and generates interference colors like those seen on an oily wet street or soap bubble. There are no pigments or dyes. It is purely an effect of light. The thickness of the oxide controls the color generated and that thickness in turn is controlled by the voltages applied.

 

A variety of electrified sponge applicators transfer the electrolyte to the metal and act as brushes for the area being anodized. Precision control by the artist of the applicators and the voltages produce the final product.

Care of Titanium Paintings

The oxide layer developed on titanium is extremely thin. It is actually measured in angstroms. It is therefore susceptible to abrasion and scratching. If it is mounted unprotected it should be regularly cleaned. Only clean cloths and fresh paper towels should be used. A standard glass cleaner without waxes is usually sufficient. A light touch is all that is required. No pressure, no rubbing.

That occasional pizza fingerprint may require deeper cleaning. For this the sheet can be removed from the frame and washed. Soapy water is fine. Again no abrasives! Rinse very well with R.O. or distilled water and blow dry to prevent streaking. If streaking persists wipe again with a glass cleaner and dry paper towels until clear and dry.

In extreme cases chemicals such as alcohol, acetone, xylene and the like, will not harm the surface. Regular cleaning will be required after their use to remove streaking.