Artist Russell Muits, aka Storm Print City, is an avid traveller, but in an entirely new dimension. He traverses city streets, alleys, and intersections to make unique prints of storm covers, manholes, sewer lids, and other metal bits.
He has termed this “street printing”, and it is a journey that has taken him across the country and the world. Russell wants to explore history, and community with his accessible and vibrant prints, and to show off a vastly under appreciated aesthetic element of any city.
In this video, Storm Print City hangs out with IPaintMyMind! He takes us on a day in the life of a street printer, explaining his process, and showing us around his gallery at the Jackson Junge Studio in Wicker Park. We’re incredibly lucky to have some Storm Print City originals in our permanent collection, and are excited to have him involved in our workshops and programming. Get acquainted with this seriously talented and prolific artist!
(And if you love everything in this article, check out this interview IPMM’s founder did with Russell back in March.)
Russell is inspired by the history of iron work, the dynamics of cities and neighborhoods, and the people he meets. Metal grates and covers used to be poured by hundreds of different foundries and had many unique designs. Now, there are only about five in the entire country!
Russell likes to track down the oldest and most unique examples of municipal iron works and make them the central motif of his artwork. He loves interesting patterns, fonts, and compositions, and enhances them with beautiful color combos.
On a typical work day, Russell packs his antique iron tool box chock full of water-soluble ink, brayers, palette knives, paintbrushes, a sketchbook, and water to clean up afterwards. And — he never forgets his kneepad for peak comfiness!
He drives around, looking for the coolest potential print spots, and when he finds a great location, he mixes up his inks for site-specific color blends. Russell covers the different shapes and pattern groups with different colors. Then, he presses a precut canvas over the cover. When the print is unveiled, there’s a total A-Ha! moment.
Recently, Russell has been working on a few series of works which compile nine or ten different grates or covers into a larger piece. He can create collages, maps, or stories through these larger pieces. In his Under the L series, he takes manhole covers from tons of places along Chicago’s train lines and makes an alternate CTA map!
The hands-on, tactile, and permanent medium of printmaking with all of its randomness and possible flaws is exciting to Russell because the finished product is often determined by chance. Sometimes the colors are randomly determined by passerby chiming in, or by the colors which are part of the surroundings. For him, each finished piece holds the memory of when it was created.
Street printing becomes a catalyst for fostering a deep connection to a specific city, neighborhood, or community. As such, Russell loves teaching his techniques to young students across the city and the country, and encouraging them to use street printing to build relationships and identities.
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