Experiments in Gelatin Printmaking

So here are some of the prints I made in the gelatin printmaking class I took with Tamar Etingen at Lynn Arts a couple of weekends ago. This was my first printmaking class ever (aside from a week or so of linoleum block printing in high school). There are some things I like about the prints and some I don't. More that I don't. But making mistakes is mostly how you learn to do new things, right?

CurvesThe KeyCircles

Overall, I like the colors. I don't hate the designs (although they are somewhat sloppy--that has to do with registering and I had enough to learn in half a day without trying to get that right).

What I don't like is the ham-handedness of them. They're not exactly subtle. I was laying the paint too thick on the plate, which means the layers aren't as transparent as they could be. And as a result I didn't get the depth or detail and luminosity that's possible with this medium.

Also, I think I made some mistakes in choosing materials. The little key in the lower right-hand corner of the second print above, for example, came out blobby and you couldn't read the lettering on it very well. And that was either because the key was too thick or because my paint was too thick. Or probably it was a combination of both. (The second time I tried the key stuck in the paint on the print, so I just left it there.)

In the print below, I was starting to get the hang of layering and inking and it's the one I like best:


The base pattern is made with gauze. It's a "ghost" image, which means you ink your plate, then put down the gauze and press it with a piece of paper, and then take the gauze off the plate. That leaves the ghost image in the ink. Then you press your paper down and that makes the impression.

Anyway, there may be more to come. then again I might get bored and move on to something new. Although I'm kind of stoked to play with the "Hello Kitty" stencil I found at a yard sale this weekend ...

Gelatin Printmaking: The good and the bad (ugly to come)

Tamar Etingen, Glowing Leaf
 Last weekend I took a gelatin printmaking class with Tamar Etingen at Lynn Arts. It was my first printmaking class of any kind ever. And I am not afraid to say I was not very good at it.

For starters (and this is something I've known for a long time) I think too much. While I was still staring at the blank paper and sifting through materials and fretting about what colors to use, my classmates had already made several prints. Tamar came over and looked at my blank paper for a few moments. "Thinking is over-rated," she said.

I would needlepoint that quote on a pillow, if only I knew how to needlepoint.

I'm also dyslexic and so had trouble grasping the difference between masking (putting an opaque object on the gelatin plate and then pressing the paper on top of it so that the resulting image has ink everywhere except where you put the object) and making positive images (putting a textured item face down on the gelatin and lifting it off and then pressing the paper to pick up the ghost image that textured object creates in the gelatin).

I also struggled with placement and visualizing the results of my actions. "OK, I want this to show up here--so where do I put it on the plate?"

Linda Germain,
Lost and Found series

And finally, I had a hard time creating and visualizing layers. (Registering the layers? Forgeddaboutit.) One of the lovely things about gelatin printmaking is that you can build up layer after layer to create a multi-textural and luminous print.

You can clearly see this in the examples I've posted here by Tamar and another artist and printmaker I met at Lynn Arts whose work I love, Linda Germain. (Click the captions to see larger views of the images on their sites.) She uses old maps as the base for the prints in her "Lost and Found" series. Love it.

Anyway, I kept starting with a very specific, graphic image and I would be so enamored with it until I realized I had nowhere to go from there without covering up the image I liked so much. So rather than multi-layered, luminous prints I ended up with more than a few 1D prints.

(I'll scan some of the prints I made soon but I wanted to get this post written. And I'll include the duds--why not?)

Anyway, while the rest of the participants ended up with a couple dozen prints, I made about 10 and I'm happy with three of them. Maybe four.

This is not to say the class was not great--it was. I spent four hours playing and being creative and laughing and chatting with the women I met there. (And yes, it was all women. Turns out printmaking classes are not a great place to meet men.) I tried something new. I got to see the other peoples' lovely work.

And I do, after all, have a few pieces I like enough to matt. I'll use the rest as bases for other mixed media pieces.

A few other links ...
Linda Germain's fun blog: Printmaking Without a Press.
Listings of adult art classes at Lynn Arts.

And, finally, a video of Linda making gelatin prints: