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:


Nancyblogs said...

Good for you for trying something new!

Linda Germain said...

Thanks for sharing my gelatin prints and info. You are right too much thinking can get in the way with gelatin prints. My latest motto is fearless experimentation can lead to extraordinary results. I have to remind myself constantly. Happy Writing!