Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gelatin Printmaking 202

Yesterday I had another session with gelatin printmaking with another friend. Since I’d seen a recent YouTube about doing a double exposure on the same print, I was in the mood to experiment. In addition to two large jelly roll size pans, I filled two box acrylic frames with gelatin for some smaller sizes to play with.

Again, I tried a lot of different “paper” to print on. Here's one below on oriental paper.

And one on a piece of white fabric.

For the first time, I used an Ampersand panel called Claybord. The smooth clay ground picked up nuances in the paint and I was very pleased with the results. Those white shapes might be when the gelatin had broken.

Also new, I tried some canvas paper that originally came in tablet form. Nancy noticed it would throw white irregular dots onto each print and we weren’t sure why.

In addition, I used two 6” x 8” canvas boards with the intention of using them as covers for a book or art journal. They came out well, but with those interesting white spots again (see below). Nancy and I decided to call them “snow,” my husband called them “stars” and they didn’t disturb my landscapes but rather enhanced them. Perhaps it was the rough canvas grade or the gesso coating?

Once again, the best results were on 140 lb. Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper. It picked up all the intricate colors and textures but their cold press variety worked well, too. This size of 9” x 12” fit the large pans well and I didn’t have to cut them further.

Nancy had a great idea when I was thinking of using crumpled foil for texture. She said it might be too harsh on the delicate gelatin; why not try some tissue? After rolling out paints, again using Liquitex heavy body acrylics and Golden Fluid acrylics, I crumpled up some archival tissue and randomly laid it over the gelatin, not smoothing it down. Quickly, I removed it and placed the receiving paper on the gelatin plate. What a fantastic texture it created, especially using transparent colors!

I used more stencils this time, having cut out some basic circles, squares, ovals, and rectangles beforehand. Blue painters tape made a fine mountain range, as I had learned before in my other paintings. It lasted quite a while, sticky side down on the gelatin, and I pulled many good prints from it.

I brought out two different Celtic stencils I’d made, one from acetate, one from white card stock. Of course, the acetate created sharper images but I liked the results of the long, more imperfect card stock better. The one below is on cold press watercolor paper.

This one is on white card stock.

The most exciting stencils? Weeds from the yard that looked like wheat. I’d picked them shortly before we began and was pleased they worked so well for so long. Because of their bulk, I thought they might break the gelatin, but they didn’t.

I also used some beautiful lacey fabric Nancy brought.

Here is some Japanese white lace paper used as a stencil in the wet paint. Sometimes I removed it, sometimes I left it on.

Nancy brought letter stencils and did some innovative work with words, something I hadn’t thought to do. She also did some great geometric pieces using thin strips of paper, as well as combing the paint with different types of brushes and combs before printing. We both had a laugh whenever our brayers rolled up our flat elements while we were “inking” (spreading acrylics) across our plate. Sometimes we were able to rescue and replace our stencil element.

The larger tray of gelatin broke on Nancy first, so she tried the smaller 4” x 6” and 5” x 7” molds. When we began, she had turned them out of their acrylic box frame molds onto some plexiglass sheets. She said it was nice to not have to worry about the pan’s border (I’d left the larger gelatins in their jelly roll pans). Since I was enjoying working larger, I kept using my large tray until my gelatin finally broke, after about 6 hours! By then, I was ready to slow down and pull a few more prints before finally quitting.

Again, I learned so much. Nancy and I thought perhaps the gelatin keeps acrylic paints moist and more workable. I’ve tried some printmaking on glass but have never been pleased with the results, perhaps because acrylics dry so fast. With this process, I did get some pieces that weren't 100% wonderful but there were parts of those I can use. Instead of wild experimenting with each print, I really stuck to a theme and enjoyed how the same basic print looked on different paper, fiber, canvas, and watercolor weights. What I liked most was seeing things in the finished print I hadn’t planned. They are delightful accidents, like the “snow.” When my gelatin broke, I kept working the whole surface and that area of break now resembles a lovely bowl shape. There is enough spontaneity in this printmaking to make me really happy with the unplanned result.


  1. Nice work! I am looking forward to trying the new Golden Open for monoprinting and gelatin printing, but you have had very good results with regular paint!

  2. Thank you, silverspringstudio, and thanks for visiting, too. Good luck experimenting with the new open acrylics and hope you'll blog about your results. For now, I really like regular artist’s acrylics and their quick drying time.