Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gelatin Prints

So, last week at the Book Arts Guild of Vermont monthly meeting, we had a short monotype and gelatin printing workshop with professional printmaker Lyna Lou Nordstrom.

Most of my printing experience is with linoleum prints (and stamps if you count middle school), plus a very brief tutorial in letterpress two years ago.  I tend to be hesitant about buying a whole bunch of new materials to try new methods without an actual expert to guide me in my purchases and initial attempts, so I was super excited that the Guild brought this experience to us!  Even though I'm not a gelatin print expert (yet!) I feel very confident that I can do this at home now.

What I learned:

It is super easy to do gelatin prints!

General Process:

Gelatin Print
Amy L. Burns
  • Literally, just make some gelatin (the plain kind used for desserts).
  • Use a printmaking ink (my preference discussed below).
  • Ink your gelatin with a brayer - not too much ink (it should make a sticky sound as you ink up the brayer).
  • Put something with texture on top of your inked gelatin (like natural leaves, mesh, straw, plastic cut into shapes).
  • Press paper onto your gelatin - it will leave blank spots where your leaves/shapes were.
  • Remove leaves/etc., reink with another color.
  • Add other leaves or shapes, or scrape away ink in interesting places, patterns, or randomly.
  • Press your paper again.

Keep experimenting!

My Tools/Materials:

Gelatin - from the grocery in the dessert or canning section.  Make it flat - in a baking tray.  You can cut it up for different sizes and shapes, or use a large sheet if you work big.  An inch deep is sufficient.  Keep and store the gelatin you've made in the freezer between projects if you plan to keep it for long-term use.  It will mold in the fridge.

Brayer - I use Speedball rubber brayers - they're easy to find (any JoAnn Fabrics or Michael's if you don't have a local art store) and not particularly expensive ($8).  In the workshop we were using hard rubber brayers of different widths.

Palate - I use a 8 x 12 inch rectangle of thick glass shelf I found on the street while living in Brooklyn (I actually found a pile of these, but they were so heavy I could only bring home four).  It's smooth, easy to clean up with water or a paint scraper, and doesn't stain.  Just slip a sheet of white paper between the glass and the surface it's sitting on to see your colors.  If the edges are sharp (like the glass from a window pane or picture frame), just put a strip of masking tape over the edges around the whole thing to prevent injury.

Ink - Our presenter, Lyna Lou, recommended (and brought for us to use) Daniel Smith's water-soluble printmaking inks.  They don't move around like other water-based inks, and clean up with water.  Once dry they are permanent, so don't wear your best dress!  Besides the gelatin (which should have been obvious), this was the most important bit of information for me.  With only a couple choices in the art stores I've found myself not really sure what was out there, what to buy or where to buy it.  And being concerned about chemical clean-up, water-soluable is a must for me.

Paper - Play round to see what you like working with - gosh I wish people wouldn't say that!  If you already have a stash of paper at home, use it.  Don't feel like you have to invest in anything expensive, especially if you're just learning.  Art supply stores will have printmaking paper and can help you select something for your project.  I tried working with both thin and thick paper.  Each had great results with no meaningful difference in outcome - the thinner paper appeared to pick up a little dampness from the gelatin but dried fine without any discoloration, ink bleeding, or warping.

As I keep experimenting I'll post my discoveries and results.  If you give this a go, let me know what you discover, too!
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