At the end of my last post (22-November-2015) it seemed I had a pocket of time to stop ticking boxes and start experimenting more freely. Following a suggestion from Lottie I researched gelatin plates, which appeared to offer great textural and layering opportunities working in a very free and spontaneous way. My chosen goals:
I’ve attempted to make and use a gelatin plate in the past, as part of the printing project of A Creative Approach (13-April-2012). That went very badly and was soon abandoned. I ignored that experience and researched from scratch but came back to the same technical resource, Linda Germain’s website http://www.lindagermain.com/. Detailed information on her method of making a gelatin plate is available via a simple free signup. This time the recipe was adjusted to include glycerin and I used a new (non-rusty) pan, achieving a plate with just a few small flaws.
Germain and the Akua website both advised that the Akua intaglio inks I’ve been using were not suitable for a gelatin plate. I chose to purchase some akua liquid pigments – diarylide yellow, quinacridone red and phthalo blue. These pigments were originally developed specifically for monotype printmaking and among other benefits can be used for colour mixing with the intaglio range.
I used torn strips of newsprint as a stencil to create lines, then printed onto cartridge paper using a brayer. I got good, smooth colour. The edges are crisp between the newsprint-masked and unmasked areas, possibly because there is some give in the plate.For the second layer I used quinacridone red, again adding retarder on layer 1. Despite waiting some minutes before adding the second layer of pigment the roller picked up the first layer as I was working. The weather was quite mild that day, perhaps low 20s celcius, and I’ve read that the gelatin plate can slow drying of paints. I have not used retarder in later layers.
Torn newsprint was used as a mask, with some care taken to ensure areas of pure yellow, pure red, unprinted white, and mixed yellow and red.
I like this combination of colours, although for a final stripe design I would want to break up that rather heavy red and orange area towards the left. Just a thin squiggle of white would bring a spark of life.The third layer was printed using phthalo blue with newsprint strips as stencils. An interesting mix of colours resulted. The blue is very strong. Given the red used is more a soft purple-pink, it mixed to a purple blue. A very dark green resulted from the yellow and blue mix. The three colours come together in an inky blue purple.
If trimmed the print is bright, interesting, lively irregular stripes. I think it would be successful as a printed textile length and can imagine a child’s summer dress made from it.
However I wanted to relate back to my fish jug theme and to push further. The concept was to use fish stencils, thinking of colourful tropical stripes, and deepen the colour around to highlight them. I then intended to use back-drawing to create elegant flowing lines, the incomplete outline of the jug, with the fish swimming onto and off it. I would have the striped fish, a deeper medium value background, and the darker lines of the jug.
I started with the gelatin plate rolled in red and fish stencils placed.
My complex plan hadn’t taken into account that the new layer of the soft quinacridone red would only marginally deepen the red areas already printed and would not show up at all on the darker, richer colours. There is some patterning, but basically it just dulled the lively stripes already achieved. In addition the whole thing was getting too busy, with too many ideas. The original stripes were too strong to work with such clumsy additions. I didn’t continue to the jug stage of the plan.
At this point it’s not particularly interesting.
The whole page is shades of blue, but quite interesting blues with a kind of dirty glow from the complementary orange beneath. This seemed a good background to accept the addition of my earlier plan for fish with jug outline.
I decided to experiment with a stencil technique seen in a video on Linda Germain’s website. Colour is rolled on the plate. A different colour is rolled onto the stencil, which is then placed ink-side down on the plate. The print paper is placed on and pressed, getting the background plate colour and voids in the stencil areas. Next the print paper is lifted just enough to allow removal of the stencils without shifting the overall position of the paper, and pressed again. The final print should have excellent registration, with different colours in background and stencil areas.
In previous samples the newsprint stencils picked up almost all the colour beneath and copy paper stencils absorbed the major part of the colour. Wanting to leave as much colour as possible I decided to make stencils from freezer paper and use the plasticky, presumably non-absorbent side down. A secondary purpose was to find a thin but longer-lasting stencil material.
I rolled quinacridone red on the gelatin plate and pyrrole orange onto freezer paper stencils, cut to fish shapes based on the inspiration jug. Little rings of machine-embroidered lace placed as additional stencils, to suggest air bubbles.
The orange of the fish is textured, presumably due to the orange liquid pigment smooshing around on the non-absorbent plastic coated stencil during the initial press. The texture created could be interpreted as watery, so in keeping with an underwater fish theme. The stitched rings were quite thick and the open centres didn’t print. They have given a clear blue bubble look which links well to the textured blue areas in the fish. The soft red used has mixed to give a blue to violet background, marred by roller lines in the colour.
I find the result intriguing. It doesn’t work as a standalone image. There is no focus and insufficient variation in value. However there is a lot of interest, I would say even beauty, at the detail level. If I was actually developing a design, as in my initial premise to this extension work, this print would be taken through the Sorting stage as having potential for further development.
I did not act on the jug outline idea. Possibly it would provide the focus and variation in value that the image lacks, but I just can’t see it. If I wanted to go ahead with that I would want to add a jug stencil when the fish background was added, to preserve the original background and differentiate jug and non-jug areas.
The freezer paper stencil curled tightly after use. Pressed flat during drying it could be used again in another session, but it’s not really suitable for multiple uses in the same session.
The rings look like some kind of pox, with a red centre and a red border. However there is something about the combination in the detail shown above, where I think a stencil had been reused with some colour still on it, next to a stencil leaving a void. For me there is a tentative communication of here and not-here, which could be interesting in the right context.
Print p4-79I used a small bristle paintbrush and the akua liquid pigment and drew a fish onto etching plastic. A baren was used lightly to take the print onto cartridge paper. The printed fish is quite light, but I like the quality of marks created and I found it easy to move the brush over the plate.
Newsprint torn strips were used as a mask, and cartridge paper to take the print. I was intending to take a back-drawing. Wherever the paper touched the plate it picked up the colour immediately, with no pressure applied at all.
A brief illness forced a break in my explorations at this point. More than a week later I returned with energy for just a short final session for this project.
On the left of the photograph is the plate, complete with garden weeds as stencils. The print on the right is on cartridge paper. The patterning has a lovely bold, organic character, linear but rich, which pleases me.
There is a texturing where the blue overlays the yellow – potentially due to the different ink types (akua intaglio under liquid pigment), or to the thick yellow not being entirely dry.
The patterning is very busy, and all the colours jostle for attention. My initial plan for this print was a variation of the same plan as print p4-76, and it seemed that once again I was trying to do too much in a single print.
I decided to go ahead with the next intended layer of red on the fish areas. The print as it stood was unsuccessful and if the red didn’t help it would just be a different kind of fail. I used the negative stencil of the fish used in layer 1.
The red on the fish is textured, mottled over the yellow as noted in the blue layer, and towards the edges there are what might be suction marks from picking the paper off the plate and covering stencil. I decided I liked the print as it was. The planned backdrawing of marks on the fish was unnecessary given the texture and pattern already achieved, and it would work against the graphic quality of the image. With so much happening adding any jug element was out of the question.
I regard this as one of my more successful prints. It also has a number of features, for example the leading and trailing yellow and purple and the layering and depth of those complex weeds, which could be of great interest if actually working in design development.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photograph of the third layer, but once again it was the first ghost of layer 3 of print p4-81. There wasn’t much of the soft red colour left and the outcome was bland and unsatisfying.
I decided it was time to action the idea of back-drawing to add detail on the fish. I rolled violet intaglio ink onto a glass plate and laid down the print paper. I used the negative fish stencil to give approximate shape and placement references.
First I used a stencil brush along the lower edge of the body to add some shading and hopefully some volume to the basic fish shape. I used the wrong end of a small brush to add lines for fins, tail and on the body plus an indication of an eye. A peek showed the fish forms were still indistinct, so I tried to place a little more shading around the upper bodies. In the process an unfortunate splodge was added to the lower right corner.
The back-drawing that was done is a good mixture of soft shading and distinct lines which I think could contribute positively if I got the balance right. Again the photograph is more highly coloured than the original which is much softer and more integrated. There are some lines in the tail of the largest fish which I like and there is a fizz towards the right midway down where the blue didn’t cover the yellow, a great effect for a watery scene. There is also some background patterning that could be isolated and used in design development.
I decided not to add a blue layer to this print. I wanted to move away from the complexity of the previous two images. Instead, the second layer was the second ghost of layer 3 of print p4-81, the first use with the stencil removed. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph, but the result was a thin, crisp red outline of the fish shapes, not much change to the interior of the fish, and a rosy glow to the background area. Altogether it was insipid.
I thought I would add some line, texture and definition to the fish by using the ghost of the purple back-drawing layer 4 of print p4-83.
A definite failure.
Layer 2 is the third ghost of layer 2 of print p4-81, the second after the fish stencils were removed. There is a fine, crisp blue outline to the fish and slightly textured lighter blue on the body. The blue weed has some lovely definition and detail, and there is a lot of variation in depth of colour on different stems. The yellow is not well balanced and is harsh against the soft blues.
Layer 3 on this print is red, the third ghost of layer 3 of print p4-81.
The description of multiple layers and so many ghosts may be getting repetitive and confusing, but this print is quite simple. One layer, the second ghost print of print p4-81, the first ghost with the stencil weeds removed.
Simple and elegant in tones of blue and white. The outlines of the fish are quite complex, an internal white, sometimes a fine line, sometimes a wider area of very pale blue, and then an uneven shadow of darker blue all around.
The weed is wonderful. I’ve included a detail of one of the very crisp, darker strands but there are also a couple of pale spikes that sit behind all. These and some bubbly texture give a level of variation to virtually the entire image. With this print I feel vindicated in my decision to experiment with the gelatin plate. The slight give in the plate allows fairly thick materials to be used to create texture with a great level of detail.
The final print of the session was actually made quite early, while I waited for the initials layers of yellow to dry on the other prints. This is an exploration of capturing texture and harks back to exercise 1 of this project, creating marks in a plate rolled with ink. All these marks were made by materials used in earlier assignments.
Top row: Left – fibreglass insect screen mesh. Right – pieces broken from cork tablemat.
Middle row: Left – hessian. Right – thin plastic tablecloth, heat treated.
Bottom row: Left – plastic braid. Right – corrugated cardboard.
There are flaws in the print – I was working in a quick, off-hand way, filling in time. The cork is underwhelming, of interest mostly for the irregular edges. All the others could be very effective in the right context. These could be useful in future monotypes, but there is also potential for collatype printing, the subject of the next exercise.
At this point I will move on to the next project. In some ways it is disappointing. After a rocky start with monotypes I am feeling much more positive and confident about the recent results. I’ve made good progress on the goals listed at the beginning of this post. I’m beginning to experiment more, make my own tools, ask and answer questions, work fluidly in a series, respond spontaneously. The proportion of successes or at least partial successes to failures is improving, and while I understand that this course invites risk-taking and an acceptance of failure there needs to be a balance. Perhaps I should have moved more quickly through the structured exercises and spent more time combining techniques. This may be possible near the end of the assignment, but for now I need to keep moving or risk even my extended deadline.
My enforced rest period allowed some time for extra research on artists using gelatin plates.
Ruth Alice Kosnick. One video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0jw3N7a0Go) shows work based on a large photograph of hands working at a loom, which is placed underneath the gelatin plate and used as a guide for placement of stencils and colour. Yarn and stencils of hands taken from the original photograph are used in different layers. Kosnick has a very free approach with colour mixing and placement, with the occasional mark-making into the inked plate. The results are lively and complex.
In another video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uH6rkvsdko) a simple fish stencil is the focus of a series. The size of the plate has been carefully matched to the stencil size. Texturing materials create marks suggestive of nets and scales. Once again colour use and layering is of great interest, and the rough and ready approach to registration is appealing to me. In this case printing is just one step in the process. Kosnick uses drawing and painting to further develop the images, then collages them together to create the final artwork.
Gerda Lipski. In https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n7baCAFpe0 Lipski uses acrylic paints and a very simple stencil – a “stone”. Using colour mixing on the plate, limited mark making into the paint, layering and a central irregular circle stencil a wide variety of attractive with lots of surface interest is generated.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai1Vk0p7rZY uses brighter, clearer colours, basically a set of primaries. I saw this video after my initial work session (see above), and the colours appear very similar.
Andy Skinner. This artist also uses complex mixtures of colour and many layers. As can be seen in the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7mAJkcY45M Skinner makes extensive use of stencils. Skinner’s website http://www.andyskinnercrafts.com/ has links to tutorials on a wide variety of products and techniques useful in mixed media.
T1-MMT-P4-p1 Extension with gelatin plate
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 1: Monoprinting
Extension with gelatin plate