That pin was all it took. I have fallen down the Gelli Arts printing hole.
Monoprint/Monotype is a printmaking technique where (generally) only one (or at least one unique) print is pulled from a block or plate. Gelatin printing is a monoprint/monotype technique where you use a gelatin plate (a printing plate basically made of gelatin). Because gelatin plates are biodegradable, animal and water based, they are only good for so long before they start to show wear and dry up. Gelli Arts brand designed and manufactured their product that mimics gelatin, but is mineral oil and polymer based and so it is long lasting.
One of my very first prints pulled from the Gelli Arts Plate.
Between high school and college I have taken tons of printmaking classes and used many techniques, but my experience with monoprints/monotypes were based on maybe a day or two of playing around, printing from a glass plate or gummed and inked up xyrox copy art. Previously, my thoughts on monoprint/monotype was that it was a lesser printmaking technique. “Meh. Should it even really be considered printmaking?” For a few months I’ve been hearing the name Gelli Art and gelli printing bandied about on the internet here and there. It wasn’t until I saw that pin that I thought “I should really look into this” By the end of the day I had literally read everything I could find and watched hours and hours of videos of people printing with their Gelli Arts plate. You can buy the Gelli Art plates online and from Dick Blick stores. They are relatively inexpensive, the medium sized plate is $30 and 8″x10″ in size. My sister was kind enough to pick up a plate for me from the Dick Blick near her and I had my plate in my greedy little fingers the very next day. I have been obsessed, spending hours every day working on it ever since. I love how it could be used for crafting or for fine art. As I said before, there are tons of videos online. I also signed up for the Carla Sonheim class (a week’s worth of private blog posts and videos for only $25). Spending so much time working on it I realized that it feels more like painting than printmaking and reminded me a lot of when I’ve done wheel thrown pottery because there are so many factors all needing to be juggled at once. With pottery it’s the composition (wet, dry, fiber, etc.) of the clay, the centering, the position and balance of your legs, arms, and hands as well as the motion you make with your hands dependent on the speed of the wheel. With the gelli prints it’s color, layers, composition (format), as well as texture and weight of paper, texture and fluidity of the paints, layers and transparencies of layers, speed in which you work (paint drying on plate), pressure you apply while transferring your image, ghosting from previous layers showing up on a second pull or even newly inked plate, not to forget textures added from other surfaces, or printing through stencils.
The lone print I liked from the series of 8
The second and third day I was working I got a little frustrated with how many pieces I was working on that I did not like. I had to remind myself that I was just starting out and learning a lot. Ideally, I’d want every piece to be perfect and amazing and in general I feel like I have a very high percentage of success with artwork. But with these gelli prints, I did 8 pieces and only liked 1. I was really disappointed, but was glad for the Carla Sonheim class because she really emphasized that you can keep adding layers and adjusting pieces until you like them or offered up a whole slew of alternative options for your failed prints. My favorite was to make them into art journals. There’s a little video you can see here with another artist doing the exact same thing. Right away I was almost more excited about turning those 7 failed prints into a book, than I was into reworking them.
I was finally getting into the swing of things
The next day I started working on 4 new pieces, as well as adding to the back sides of the previous 7 pieces. I don’t know if I had a breakthrough, started learning more what worked for me and/or switched to right brain thinking/art flow, but I suddenly got in the groove and was really pleased with more and more of the pieces I was working on. I think I had watched too many videos and had so many techniques, styles and ideas from other artists swimming through my head. I just needed to experiment on my own and break away from those to think creatively for my own work, rather than thinking “try this like so and so did”.
Loving more and more of my pieces, the more I work with this technique.
All the same I do recommend looking at the videos online if you are interested in monoprinting/monotyping with a gelatin plate. So many techniques never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t seen it online first. Doing a simple youtube search for gelatin or gelli prints will provide plenty of results. I also highly recommend checking out Jodi’s pinterest board for Monoprinting, there are tons of great articles, videos and resources. edit to add another great pinterest board by Lelainia Lloyd (tattered Edge) Pinterest I love you!
A lot of the videos use stencils for texture and I don’t have any so I’ve been enjoying cutting out paper stencils and masks.
I know I need one more art medium to work in, like I need a hole in my head, but I’m really enjoying monoprinting/monotyping. Any time I brush off a certain medium, it’s almost guaranteed that down the road I’m going to eat crow about it. Mixed media was for chumps, collage was a joke and monoprinting/monotyping was a waste of time, now I love all three. I’m sure I will be back with more pieces to share soon.
Edit to add links to two other posts:
Paper Stencil Stacks
Hi, I'm Robyn and I was Hatched from a Kinder Surprise Egg. Graphic Designer by day, Maker of things by night. I have worked as a graphic artist professionally since I was 16 years old. Went on to get my Bachelors of Art from NIU. I like to share my Artwork online at flickr.com/photos/robayre and on my own personal website http://www.robayre.com. I also have an online shop http://www.robayre.etsy.com where you can find more of my "crafty" sorts of things, as well as a random piece of artwork here and there. Oh, and I'm also an occasional contributor to Artomat (artomat.org).