I’ve been following the work of a fellow AEDM participant, Roberta Warshaw, for several months now. She’s been working on collages but this week posted some pictures of her gelatin prints. Gelatin prints? What the heck are gelatin prints? Well, thanks to Roberta’s kind assistance and our friend Google, I got an education.
Gelatin prints are a monotype printing process where you spread paint on a slab of gelatin, make designs in the paint or put down stencils, then press a piece of paper onto the paint-covered gelatin. When you “pull the print” off the gelatin you’ll see, hopefully, a cool design on the paper. What makes gelatin prints so great, though, is that you’re not done after the first print. You can often get a second print, though it will be paler. And if you then remove the stencils and print again, you’ll get what’s known as a “ghost image”. A good website to learn about gelatin printing is Linda Germain’s blog.
Because you can print both paper and fabric with this process, I got really excited and knew I had to try it. Right away! I have always loved fabric collage and this would give me a way to print fabric according to my tastes, with the colors and designs that I want. But that’s getting ahead of myself.
First I had to experiment and learn what I was doing. Today I bought gelatin and a brayer. I mixed up the gelatin and poured a slab in a cookie sheet. I used regular inexpensive craft paint and a lot of paper towels. And leaves. We have a lot of them at the moment after all!
Well. It was tremendous fun! Right away I realized I had to re-think what order I do things in. I had to plan whether I wanted the primary print or the ghost image. I didn’t want secondary layers to cover up previous good layers. Soon I realized I didn’t have to use the whole surface of the gelatin. And I began to use my fingers. A lot. It was like fingerpainting for grown-ups. Very fun!
After several dozen “pulls” of print, and a couple hours of excited oohs and aahs, the gelatin surface began to deteriorate and I figured it was time to stop. I can still use the other side of the gelatin slab, so it’s waiting in the fridge for a later date.
Not bad for a first try, eh? I am really pleased with how these turned out. Now that I understand the process I can start thinking about what I want to do. There is a lot of room for variation with this technique. Inexpensive craft paint worked well for a trial, but I would like to use more sophisticated paint if I work with fabric. And I also think I’d like something less opaque. And I wonder what fabric to use. I have some china silk I’ve been keeping around forever, so it will be sacrificed I think. This could get interesting.
As for today’s prints, though, my daughter wanted to know what I am going to do with them. I don’t know. They’re pretty. They were fun to make and they make me happy. And isn’t the really the whole purpose of creating art in the first place?
Read what happened when I tried to use the gelatin plate a second time. I got an entirely new set of pictures. Very easy and fun.