Monday, May 30, 2011

Adventures in Gelatin

I'm trying something new: gelatin monoprints. Yep, prints made from a plate of gelatin—as in J-E-L-L-O—only using the unflavored type of gelatin. I've had a book on this technique for a while, but it requires some preparation before you begin the art part. Warning: If you are considering trying this, you should know there will be yucky, boogery globules of gelatin everywhere.

First, it calls for a piece of Plexiglas that serves as the surface for the gelatin plate. Next, you create a frame out of modeling clay. The frame holds the gelatin, which is dissolved in warm water and then poured onto the plate. You must be sure there is a good seal so you don’t have gelatin leaking out from underneath the clay (speaking from experience).

The surface must be level, which in this house, is a challenge. When someone says, "Please pass the salt", we turn it on its side and let it roll to them.

Here you can see where I've created my dam and leveled the surface using an assortment of shims and paper. One thing important to remember is to remove the level from the Plexiglas before you pour the gelatin onto the plate. I was so excited when I got to this point I almost forgot. I would have been in big trouble with the Toolmaster.

The gelatin is poured and must sit overnight to set up. Then, the clay is removed, leaving jagged edges on the gelatin plate, which is part of the charm.

Using water-based paint (watercolors, temperas, inks, etc.), you paint right on the surface of the gelatin. It's a little tricky because if the surface gets too wet, the plate dissolves. A sheet of paper is placed over the painted surface. Gently, but firmly, you rub the back of the paper to transfer the paint.

On the first print, I discovered I had not used enough paint. I painted the plate again and transferred it to the same sheet. It's easy to register the plate to the paper, so you can overprint images multiple times to experiment with layering the colors. Well, that was so much fun, I over did it, therefore, there are no successes to share of this image that started out so promising. Part of art is knowing when to stop.

I found myself caught up in the color results and obsessed with unusual texture created by the brush strokes and the plate. (BTW, if you look close you can see the globs of gelatin that came off the plate edges and on to the paper.) I tried three different kinds of paper and varying amounts of paint and water—that gelatin plate was rode hard and scraped away wet when I was finished with it.

It's going to take some time to get a good piece with this technique. For now, I'm just trying to figure it all out and see if it's going to work for me. I was thinking about this...why would an artist try something that is just going to make it more difficult to create art? I'm using paint I rarely use (semi-opaque tempera) on an unpredictable surface that reacts differently than anything I've ever worked with in the past.

When I showed Clint the results, the same thing must have been going through his head. He said, "Why are you doing this? What's the point?" Good question. Because it's a new technique that adds a new dimension to my work. Uh...because it adds surprises (good and bad) and a loose and spontaneous feel to my work…because it's fun. He wasn't convinced. He picked a chunk of gelatin out of my hair.

I think this technique may lend itself to work that is more abstracted in nature. A wilder, looser version of what you may have seen from me in the past. The next plate is curing…stay tuned.

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