Category Archives: printmaking

Tutorial: Offset Printing With A Gelatin Plate

Offset Printing Using a Gelatin Plate at amyhoodarts.com

I’ve been head down into printmaking lately, even more than usual, as I researched and prepared Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking. At the beginning of this issue, I define the categories of printmaking, and every category includes at least one version that is possible to do at home, without a printing press…except for intaglio printing. In this type of printmaking, grooves are carved into a plate, which is usually metal, through any number of methods. The plate is inked and then wiped clean, so the ink only remains in the grooves. Paper is dampened, placed on the plate, and the whole shebang is run through a printing press, so that the heavy pressure pushes the paper into the grooves, resulting in the print. It’s just not possible to create enough pressure to do that without a press.

However, the process I describe here, which I read about in Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate, by Nancy Marculewicz (sadly, out of print), mimics the effect of intaglio, taking advantage of the give that a gelatin plate provides–the surface is soft enough to be imprinted. I didn’t include this method in the zine; it’s a little more complex than the free-form experimentation with the gelatin plate that works so well with children and beginners (and truthfully, never gets old), and it uses a Very Sharp Tool. But I do want to share it for those of you who fall in love with gelatin plate printmaking and want to take it further.

Materials: Thin Plexiglas sheet (I found mine in the art store with the drafting/engineering type supplies); scribe or something similarly sharp; block-printing ink and palette of some sort; brayer; baren; gelatin plate (instructions for making one can be found in Art Together Issue Three)

Process: First, you need a line drawing that you want to work with and that fits the size of your gelatin plate. I did this twice. The first drawing is at the top of this post; the tutorial was made using the second drawing. When you have a drawing you’re happy with, tape it to your surface and then tape your thin Plexiglas sheet on top. You want to try to minimize slippage.

ready to trace

Now you’re going to use your scribe to scratch into the surface along the lines. You’re aiming to throw up a burr on each side of your scratch, so it holds the ink.

Inscribing into the plastic plate.

Apologies for the glare…overhead lighting in the studio.

You can lift up the plastic to check your progress. This isn’t easy work; you don’t want to scratch right through the plastic, but you do want the grooves deep enough to hold the ink. (You may find, after going through the entire process and taking a print, that you want to deepen your grooves and try again.)

When the etching is complete, ink up your plastic plate using block-printing ink and a brayer (again, if you’re unsure how to do this, you can check out Issue Three). I tried colored ink but found black worked best; however, experiment! Another type of ink, or acrylic paint, may yield completely different results.

inked plate

Make sure you cover the grooved area, but you don’t need to ink up the entire plate. That’s because in the next step, you’re going to wipe away the excess ink. I used an old dish towel for this, one of the really thin ones. Any lint-free cloth will work. I’m thinking old cloth diapers might be perfect.

excess ink wiped

Work quickly, because ink dries fast. See how it’s been caught in the grooves? The next step is to place your etched, inked plate face down onto your gelatin plate and press, to transfer the ink to the gelatin.

impression on gelatin plate

So cool, right? Now lay your paper over your gelatin plate and take a print. Normally with a gelatin plate you don’t need a baren, but for this process, you really kind of do.

finished print 1

It’s really an organic-looking result. Pressing hard enough on the plastic plate to transfer the ink causes some bubbles, which may show up on the finished print. Make sure to take ghost prints, too. (Ghost prints are second prints taken without re-inking the plate.)

Knowing that inked gelatin plates also pick up texture from textured surfaces, such as bubble wrap, that are pressed against them, I wondered if I could use the plastic plate in that way. So I inked up the gelatin plate instead, then pressed the non-inked plastic plate face down onto it. Then I took a print from the gelatin plate. This is the result.

finished print 2

You can really see the bubbles in this version. You can also see that the plastic plate was slightly smaller than the gelatin, because a firm line was created where the edge of the plate plastic into the gelatin. I prefer this version. It’s interesting.

As I said, this is a bit more labor intensive and controlled than the usual methods of using the gelatin plate, which are very loose and “let’s see what happens.” Yet because it uses gelatin, it’s still very organic looking and impossible to completely control. It’s also a way to integrate original drawings into gelatin plate prints.

If you try this method (or have tried it) and have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them. And if you’ve never tried printmaking before, it’s so much fun…and I have an entire issue of Art Together to help you get started.

{Art Together} Issue Three: Printmaking Available Now

I am so VERY excited to announce that the third issue of Art Together is now available. This issue focuses on printmaking, which has long been a fascination for me and my kids. It’s so fun and magical. You can read all about (and purchase) the third issue right here. Some giveaways are planned as well, and I’ll be sure to let you know where to look for them.

I’ve added some of the artwork we created while preparing this issue to the {Art Together} Flickr Group. If you’ve been creating art together with your children, I’d love to have you join and share it in the group.

And as always, questions, comments, and feedback are always welcome: amyhood at amyhoodarts.com.

Making + Listening::5/2014

I’ve been very busy making this past week. First priority was a custom order for Dawn, for a pouch for her son’s Kindle. She also wanted it to be protected against wetness. After talking about her son’s interests, this is the design we came up with.

photo 1 copy

For the uninitiated, that’s a Minecraft cake block.

I lined it with PUL, the fabric that’s used for cloth diapers and wet bags.

photo 2 copy

It’s on its way to Dawn and her son now. I always put my own good intentions into what I make–even when I don’t know who may end up buying something, I make everything as if I’m sewing a gift for a friend. But when I do know who will be getting it, that’s even better, because then I’m thinking of them all the way through. Which is to say, I enjoyed making this for Ander!

Also this week I’ve been working to put together the next issue of Art Together. I am so excited about it. As part of that process, I made my first gelatin printmaking plate.

gelatin plate

Photo by V. Hood.

The kids and I spent Wednesday morning experimenting with it, and we were back at it after lunch on Thursday! I have a stack of gelatin plates in my fridge right now (I cut the large one down into smaller ones). Because this is a completely normal thing for some of us, to have ink-stained printmaking plates hanging out in the fridge.

I’m also happy to be making time for running again. Earlier this month I was cleared by the orthopedist to start slowly, with short distances, adding only 1/2 mile or so of mileage each week. I was waylaid a bit while my husband was away last week, but I got back to the track last night and it felt so good! I’m also transitioning to minimalist shoes, on the orthopedist’s recommendation, which requires a different footstrike, too. (I know, I lost the non-runners there, sorry.) The bright side is that coming back slowly to running makes it the perfect time to transition, because you have to do that slowly too. By the time sunrise is early enough for me to get out before I need to tend to the day (my favorite running time), I ought to be able to just head out the door and go.

As for listening…it’s still the Olympics most of the time, and Pandora shuffle in the art room. What a happy thing, to listen to music and make art.

(Linking up with Dawn again this week.)

Making+Listening::4/2014

The block-printing ink we use is water-soluble. Unlike oil-based ink, it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up (and truthfully, it’s the first one that concerns me more–my goal is always high quality, non-toxic art materials). However, it’s not permanent even when dry, which means we can’t go into a print with any wet media. So I did some poking around online and learned about Akua Intaglio inks. It’s soy-based, water-based, permanent, and cleans up with dish soap and water. I ordered a small container of black ink off Amazon to experiment with before going all in and ordering, well, lots of it.

hanging prints

I played with it earlier this week. (I also set up a simple registration system so my prints would be evenly centered.)

drying rock crab prints

This is my latest linocut, which I actually did a few weeks ago, but then needed to adjust, and I never posted about it. It’s from a sketch I made of a rock crab quite a while ago.

After the prints dried overnight, I added watercolor to one to see if the ink was, indeed, permanent.

watercolor + print

How delightful is that?! I’m not sure what to do with these. I think I should have cut the paper larger–it’s 5″ x 7″ (the print itself is 4″ x 6″). I’m mulling over the possibilities for these. And of course, the kids and I are also experimenting with this ink together–but I can’t show you that yet.

Since I’m calling this a Making + Listening post and linking up with Dawn, we’ve mostly been listening and watching the Olympics. The kids-at-home get to see events live in the mornings, which is fun, and they pulled out the world atlas so they could learn to identify the athletes’ countries by their flags. And when I’m working in the art area, either by myself or with the kids, it’s Pandora–back on the 80s station because I need the extra pep when I’m the only parent for the week.

Building up the Mail Stash

February might be a tough month for blogging, because much of the kid-involved art exploration going on here will probably end up in either my column or my e-zine. After those are published, the outtakes can and probably will end up here (we are exploring so. much.), but until then… I’m excited about the things we’re reading, doing, and planning to do, yet have to be quiet about it here.

mail stash at amyhoodarts.com

However, I can share with you that I’ve been building up my mail stash! With odds and ends of time in the art studio, I’ve made lots of postcards to send out. These aren’t for swaps–as fun as swaps are, I think right now I much prefer the idea of sending out mail to people with whom I already have a connection. I can add a personal note and have the fun of waiting for it to land and brighten a day. I haven’t set a formal goal with this (because it’s a FUN THING), but I like the idea of trying to send out something every week. So while the kids were making Valentines, I made Valentine-themed postcards. When I had ten minutes downstairs, I collaged some Bristol board to turn into postcards. It’s like a quick hit of art therapy, and then comes the fun of sending them out to friends.

I can also share this: in case you missed it on Twitter, a get-to-know-me questionnaire was featured on the Home/School/Life blog last week. Check it out!

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

The Making of a Title

The first thing I make for each Art Together issue is the cover header. If you look on the sidebar, you’ll see that the headers match the theme. Once I decide upon a focus and begin researching (I do love the researching), making the header helps set my direction on the rest of the issue. It gets me into the mood of what the kids and I will be working on and distilling for the next month or two. I thought you might like to see how the header for the third issue, which will be out in March, came together.

The focus of the third issue is printmaking, so I had many possibilities. Art-making is a series of decisions made; I’ve no doubt I could make dozens of satisfying printmaking-based headers. I wanted to use easily accessible techniques, though, so that narrowed it down a bit. I decided I’d use a stencil process to get the letters onto the paper, so first I had to make a stencil. I traced the lettering from Issue Two onto tracing paper and rubbed the back of the paper with a graphite block so I could transfer the lines. This works like carbon paper.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

I taped the tracing paper onto Bristol board and traced over the lines again, which transferred them onto Bristol board. The next step was to carefully cut on the lines with an x-acto knife.

The cut stencil.

The cut stencil.

I set that aside and found some left-over brown packing paper from some of the pre-Christmas mail orders. I crumpled it up, then flattened it out again. Then I rolled it with blue ink using a brayer.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

After it dried, I rolled it in the opposite direction with yellow ink, using a plastic tube wrapped in twine to create a different print.

 

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

For the third layer, I cut triangles out of bubble wrap, painted them with red acrylic, and made prints in a star-burst sort of design.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Finally, when that was dry, it was time to use the stencil. I taped it down, including the floating bits inside letters like “A” and “R.” This isn’t the best method, but it worked. I used black acrylic paint and a sponge brush.

The final title print.

The final title print.

There is just a little bit of paint excess on the left side of the “O,” but that’s okay. One of my goals for this zine is for it to retain a bit of a zine vibe, even though it’s a digital file. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hand-write the entire thing. For practicality’s sake, much of it is typed. But I didn’t want a slick computer-produced header, and I wanted touches of someone’s hand to be found throughout. So you’ll find not just my kids’ and my own artwork, but hand-done headers and, sometimes, borders. Hand-drawn or -colored explanations. The stamp of the people who put it together, in hopes that not just the content but the entire package is inspiring (and also because we have fun doing it!).

This is the final header, cropped in Photoshop, just as you’ll see it on the cover of Issue Three. Now you’ll know how it was created!

Issue 3 Title Sharp

Issue One and Issue Two are available now. You can sign up for my newsletter to be informed when Issue Three is available and to hear about discount codes and the like.

Making + Listening

Now that Issue Two is out in the world, I really want to get my hands into some off-computer creating. Of course lots of art-making goes on while creating the magazine, but the last push is very much on the computer, and the very last bit is sorting out the tech-stuff, which is getting easier but still gives me a bit of a headache. So it was a treat to put together this card to send to a pen-pal.

notecard at amyhoodarts.com

That’s a hand-carved stamp printed on Kraft card stock, colored in with a colored pencil, surrounded by a glued-on watercolor/salt effect border. Yay! Making things with my hands is so…necessary.

I also started a pair of socks for my eldest, having finished his mittens. (He has gloves, too, but at 12 he still appreciates and wants hand-knit mittens from his mama. Love.)

beginning of a sock at amyhoodarts.com

He isn’t typically a bright-color kid (his mittens are black), but he only wears handknit socks to bed, so I’m guessing that explains this rather bright yarn. We were more concerned if it felt okay. It would be nice to have these finished in time for Christmas, but knitting socks for him no longer means quickly whipping up some kid-sized socks; it’s just the same as knitting a pair for me. His new snow boots, in fact, fit me. (!!) However, he’s a good-natured kid and will happily accept partly finished socks and a promise, if it comes to that.

As for the listening part, I’ve been listening to my youngest nonstop. We’ve also been listening to Christmas music, but when I need a break–and sometimes I do–I turn it to the 80s station to pep myself up a bit. And I’ve been overdosing on Of Monsters and Men and loving it.

How about you? What are you making and listening to? I’m linking up with Dawn again here.

Notebooks in the Shop

I’ve added some new items to the shop, including some hand-colored and hand-stamped notebooks, like this one:

daisy moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And this one:

tree moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And a couple of others. I also added two new embroidered pouches:

I sewed both of these together this past weekend, and when I was completely finished–turning hole sewn closed by hand, pockets ironed–I regarded them with what can only be described as satisfaction. I am pleased by them, in that quiet way that comes of creating the thing that you envisioned. Sometimes I get that feeling from a piece of writing, too, the sense that it expressed exactly what I was trying to say. That’s a good feeling, a feeling worth slogging through the not-quite-right attempts in order to achieve.

Anyway, I suppose if I ever lose that feeling with these pouches, I’ll have to move onto making something else, because I hope the sense of care and satisfaction hangs around them like an aura, packaged and mailed right along with the pouch.

Grounded!

I’ve been looking forward to changing the clocks back because it pushes sunrise early enough that I can fit in a morning run for a few more weeks. However, after some on-and-off calf pain became more severe Saturday, I did the smart thing and didn’t go on any more runs until I saw a sports medicine-minded orthopedist. Luckily, he had a cancellation on Tuesday so I was able to see him quickly. He confirmed what I suspected–a shin splint, only in the left leg. (Weird, right? More on that in a minute.) I need to stop running until the pain is gone, which is hard, hard, hard. It’s my form of active meditation. It’s been integral to my mental health. That’s why I quickly decided it was worth it to get myself to a doctor who’d assess me properly. He referred me to the running clinic at the office’s associated physical therapy center, where I’ll have my gait evaluated–I’m looking forward to that in a tech-y, science-y way too. I have to wait almost three weeks for that, though, because he doesn’t want me running on the treadmill until I’m free of pain. He did say I could walk, though, as long as it doesn’t hurt, so I’m back to sunrise walks. It’s not the same, but it gives me quiet, sort-of-active time alone before the demands of the day descend.

As for the one-leg-only phenomenon, the doctor double-checked that my right leg had no pain at all. “Do you run on the side of the road?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I said. “Facing traffic.”

“Always?” I confirmed yes, pretty much always. The roads in our neighborhood have a very pronounced camber, and running facing traffic means my left leg is always on the downward angle. I’d love to see a digital recreation of that, with all the forces and angles shown, with equations of how the force is unevenly distributed and messing up my left leg. Interesting, no? In a physics kind of way? That might not be the reason–thus the gait evaluation–but it can’t be helping.

Anyway, I have a stack of books to read, I’m writing daily (following along with Amanda’s prompts), and Wednesday afternoon I spent some time printing onto Moleskine notebooks.

printed notebooks at amyhoodarts.com

Some of these will be teacher gifts, but I think some will end up in the shop. It’s kind of an experiment. As for the running hiatus, I’m trying to keep perspective. The conundrum is that running is a big part of how I keep my perspective with everything else. May the shin heal quickly…