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.

The Story Behind the Tattoo

tattoo

For a long while I said I’d get a third tattoo once I was done with the pregnancy-and-breastfeeding part of my life. (My first two are both small, one on my ankle and one on my hip.) But I wasn’t quite sure what, and I put it off long enough that I thought it would be a good way to mark my fortieth birthday, which was almost six months ago. Leading up to my birthday, I began pinning some ideas, beginning with trees (I have a Thing for Trees). Then I thought about wings, because running has become so important to me again, emotionally even more than physically. Then I looked at hummingbirds, because the few times I’ve seen a hummingbird in person, it felt like a blessing and a visitation.

Then, while in Montana, working with the horses, I noticed a pair of swallows flying around the barn. Once home again, I looked up if swallow tattoos have specific meaning and the first thing I discovered is that sailors would get tattoos of swallows to represent nautical miles traveled, so swallows are a symbol of journeys. That resonated. Ultimately, I decided upon a swallow tattoo on the inside of my left leg, right above the ankle. Wings near the ankle tie into running (think of Hermes’s winged sandals). The swallow is a permanent reminder of the strength I felt that day working with the horses, because sometimes, I forget. And yes, this is a journey.

Our local tattoo place works with you to come up with a sketch, so this was done by the tattoo artist. I wanted line work rather than color. I wanted it facing up. I wanted a reminder: I am strong, and I have traveled far.

Making + Listening::6/2014

Dawn is getting ready to drive cross-continent, but I thought I’d share what we’ve been making this week in the usual Thursday format. The biggest thing getting Made right now is Issue Three of Art Together, which is scheduled to be available on Monday. Here’s the cover:

Spring 2014 Cover

My daughter graciously allowed me to use one of her prints as the cover photo. She flipped through all 34 pages that I’d printed out to proofread, telling me about the photos on every page. Because of course she recognizes them all! She seemed absolutely delighted by that, too.

I am making a list of what I’d like to get to once this issue is out in the world. (I give myself a little break before thinking about the next one.) I owe my middle child a pair of jammie pants (pieces cut, but need to be sewn). I want to sew myself a bag with a yard of Japanese cotton I picked up during a sale. I have some art ideas floating in my head, and I want to do a self-led month of writing prompts using Natalie Goldberg’s book on memoir writing, Old Friend From Far Away. So, you know, just a few things…

Our local library invited kids to submit artwork to be displayed during the month of March, and my kids said they’d like to participate. I can’t even tell you how much Art we’ve made over the past month…art for the zine, art for the column, art just because that’s what we do. Yet two out of three kids would like to make something completely new to drop off on Friday. Of course. My daughter decided upon collage.

G collaging

There, she’s going through the expanding file folder of paper organized (more or less) by color. She is usually a Girl with a Plan, and I just make sure she has the materials she needs.

As for listening, it seems I’ve mostly been listening to whining, bickering, and bad attitude. I’m not sure there’s anyone in this household who isn’t at least in a funk, if not outright cranky. I blame February. My, how it’s dragged on. Truth be told, I don’t expect March to be much better, at least not for a while. We are tired of snow. It’s ugly, the way it’s piled up on the side of the road, covered with sand, dingy, disgusting, depressing. We’re tired of cold, of the need for hats and mittens and snow boots, the time-sucking process of simply getting on enough clothes to get out the door, the way waiting for the school bus with my oldest in the morning is often a feat of endurance. There are no signs of spring here except for the lengthening days–which I do appreciate. But. We’re ready for more.

Speaking of which, don’t forget there are two more days to save 25% with the THINKSPRING code in the shop. And here’s to (almost) March.

“Sick of Winter” Sale

Truth be told, I was Done with winter a long time ago. We’ve got one last week of February to get through and even though I know March is a heart-breaker…at least it’s not February. So to help make it through, I decided to have a sale. Until the end of February (that’s this week only!), use code THINKSPRING for 25% off in the shop.

Find yourself something springlike. Maybe this spring tree?

green tree 1

Or this daisy-printed notebook?

daisy notebook (1)

Or a cute daisy pouch? Either wallet- (shown) or pencil-sized.

small daisy 3

I know I need a little something to get over that last hump before spring. If you do as well, 25% off is my winter blah-busting gift to you.

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.)

Give-away: Home/School/Life Magazine Subscription

Thanks to everyone for your supportive comments, and congratulations to Heather, whose number came up on random.org. She commented, “Our family has been seeking a publication like the one you are creating that delves into all aspects of a homeschooling life. We are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this enriching, inspiring, supportive community. Thank you for creating this magazine. Yay!”

I was very excited when Shelli announced she’d been asked to be the editor of a new homeschooling magazine, Home/School/Life Magazine. Firstly, because I’ve been reading Shelli for a while and I’m truly happy when good things happen for people I know. (I don’t know if I have just found a good corner of the internet or what, but I know of so many creative, generous, hardworking people putting fantastic things into the world.) Secondly, because I don’t read any homeschooling magazines or websites regularly. I read blogs and connect with other homeschoolers online, but I haven’t subscribed to a homeschool magazine in quite a long time. Shelli’s description of the new magazine sounded like it would fill a niche in my mailbox.

And this was before she asked if I’d be interested in writing an art column…

So yes, I now have a personal interest in the success of this magazine, beyond my desire that it succeed because Shelli is the editor and because it will be really nice to have a homeschooling magazine to read. I was really excited to be asked to be a part of it. (So excited I emailed my husband: “I know you’re on a plane right now and won’t read this for hours, but I can’t wait to tell you this!!”) I admit it’s challenging to write a post about something that isn’t, actually, complete yet. The first issue is due this spring, so I can’t review it yet and tell you it’s awesome. But I can tell you I’ve seen the planned contents, and I’m really, really looking forward to it.

HSL flier jpeg

Besides my column, the magazine will include Shelli’s on hands-on science, a curriculum column, and one on books—in every issue. Other regular features include “One Subject, Four Ways,” “Balancing Act,” (something I think we’re all trying to do), and a profile of a homeschooling family. Each issue will also look at a different career path, and have sections devoted to varying grade levels: early grades, middle grades, and high school. And each issue will also include three feature articles. This is an ambitious, exciting-sounding outline for the sort of magazine I’ve been wishing existed.

Shelli and Amy, the editor-in-chief, have generously offered me the chance to give away a one-year digital subscription to the magazine to one of my readers. If you’re interested, leave a comment telling me why you’re excited for a new homeschooling magazine, and make sure to include your name and email address in the proper boxes. (If you’re chosen, I’ll also need your city/state and/or country, but this giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide.) As for me, I am most excited for the tangible connection to a larger community that I think this magazine will represent.

Comments will be open until next Tuesday, February 25, at 6 pm EST, and I’ll contact the winner (and update this post) on February 26.

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.

Another Baby Sweater + Hat Set

baby sweater

Very quickly here to share the (finally) finished baby sweater and hat for my eldest’s teacher, who is due in April. (So look at me go! Finished with time to spare!) This has actually been done for a couple of weeks, waiting for me to get on with weaving in ends and knitting a hat and sewing on buttons–which are handpainted, from Peace Fleece, and they’ve been in my button stash for about ten years or so.

Other details: The sweater pattern is Assisted Hatching, the hat pattern is Ashen, the yarn is Tosh Vintage in denim, the needles were US size 7, and the cuteness is undeniable. That about sums it up.

And just a quick post because I’m also working on a custom order, wanting to try out some new soy-based ink, putting together the printmaking issue of the zine and thinking you will really like it, and solo parenting for the week. I’ll pop in again soon. Have a great Monday!

Prompt: Connect the Dots

I often use the writealm prompts in my own private writing, but rarely do I do anything with the results. Usually I’m just musing to myself. Every now and then, though, something results that I want to share more widely. Yesterday’s prompt was “connect the dots,” and this poem emerged. Thanks for indulging me as I share something not at all homeschool or art related.

Craning necks achingly backwards
squinting into inky blackness to find lines
between stars like glittered sand flung from a child’s shovel.
With persistence the haphazard disarray
brought into order
each shine assigned its place
connected with others to form images,
images connected with stories,
figures of myth fixed on high:
navigation linked to plot from the beginning.

I too seek meaning in the arbitrary,
looking to connect the plot points of my life,
seeking the inevitability of the space in which I stand,
tracing my way backwards, finding proof that I am
exactly
where I belong,
proof of the reliability of
the star map of my soul.