Spent the morning recarving the Islamic tile pattern, but not without first looking over my studio journal.  I couldn’t help but notice that some of those images and combinations have a life and energy that is lacking in my work lately, and it immediately brought to mind Professor Jim Coates quoting David Ireland: “You can’t make art by making art.”  A koan for an artist to be sure.  You could also say that art is the byproduct of the attempt to make art, but not necessarily the direct result.  That in fact trying too hard to make Art with a capital A, can rob it of its soul and stop short of its potential.

All these secondary thoughts are my own and not necessarily the fault of Prof Coates or David Ireland.


This print is more or less what I was trying to do today, although in retrospect I’d like to reverse the image, which will work just fine with stamping the figure directly onto the paper instead of using the gelatin plate to transfer as I’ve done here.  You can see the difference in the figure below.  The carved linoleum plate of the figure below is stamped onto the paper.  Above, the same plate is stamped into a gelatin plate and the ink smears a bit when I press the plate into the gel.


Also, on the scrap above the pattern is printed over rather than under the figure. Below are 2 images from my studio journal.  Probably from about a year ago, perhaps I should date the pages from now on.  There’s something here that reminds me of Louise Despont talking about making the “mistakes that need to be made.”

journalleft Journalright


Ursula/ Ustrasana with stamps

I bought some Speedball Speedy-cut and a set of lino cutters and experimented with combining stamps with gelatin printing using the pose of Ursula, a photographer herself and a dedicated ashtanga practitioner, doing Ustrasana, or camel pose.  The smaller stamp from yesterday is Peg Mulqueen in laguvajrasna.

Here are the stamps:



And here are some of the prints.  You won’t believe how I got the background:





Here I cut out a masking stencil to change the dimensions and see a cleaner edge:



Not a bad day, after all.  I rolled Indian corn gently but with a little pressure over the jello.    Then combined a few other things with it.  I could use some different size pans to make gelatin plates in.  I could also cut them down to size.

So these are all Speedball inks, which come in “brown” and “yellow”  instead of “burnt umber” or “hansa yellow.”  I like a little more specific information about the pigments I’m using so I’m thinking of trying Golden Open acrylics, which are slower drying acrylics and which I could also use to paint with and use my good bristle brushes, which generally you can’t use with acrylics.  Then there’s Daniel Smith block printing ink, which is oil based but water soluble I think??  The consistency of the Speedball inks can be a bit gummy and I wonder if that is due to filler.

The annoying thing is that nothing holds the delicate nuances of pattern like the jello itself, so it’s hard to get patterns onto the stencils, and even if I do they don’t always release from the stencil.  I’m sure that Linda Germain wrote about this somewhere on her blog, and next I want to try freezer paper stencils and see how that works out.  After I carve a few more stamps.


Cutting the Gelatin

Last week I made some headway with these prints:


This one (above) was overprinted with white to emphasize the contrast between the figure and the background.



I’m a little frustrated here with the stencil, but I still like how it came out.



Not, perhaps, a total success, but I love the edges on the gelatin prints.  The figure needs more… more something.  More visual interest.

But then I tried this technique from Nancy Marculewicz’s out of print book on gelatin printing, which involves cutting into the gelatin.  Here’s something you can’t do with a Gelli plate.  Well you could, but it’s cost prohibitive.  With this technique, it’s often the ghost or cognate print that comes out best.


This one is my favorite.  The letters printed upside down don’t read so letter-y.  The stars and moon pattern is from a cardboard plate from the Provincetown workshop.  I probably should have reworked the bottom before printing, but I love the detail in the figure.  That’s what I’ve been trying for all this time.  How did I do it?  I need to take more notes while I’m making these because I forget.  Let’s see.  Oh yes, I made a stencil and carefully saved all of the pieces.  Unfortunately it was on this horrible curling when wet translucent paper I bought this Summer, so I had to throw it out after one use.  But I was able to ink the plate and block the area outside the figure, than press the pattern onto the inked figure that was cut into the gelatin.  You see?  Maybe not.  I can really see the point of making videos of these processes.


In this one you can see the lines that are formed by the gap between the cut-out gelatin shapes.


Now this one, you see those black lines?  Trying to get those fine black lines with a gelatin print is not all that easy.  I’ve been reading about a method of offset printing with an acrylic plate, but haven’t had that much luck with my Provincetown plates and I don’t have any more acrylic plates.  This figure is the ghost (or second print) from the gelatin plate.  The hand and foot area is fuzzy because it’s tricky cutting fine detail in jello with a regular exacto blade.  I need something akin to a pumpkin carving blade.  Come to think about it, perhaps I can find them for cheap at Target or CVS!  I’d be willing to bet those cheap knife sets work a whole lot better with gelatin than they do with pumpkins.  I’m also thinking of buying some plates, either acrylic or they have these foam plates.  Or perhaps I’ll try my hand at cutting linoleum plates.

The possibilities are truly endless.  It’s funny.  My daughter said: no offense Mom, but all you do is yoga poses?  Well, that’s okay daughter.  Stubborn-ness is my worst vice and my greatest asset.


Monotype Guild of New England

Today I submitted 3 images to the Monotype Guild of New England for their annual national show in early 2013.  It’s a bit out of my league at the moment, and I have reservations about submitting to anything when I feel like I need this year to build a body of work.  It’s not cooked yet, the flavors haven’t melded.  But it was hard to ignore that monotypes and monoprints have been my primary output lately so, what the heck.  I won’t hear until 12/10.

After serving as a juror on a week long murder trial, which was quite a wringer let me tell you, I managed to get back to the studio (a.k.a. my kitchen turned print shop) last thursday with the kids and, not expecting anything, I got some images I liked.




This is a riot.  All I did was trace a picture of an elephant from a Jane Goodall book for kids, on acetate, ink it up and print away.  You can see that I’m obsessed with the alphabet stencil.  I love the way the letters and symbols are the building blocks for a language, in a similar way that yoga poses are the building blocks of a yoga practice, and simple images can be the building blocks of a visual language.  I’m still having problems getting the ink to adhere and release properly from the acetate stencils so I’m going to have to come up with something better.  I can try a sturdy paper and coat both sides with gloss or matte medium.  That’s next.

Did I mention that I think I need to buy a printing press?  This is Pamela Lawson’s fault.  I saw her monotypes at Lawrence Academy’s gallery in Groton, MA last thursday and they are gorgeous and bright and cheeky.  Take a look out her red-winged blackbirds, done mostly with rollers.