Gelli Interrupted

As I mentioned in my last post, I was set to take an online Gelli Plate Printmaking class this week with Carla Sonheim, a gentle and humorous soul, whose generous manner makes even the most embarrassing flops seem like a blessing in disguise. I felt excited about the class; I knew it would be fun and that I would meet any challenges that arose with open arms.

Clearly a woman who knows her way around a print studio, Carla packed a lot of information into every day of the 5 day course. I headed off to work afterward each day repeating her words over and over like a mantra, "thin, thinner, thinnest, watercolor" (referring to how you can stretch out an application of paint on the plate.)

We worked on a suite of 8 prints and each day, we could, if we wished, post our work on Flickr.  I played with the colors, enjoying the sensation of the brayer (hand roller used in printmaking to spread ink) on the plate and the soft 'squish squish' of acrylic on the gel plate.

Day 1 and 2

Day 1 and 2

Day 1 and 2

On Wednesday, we worked with the same 8 prints, adding layers onto them with stencils--and it got a little trickier. In the first roll out, the paper is a blank landscape and anything goes. When adding additional layers, there's that familiar feeling of discomfort and simultaneous attachment. What happens if I screw it up?

Like any kind of change or alteration, with printing, it's safer to stay with what's familiar, even when it limits how far you can go. Fortunately, the process leads the way. Apply a stencil on paint, put paper on the stencil and whole new horizons open up.

Gelli 3 and 4

Day 3 and 4

Day 3 and 4

I looked forward to the final day, when Carla told us that she'd share some ways to continue developing the prints--even when the next step wasn't clear.

Unfortunately, fate intervened in the form of boiling eggs accidentally left on the stove by a guest. My husband came home to a house filled with smoke and a shrieking chorus of alarms. We learned that we would have to move out until the microscopic deposits of burnt protein on every surface in the house were removed. I wasn't able to work on the last lesson.

The nature of gelli printing is also filled with blips, spots and full on bloopers. Mistakes are made. Carla noted that one of the best things about these "accidents" (besides consigning them to a sludge pile) is to study them. Pick apart what works and what doesn't. Where are the values too similar? Where does more texture need to be added?

As I witness and experience the effects of this forgetful mistake upon my family's life, I find myself examining our own "virtual prints." We've been asking ourselves questions and finding that there is a lot we can let go of: clothes, papers, attitudes and attachments. A few shifts in attitude are powerful.

I marvel at the correspondences between art and life. Are mistakes truly the way we find our way to change?

Gelli Plate Printing +

Blue Leaves, ©2014, H. Hunter, 6" x 7.5," monoprint I recently visited Hawaii with my family. It's something we try to do once a year, so, with the aid of  frequent flier miles, we headed off; my husband, my sister, my daughter and my daughter's boyfriend--and me.

I'd taken care to pack my new favorite art medium; a gelli plate; a kind of squishy gel surface that serves as a printing plate and allows people like me who treasure immediacy, to create monoprints using stencils, plant matter, and what have you, together with acrylic paint.

I'd ordered some new acrylics and as I packed, I made sure to put plenty of bubble wrap between them and my swim suit.

Each day at art time, I set up shop on the dining room table, which was spacious, overlooked the mountains and had plenty of light.

View of the pali, Kauai, 2014

Wandering outside, I gathered a number of leaves with interesting shapes and began printing--and printing and printing.

My impromptu studio, Kauai, 2014

Over the next several days, I played with the vagaries of acrylic pigment, strange flora and experimented to find the means to capture the outrageous color and patterns I saw everywhere around me.

Leaves; stacked and printed!

I divided my days into warm colors, cool colors and days when I layered both together. Naturally, my guidelines only lasted  a couple of hours until I threw them over and just started adding color by feel.

Red Leaves on Yellow, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

My intent was to enjoy my time in Hawaii and explore the island through paint, paper and leaves. I learned to tolerate the uncooperative elements and to welcome the surprise that the textures of the leaves created when they met the squishy plate.

Turquoise Leaves, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

Often there was an extra treat; the print on the cover pages I was using would transfer to the printing paper, adding yet another layer of meaning.

Pink Stem, ©2014, 6" x 7.5," monoprint

I honestly didn't believe that these experiments would lead anywhere. I made a bunch of prints; grist for the collage mill upon my return, I thought.  However, one fine day when the rest of the family was out exploring the island, I found myself exploring the web and discovered the perfect Gelli class.

I'm so excited because starting today, for a week, I'll be exploring Gelli printing in Carla Sonheim's Gelli Print Printmaking course. I'm using some extra professional leave to get a few more hours in the studio and look forward to sharing my progress with you. Gelli ahoy! A hui ho!