I have learned so much already, but the one thing that didn’t surprise me was the difference between the course notes and reality. For this exercise they say “Make between five and seven prints..” after three sessions I have 80!
This discrepancy stems from my decision to use water-based acrylic paint on a Gelli Plate. As anyone who has ever used one of these, one print leads to another and the next thing you know two hours have past and you have a stack of prints. Spending such long periods deeply immersed in my ‘creative place’, where logic, reason and reality are suspended has been hugely beneficial and freeing.
The practical considerations of my decision to use the Gelli Plate were that it was what I already had, it is easy to clean and that the paint dries quickly. The thought of oil based inks with their retarded drying time really put me off because I have enough problems with stray hairs from my Labrador attaching themselves to everything in sight, without inviting them in with an exposed, tacky surface.
If I had the opportunity to work with a more traditional press in a different setting, I would have jumped at the chance. The increased amount of work involved in the production of each print would probably have made me more careful about the number I took… And there it is… the word ‘careful’… this is exactly the quality I am experimenting doing without. Can I still be me, only faster?
The Gelli Plate seems to be perfectly designed for today’s ‘throwaway’ society and for instant gratification. It performs well with cheap acrylic paints and dry copy paper: it positively invites prolific use. This is exactly what I needed to encourage the development of my drawing skills, it gives me the freedom to be bold and spontaneous in my mark making because the losses are not too great.
Each of us gains something different from every task, even though we are all responding to the same set of exercises. For me printmaking provides an opportunity to explore drawing, rather than focussing on achieving the perfect print. Of course I am doing my best to explore the variables and to produce ‘quality’ but in this case I think ‘quantity’ might teach me more… (We will see!)
The dangers of using a Gelli Plate are that the prints might look amateurish. I need to be aware that the most common use of a Gelli Plate seems to be (from internet research) to be the production of backgrounds for a Journal Pages, this is not what I want my monotypes to be. I have totally brought into the versatility of the plate and am hopeful I can achieve the results I require. I am prepared to change the plate if necessary.
I gathered a range of mark-making tools and set about manipulating smooth layers of black acrylic paint. The image on the right is fairly typical of the stack of prints I generated at first. Since this this not the first time we have been required to ‘make marks’ I was totally prepared for this to be an exploration of line, rather than a representational exercise.
I enjoyed the freedom of this, learning a lot not only about the marks each tool could achieve but about how thick to roll the paint, how long I could work for before it dried and the importance of lining up the paper (which I am rubbish at!). These early experiments have provided me with a reference as I have progressed.
I was really rather taken with the ghost print above right, in the photograph it looks quite dark but the brush marks actually have a really soft tactile quality that contrasts well with the darkened spaces between them where excess paint has collected.
I spent a while trying to recreate this effect, which in itself was a useful lesson about printmaking: spontaneity creates marks that are difficult to achieve when you try too hard.