Monday, October 24, 2011

Who Was That Masked Man?

He's a shape I cut out — and he's one of my favorite
images to use as a mask in my Gelli® monotypes.

 In fact, I like him so much I've cloned him

Using masks is an ideal way to create interesting imagery, focal points and repetitions in your Gelli® prints. A perfect tool for creating a series. 

A mask is basically the opposite of a stencil. Whereas a stencil has the design cut out (holes), a mask is the cut out shape. Put another way, if you punch a shape from a piece of paper — the hole you've created in the paper can be used as a stencil. The shaped piece of paper you punched out can be used as a mask.

The function of a mask is to create a barrier between the painted plate and the substrate you're printing. Applying a mask onto a painted gel plate results in a blocked out area on your print, in the shape of the mask. Who knew it's so easy to create visual complexity!

Making a mask can be as simple as tearing a piece of paper into a random shape. Or using a punched shape or die-cut. Or easier yet — how about using a found object, like a leaf or fern, as a mask.

I've cut masks from freezer paper, computer paper, waxed paper, parchment paper, kraft paper, index cards, card stock, manilla folders, frisket, acetate, DuraLar, Yupo, Mylar, Denril, stencil blanks, magazine pages, newsprint, chipboard, cereal boxes ... and probably some other materials. Each works well and will produce a masking effect. 

Some materials interact with paint a little differently and/or better than others. 

And some of these materials become so beautiful after you’ve used them as masks — you’ll want to use them in your artwork!

Among my favorite masks are images I've cut out of Sheer Heaven™ — like this guy. If you're looking for a durable material that lays flat, stands up to repeated use, is easy to cut and feeds through an inkjet printer — you'll love Sheer Heaven™ (available online at

Take a look around ... you'll find masking materials and found masks everywhere! 

So let's make Gelli® prints using masks!

1. Apply a layer of paint onto the gel plate with a brayer or soft brush (create textures in your paint, if desired)
2. Lay the mask onto the wet paint
3. Cover with paper or fabric.
4. Rub to transfer the paint and pull your print
The mask has created a blank area on your print.
When you lift the mask from the gel plate, you'll see there is residual paint on the plate where the mask had been.
Quickly place a piece of paper on the plate and pull another print. This second print — made after the masking object is removed — is often a delicate print with great detail. Especially when the masking object has a finely textured surface, like a leaf or feather. The second print, pulled from the paint remaining on the plate, is called a “ghost” print.

This is the ghost print from the plate above. Notice the detailed
outlines that show up in the print.

I like to use Golden Open Acrylics for this process as it gives me the clearest ghost prints. Exquisite detail! 

But with any paint, the trick is to use a thin coat. A little paint goes a long way. 

Also, when you remove your mask, it will have paint on it. So use it as a stamp! Place it paint-side down on a print and rub to transfer the paint. It's a fabulous way to make an image and it cleans some of the wet paint off your mask! 

Another exciting way to use masks is to over-print multiple layers on the same print. It’s as easy as it sounds! Here’s how to do it ...

Follow the steps for making a masked Gelli® print ... up to Step 3.

This time, instead of printing on blank paper or fabric, you're going to print onto a previously printed piece.
The area covered by the mask will reveal the original print. The rest of the print is a new paint layer.

Printing with masks on patterned paper or commercially printed fabric will give you instant complex prints!!!
This Gelli print was done on commercially printed fabric with Versatex
Screen Printing Inks for Fabric and Paper (#346 Super Opaque White).

Using masks to create a focal point is also a great way to improve a monotone print. One of my favorite ways to spice up a print is to roll a layer of opaque gold metallic paint onto my gel plate, such as Speedball Opaque Screenprinting Fabric Paint. Create some texture in the paint. Then lay down a mask onto the wet paint and print a new layer right over that first print. Works like a charm!

                                  Before                                              After

To integrate a rubber stamped image into your Gelli® print follow these simple masking instructions:

(Stamped frisket masks)
1. Stamp with a rubber stamp onto frisket (durable, self-adhering film with a removable adhesive that leaves no residue... such as Grafix Frisket Film). Post-it paper works well, too.

2. Cut out the image (slightly inside the edges to avoid a halo effect) ... and now you have a removable self-adhesive mask.

3. Stamp the image onto your printing paper.

4. Overlay the frisket mask on top of the stamped image — it will stick to the paper.

5. Make a gel print and remove the mask to reveal your stamped image.

The stamped image is beautifully 
preserved and synthesized into the print! 

Fun, yes? 

Further detailing with colored pencils can enhance the stamped image and add yet another dimension to your print.
These techniques should keep you good and busy making fascinating prints! And remember, monotypes are perfect beginnings! Work back into them with collage, watercolor, pencils, pastel, stitching — you name it!
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Now, a bit of trivia. For those of you who remember the famous line — "Who was that masked man?" ... (from the iconic 50's TV show, "The Lone Ranger") — you'll surely remember the line that followed:
"I wanted to thank him."

Try making masks and using them on your Gelli plate. You'll thank them.

And I thank YOU for taking a few minutes to watch this slideshow of my masked man’s metamorphosis!

PS - I love reading your thoughts and ideas. All comments, 
short and long, are welcome and appreciated! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gild the Gelli®

To "gild the lily" is to unnecessarily add adornment to something that is already beautiful and perfect. Simply put, you're overdoing it.

To gild the Gelli® ... Well, that's a different story!!! More is more! Let's glitz it up!
There are lots of ways to add a sparkly metallic touch to your Gelli® monoprints! I'd like to share a recent discovery — a fun, easy and different way to create a radiant Gelli® print.
And this time we're not printing on paper or fabric!
I'll call this technique "Gilded Gelli® Film".
One of the unique features of this technique is that the print image will not be reversed.
What you see on the plate is exactly how it will appear in the print!
For this process — in addition to your Gelli® plate and acrylic paints — you'll need:

1. Clear adhesive film (cold laminating film) — 
available in various sizes (in sheets and rolls) at craft and office supply stores. Clear packing tape or clear contact paper will also work for this technique.

2. Metal leaf, such as Mona Lisa Metal Leaf — available at art and craft stores. (Tip: Keep metal leaf away from your Gelli plate to avoid loose and flyaway bits from sticking to it.)

No metal leaf on hand? No problem. There's an easy workaround. Use aluminum foil instead.

Other supplies include a brayer or soft brush, and various texture tools.

That's it. So let's get started!

First, apply a layer of acrylic paint to the Gelli® plate surface.

For this technique you will need to have some unpainted areas.

• Use texture tools to remove paint.

• Or wipe out a design with a cotton swab ... (my favorite way to make dots!)

It's important to have some small areas with NO PAINT!

 Using more than one color paint can make exciting prints ... just be sure to leave some blank, unpainted areas. Take your time.

Have fun. And remember — what you see on your plate is exactly what your print will look like!

Then let the paint dry on the plate.  
Really! Totally dry!

A little patience is all it takes — if the paint is not fully dry, this technique will not work. This is when those fast-drying acrylic paints are your best friend!

If you're compelled to move the drying process along, use a hair dryer on the COOL setting. No heat. And NO heat guns!!!

All dry? Take a piece of clear adhesive-backed film and remove the backing sheet if there is one. You are going to apply the film adhesive-side down onto the dried, painted surface of the gel plate and rub with your hands as usual to transfer the paint.

Slowly, begin removing the film from the gel plate. The paint will adhere to the clear film.

If there are any air bubbles between the film and the plate, the paint will not transfer in those spots.

The adhesive film must make contact with the paint.

As you pull the film off the plate — you might have a spot where the paint isn't lifting. Simply roll the film back over that area, rub again, and continue pulling the film from the gel plate.

This is a very easy process!

Your monoprint is now transferred onto the laminating film. Where there is no paint, the film remains clear and sticky. As you'll see — that's a good thing!

The next step is to apply metal leaf to the sticky, clear areas of the film. It will adhere easily. (Tip: Trim away the unpainted film edges first.)

You are working on what will be the back of the print.

Use your finger to burnish the metal leaf onto the film. Brush away the extra metal leaf bits. (I do this with a cosmetic sponge, over a sheet of paper, then tap the crumbs into a container and save for use on other pieces.)

Details from the right side
The metal leaf is now permanently adhered to the film. When you turn the print over to view the right side, you'll see the metal leaf has filled in the blank spaces! Beautiful!

If you don't have metal leaf — or are looking for an economical alternative — use aluminum foil!

Place the adhesive side of your Gelli® Film print onto the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil ... and burnish.

The film will adhere to the foil and fill in the unpainted areas with silver! Couldn’t be easier!

Gilded Gelli® Film is a wonderful collage component!

Take advantage of its transparent nature and consider layering over text or journal writing.

The layer below will peek through in places!

You can even selectively scrape some paint off the film to create a clear space — perfect for revealing an image placed underneath.

Here’s something else to try!

Before adding the metal leaf, I like to press flat sequins, tiny stickers, small pieces of torn paper, or any flat element, onto the sticky parts of the film print! What fun!

Or, instead of metal leaf, my friend Judi Kauffman, suggests rubbing the sticky film parts with mica pigment powders such as Pearl Ex or Perfect Pearls, or micro-fine glitter. Use multiple colors for a fabulous shimmery effect!

Dazzling, right?

But wait! There's more!!!

Lightly sand the shiny surface with ultra fine sandpaper and ...

You can stamp on the sanded surface of your printed Gilded Gelli® Film using StazOn inks!

Dab on some alcohol inks! Doodle with Sharpies, Sakura Souffle pens, Copic markers, and other permanent markers and pens.

Embellish the film surface with dimensional fabric paints, like those by Jones Tones or Tulip. Try a bit of foiling. Add a touch of glitter with Ranger's Stickles

Layer collage paper, fabric, or found objects onto the surface.

Go play! The possibilities are endless!

The discovery of the "Gilded Gelli® Film" technique resulted from one of those "what if..." moments we all have. As you may have guessed, I was wondering if dried acrylic paint on a Gelli® plate could easily be removed by applying tape and pulling it off. It can! 

And in case you've ever wondered where the expression "gilding the lily" comes from, the source is none other than William Shakespeare!

And he's been famously misquoted!

From his play, King John (1594), you'll find the following:

While you're thinking that over, please take a few moments to watch this slideshow featuring a collection of Artist Trading Cards made from "Gilded Gelli® Film"!


Friday, July 29, 2011

1 + 1 = 3 ...

Or, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

After spending hours in the studio experimenting with different paints, textures and printing techniques, I took a break to assess my new stack of Gelli® monotypes. I had created these prints on regular computer paper and dry wax paper, which gave me a collection of interesting images on relatively thin and translucent papers.

Some prints had wonderful areas with cool patterns, others had layers of serendipitous paint interactions. And while not all of the prints could stand on their own, each had parts I was excited about.

So I did what any collage artist would do...

A few years ago I took a workshop taught by Beryl Taylor and learned her fabulous technique for making paper cloth. In a nutshell, you use diluted glue to adhere torn pieces of paper to muslin. 
Tissue paper, ephemera, and fabric scraps are layered over the torn papers to add texture and interest, and the whole thing dries into a sturdy piece of collaged fabric. It's a great material to work with!

The beauty of using Gelli® print fragments in this process is that each little piece is a unique handmade print. The thin paper stock is a perfect weight for Beryl's technique. And in this case, since the pieces all came from the same batch of prints, the colors and patterns work together harmoniously, as they share similar attributes such as color and pattern. It's all good! 

Looking at the piles of Gelli® print snippets, I couldn't wait to get out the glue and muslin and get to work! 

After the paper cloth was dry I cut it into shapes (figures). At this point, I worked the paper cloth surface further with stencils, stamps, pens and hand-stitching.

Next, I fused the figures to black felt. 

I then carefully machine-stitched close to the edge with variegated thread. 

The last step was to trim the felt close to the stitched edge.

That completed the figures, which would ultimately be adhered to the tiered wooden structure I had built.

The background of this piece was covered in Golden Fiber Paste, with scrim and gauze embedded in areas. Textures were created in the wet fiber paste with a variety of mark-making tools. When that was dry, the surface was gessoed, painted, and glazed. 

Finally, the figures were strategically cut at the arms, 
interlocked, and glued to the finished surface.
There's one more detail to this piece:
Spelled out along the lower edge, is one of my favorite Japanese proverbs. It reads: 

"A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle."

Once more ... the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

“Strength in Numbers”
Mixed Media with Gelli Monotypes - 36” x 31 x 4”
by Joan Bess

To learn more about Beryl Taylor's methods, take a look at her excellent and informative book, "Mixed Media Explorations". Or check out her article published  in Cloth Paper Scissors, "Making Fabric from Paper", in the Winter 2004 Premiere Issue.

Here's a slideshow to give you a closer view of the "parts". 
Enjoy the show! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GELLI® up to the BAR!

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Photo by Karen McDermott
The Book Arts Roundtable (BAR), that is. 

BAR is a dynamic group of about 70 diverse artists, including myself, with a shared passion for book arts. As Karen McDermott, BAR Founder and Director says, "The Book ArtsRoundtable is open to anyone who can't resist the feel of paper, the wonder of books and excitement of creativity".

Thanks to the on-going efforts and generosity of Karen, the BAR has become a place to learn, share ideas, get inspiration, participate in 2 yearly swaps, contribute to a themed collaborative, and show our work in an annual exhibit, "Booked", at the Pierro Gallery in South Orange, New Jersey. 

Oh, and did I mention make friends?  We welcome new members into our cohesive and supportive art community! We meet monthly at the Baird Community Center in South Orange and are coming up on our 11th anniversary.

The BAR also offers workshops to its members taught by prominent nationally and internationally recognized book artists, as well as our own members. Over the years, Karen has arranged workshops for us with Daniel Essig, Emily Martin, Beryl Taylor, Miriam Schaer, Mary Taylor, Barbara Mauriello, Robert Warner, Beatrice Coron, Carol Barton, Anna Pinto, Sarah McDermott, Denise Carbone, Robbin Ami Silverberg, Maria Pisano, Sue Sachs, Judy Langille, Eileen Foti, Jonathan Talbot and Suze Weinberg.  Are we lucky, or what!

You can find BAR online at the following locations:

I taught a workshop on June 15, introducing the Gelli® plate to a talented group of 14 BAR members. We had a blast! The work they created is fantastic! Each artist's individual style came through and as I walked the room it was inspiring to observe everyone's different processes. Discoveries were being made all day long. I love it when you witness someone's "aha!" moment … or hear the shriek of a happy surprise! Yeah, we had that too! 

A special thanks to all of the participating BAR artists whose enthusiasm and support has helped get Gelli® off to a great start!

Our terrific Gelli® media expert, Nancy Kelley, takes care of matters behind the curtain and has posted our new slideshow of exciting Gelli ® prints created at the BAR workshop. I know you'll enjoy watching … the prints are all wonderful. As are the artists who created them!!!

So please watch … and get inspired!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Welcome to the Gelli Arts blog!

If you've expolored gelatin printing, you know how much fun it can be! The process is easy, immediate, experimental... and before you know it, you have a stack of fabulous prints!

I love all kinds of printmaking methods, gelatin printing most of all. But it made me crazy when I didn't have a plate ready. Or my plate fell apart at the wrong time. Or was damp with humidity and turned mushy. And no room in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Ugh! Too many negatives getting in the way of the creative process!

Know what I mean?

So I started thinking about a printing plate with the look and feel of gelatin, that would always be ready for printing. It had to be easy to use, easy to clean, store at room temperature, and of course, be totally non-toxic.

That's when I ran the idea past my friend, Lou Ann, an accomplished business whiz. She came over to my studio for a gelatin printing session and got hooked on the process.

We looked everywhere for a non-perishable gel plate. But no such thing seemed to exist. If we wanted it, we would have to develop it. And we wanted it with a passion! So Lou Ann said, "Okay! Let's do it!"

And Gelli Arts was started. With a dream for a better way to monoprint without a press. We spent the last year developing the Gel Printing Plate because we knew we weren't the only ones who would love to have it!

That's our story. I'm Joan Bess, Chief Gelli Artist and my business partner, Lou Ann Gleason, is our Chief Gelli Marketer. We're here to share monoprinting techniques, experiments, projects and Gelli news. If you have questions or comments, we look forward to hearing them! If you have Gelli prints you'd like to share, we'd love to see them! Please send us your Gelli art jpegs ... they may end up in our gallery!

Here's a look at a book I made of Gelli prints. 

The prints are various acrylic paints on Rives BFK printmaking paper. The covers and end papers are acrylics printed on plain computer paper! I did a 6-needle Coptic binding, and used the fabulous extra long 1/8” eyelets from Volcano Arts. Love them! I'll be back soon with info on exciting printing techniques ... and more!

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