In order to catch up with the Documented Life Project challenges, I decided to combine two together. The challenges involved using a hand carved stamp and using masks. I used the gelli plate to construct a background in my journal page. I cut some chunky, wiggly lines from cardboard and used those as masks on the gelli plate to print on to a page collaged with text pages. By moving them around on the gelli plate with each change of colour, I achieved some nice layering. That gave me some water. Next I needed the fish. I had some scraps of lino so I used those to carve two fish stamps. Using block printing ink and a baren, I printed one fish – different from the rest – swimming in a different direction from the rest of the shoal. I was thinking about the need for each person to find their own way in life, the importance of not just following the herd (or shoal) but making informed and active decisions instead, of celebrating non-conformity, of how life is richer because of diversity and difference. Maybe I should have added a quotation to make the message explicit but I like to think the image, for all its simplicity, conveys the ideas well enough.
This week’s Documented Life Project prompt was simply “stars”. I immediately thought of Van Gogh’s painting known as ‘Starry Night’, which has been one of my favourite paintings since early childhood and decided to use it as the inspiration for my Art Journal page.
I started by creating a monoprinted background using my gelli plate. I layered up a light blue paint then a mid-blue pearlescent paint in order to create a sheen and lustre to the night sky. I then added a stronger blue and dragged swirling marks through it using a pencil top eraser that I had snipped to turn it into a tiny comb. Added to the previous layers, this then became the swirling sky for my piece. Once dry – because I am learning my lessons about not rushing things – I splattered gold paint onto the background. Having enjoyed the loss of control that came with splattering and splashing to create my Autumn journal page a few weeks ago, I deployed that technique again in order to create the stars. I had so much fun splattering that I did not notice I was spraying not only all over the table but also the kitchen seats and wall. Oops. It all cleaned up OK thankfully but it took a lot of elbow grease. Another lesson learned. It created a lovely, glistering look to my page though. With the bigger blobs, I dragged a toothpick from the centre in order to create rays for the stars.
While the sky was drying, I decided to make some little houses. I followed the steps laid out in a tutorial I watched recently because the houses created by the artist looked cute and naive and I liked the collage element. I gathered together some scraps from gelli prints and also some pages from a book. The little houses were so easy to make that I was able to construct them while watching a movie. Multitasking. I ended up making way more houses than I needed but that meant I could choose the ones that worked best on my page and I also have some spare for another project. I adhered my little row of houses to the bottom of the page to be my little village nestling under the stars.
So here’s my Art Journal page inspired by Van Gogh and created to the tune of Don McLean’s ‘Starry Night’. It’s a big improvement on last week’s terrible DLP page.
It has emerged that my two youngest sons love to print. As eager as they are to try block printing, at 5 and 7 they are too young to handle the tools plus those materials are expensive. We have, however, been experimenting together with the gelli plate and making oodles of monoprints. I love this because I thoroughly enjoy creating with them. I like to think that I will inspire them to continue being creative throughout their lives, that they will derive pleasure and satisfaction and a sense of calm from the act of creating something, anything, as I do. I also love creating with them because, frankly, it gives me a much-needed opportunity to do something creative myself. Especially during this lengthy school break, time for myself is in very short supply so working with them, all taking turns, affords me the chance to invest in myself with a little bit of art. Finally, I also love creating with them because they inspire me: they don’t worry about end results, technical hitches or over-think things; they just get stuck in and have a go. I need to be more like that. Definitely.
Recently, the three of us decided to get the gelli plate out and make some more monoprints and the two boys hit upon the idea of using leaves from the garden as masks. I remembered seeing a post on Debbie Osborn’s blog where she used plant materials to create charming monoprints so I knew their idea was feasible. Out into the garden we went, gathering our materials. Despite it having been their idea, the boys soon gave up on using plants and used stencils and their fingers to create their prints instead. I, however, persevered. Initially, my prints were truly mediocre as I forgot entirely that the leaves would act as complete masks and leave white paper beneath and that, therefore, a bit of layering was required. Ultimately, I think my post successful prints were actually the ghost prints made when I used paper to pull the marks that were left behind on the plate by the initial print. None of my results were stellar but experimentation is part of the learning process and I certainly enjoyed myself.
My kids gifted me a gelli plate for Mother’s Day so that I could rediscover and relearn monoprinting. However, I had not had time to even open the box until the summer break arrived. A couple of days ago, therefore, my youngest two children and I decided to mess around and have fun with the gelli plate. As we were just messing around and as my youngest children are just 5 and 7, I decided we would just use tempera paint. As long as we worked quickly, the tempera paint worked well. If we left the paint sitting too long on the surface, it would begin to pull away from the surface, creating little freckles of pigment-free space on the surface of the gelli plate. However, the upside of working at high speed is that we didn’t have time to overthink what we were doing or plan; we just had to go for it, be instinctive and decisive and just randomly experiment with ways of masking or mark making.
It was a great success. My boys absolutely loved it. The seven year old said it was the most fun art thing he had ever done. He might be exaggerating but certainly they had great fun printing and were very proud of their results. A lady at the Art Journalling MeetUp group I go along to kindly donated some stencils to me so the boys had a whale of a time playing with those. They also used some die cut shapes to create masks and eventually decided to create marks in the paint using their fingers. The seven year old was most proud of the poster he made of Caesar (from ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’) and an abstract landscape. The five year old was most proud of a print he did inspired by brains. Yes, brains. My most successful pieces were actually created by lifting the leftovers from the gelli plate and building up layers of these on one piece of paper and also the paper I used for cleaning the brayer. So happy accidents rather than intentional creations.
We definitely enjoyed using the gelli plate and will experiment with it again.