Taking the 60th IAA Challenge!

IAA60thBRlogoI am a long-time member of Irving Art Association, which is now celebrating its 60th Anniversary with a special challenge category in the annual juried membership exhibit. The challenge entry has to relate in some way to the Irving Art Association or the 60th Anniversary. Entry deadline is May 3, 2105.


So I reviewed my old photos of IAA and selected three figures viewing paintings to incorporate into a monotype started on my Gelli Plate. I used the thinner acrylic paints from Golden (liquid and high flow) for transparency, thinned with medium. If you layer yellow, red and blue, you can almost achieve a black.

I created masks for then letters “IAA” and numbers “60” as well as the figures and rectangular painting shapes. I sequenced colors from the lightest (yellow) to the darkest (blue). Here are some illustrations of the process, which involved six layers of printing using acrylic, stencils and masks.

showing cut masks on gelli plate

showing cut masks on gelli plate

First layer of yellow - the medium picked up residual paint on the plate

First layer of yellow – the medium picked up residual paint on the plate

showing tape on the back of a mask, which were stuck to the watercolor paper

showing tape on the back of a mask, which were stuck to the watercolor paper

second layer of yellow on print

second layer of yellow on print

layer of orange (masks are still attached)

layer of orange (masks are still attached)

ultramarine layer added

magenta and blue layers added (on top of masks)

Magenta and Thalo blue layers added

magenta and blue layers added (masks removed)


This is as far as the monotype process goes. It looks like an unpromising mess, but I’ll do my best to pull interesting images out of that! The rest is alteration with colored pencil and brushed on acrylic. Sneaky negative painting techniques….

lines added to figures to start to separate them from background

lines added to figures to start to separate them from background


Transparent dark blue background layer added by painting directly to pop figures and logo. Blue and orange painted hair. Logo changed to orange.


Now comes the evaluative process…wow, I’ve got a lot going on. Somehow I decided that this would be an orange-blue complementary color combination. Unfortunately, in color field extension theory, the most pleasing combo of blue to orange is 3/4 blue, 1/4 orange (next would be the reverse). So I’ll have to make some changes — maybe I’ll paint the areas that I want to turn blue, white first, then recover them.

And where is my focal point?  Got to decide although I could contemplate going for the checkboard effect design structure first. It’s almost there.

I love these paintings where I don’t know exactly where I’m going – you can get some pleasant surprises when your paintings evolve. Or not. O well, it’s only a paint struggle, not like the major surgery I just went through.

About seven brief sessions of tweaking ...I scan and discover more is needed

About seven brief sessions of tweaking …I scan and discover more is needed

Finished? Maybe.

“The Critics (IAA 60th)” – Finished? Maybe.


This is the part where I try not to work the painting to death, but accomplish my aims. So I adjusted the orange to be a little less saturated and changed some areas to blue tones. Now there’s a lot more blue, and I’m liking it more. I’ve also added more yellow and magenta, so there’s almost a primary color effect going on. It is a little garish, but it’s happy.

I’ve stayed with the idea of the checkerboard design structure, even though the top and bottom are close to equal. And the main subject is close to the center – well, if I like it what does a design no-no matter? Tried also to improve the mini-compositions of the paintings. Contemplating simplifying even more. I have a few more days left before I have to submit the artwork for the exhibit, so things may change more.


Update: Yes, I had to meddle more with it, further define the checkerboard pattern, and repeat the chevron pattern in the mini-compositions. Plus there’s more happy blue and yellow. Stopping now, I’m telling myself. I need to work on my third entry. Not everything has to be a masterpiece, it’s really all about the process.


Finished version “The Critics (IAA 60th)”


“The Critics (IAA 60th)” didn’t win the Challenge prize, but it get 3rd place in Mixed Media at the Irving Art Association 2015 Members Juried Exhibition.

Also, I had the piece critiqued by Jane Jones, so I may follow some of her suggestions after the show is over and tone down more of the orange and intensity, going for still more blue dominance.

Making your own Gelatin/Glycerin Plate

Printmaking without a press using the new GelliArts Gelli Plate has really taken the interest of the arts & crafts world. You can buy a plate or now simply make one!

Permanent Gelli Printing Plates are made by Gelli Arts — you can order directly from them at gelliarts.com. Or you can order online  from DickBlick.com, Dharma Trading Co., Amazon (only has one size) and locally from Stamp Asylum (Plano) or Creative Callings (N. RIchand Hills). — see also http://www.gelliarts.com/pages/retailers

Sizes: Rectangular: 6×6 ($19.99) 8×10 ($29.99) 12×14 ($69.99) Round: 8″ ($27.99)

The “gelatin” plate revolution started with homemade gelatin plates using gelatin and water, but they last only a few weeks and must be refrigerated. However, they can be reconstituted by heating and repouring.

For a more “permanent” gelatin plate, various artists have experimented with adding glycerin to the mix.



The recipe that Edie Cournover used:

6 T of unflavored gelatin (7 of the small packs)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups glycerin (You can find 6 oz bottles in the CVS skin lotion section & in the Walmart drugs area next to the rubbing alcohol — you need 2 bottles)

Linda Germain has an alternative recipe. http://makemonotypes.com/ (her online course is well worth it in my opinion)

4 oz. unflavored gelatin (4 boxes or 16 packets)
2 – 6 oz bottles of glycerin
1/2 cup COLD WATER
1 1/2 cups boiling water


You can use a rectangular glass pan, one of those clear acrylic frames, or a metal pan or tray. You can also make plates in round shapes or cut fresh ones into geometric shapes or organic forms. If the pan is 9×13, the plate will come out about 1/4 inch thick. Adjust the recipe for larger or smaller sizes or thicker results. Thicker plates are less likely to tear.


First, mix the gelatin and glycerin together thoroughly in a heat-safe container, then added boiling water and stir slowly.  Try not to introduce air into the mix. Alternative: Start with the cold water and 1 bottle of glycerin; stir gently and add glycerin; stir thoroughly and add hot water; stir gently and add remaining glycerin.

Pour the hot melted mixture into a pan — make sure first that everything is level in your setup. Skim the top with a strip of newspaper to remove air bubbles. Let it set. You can also refrigerate the mix until set (a few hours) or put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Or just leave it on the counter to cure, since it’s best not to move it until it’s firmer.

To remove the plate from the pan, use your fingers to go around working the gel back from from the edges. After you break that seal, you should be able to peel it from the pan and move it onto a plexiglas plate or whatever you will use as a printing surface. Note: a clear surface lets you place designs underneath to work with — or a paper so that you can gauge pulling prints better.

After curing, if your result is still a little sticky or malformed, you can microwave it (in a glass container) for 3-4 minutes to liquify it, stir it when needed. Then pour it, and let it set again.  Sometimes it needs more or less water. The paint should roll on smoothly, although the very first paint application may not be smooth. You can also redo the melting and resetting if it tears (or just cut it down).



In contrast to the gelatin only plate, the gelatin/glycerin plate doesn’t need refrigeration. But it isn’t as permanent as a real Gelli Arts Gelli Plate since it is more fragile and will tear easily, especially if it is thin. You also can’t wash it under the faucet like the tougher plate. You can clean it by spraying with water and wiping with paper towels, or by using baby wipes.

Otherwise printmaking is just the same. After experimenting with acrylic and watercolor, the results are indistinguishable. But I think the homemade plate is slightly “friendlier” to watercolor because the Gelli Arts Plate has mineral oil in it.

NOT RECOMMENDED: You can also use rubbing alcohol in the recipe for permanent plate, but it is described as rather smelly. It’s also noxious. If you use that, then DON’T use the microwave process for resetting since alcohol is flammable. For that recipe and more on the process, see the Youtube videos at http://youtu.be/h9taUh073vQ (thefrugalcrafter) and http://youtu.be/Z6BQo63zsvA  (Edie Cournoyer) Linda Germain gelatin plate videos: http://youtu.be/JZgBkBv8y5s

Storing your plate:

I keep and use mine is a plastic box. But you can store yours on a plexiglas plate. Just be sure to use a piece of plastic on top or plastic wrap around it to protect it, especially from evaporation of the water contained in the plate. If it hardens, just reconstitute it as mentioned above. You might have to add a tablespoon or two of water.