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Monoprinting with Gelatin Plates

Sheree BurlingtonComment

I love all kinds of art but my longest, most passionate creative love affair is with abstract art. I love everything about it - the colors, the layers and textures. I particularly love its ability to speak without words. It's the voice behind my favorite Rumi quote "There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen." 

A self taught pretty much everything, I've been creating digital collage work for five years. There is so much to love: the endless control over content, color and scale. The use of my mind where my hands fail me. The ability to undo bad design decisions with a key stroke. I've always envied artists who create work with their hands and long to use my own in the creative process.

Wikipedia describes mono-printing as "a form of printmaking that has images or lines that can only be made once, unlike most printmaking, where there are multiple originals."  This is the most organic painting method - nothing is ever repeated. Each print is unique - something that speaks to me on so many levels. It can even be used to print on fabric. I'm sitting here shaking my head. On fabric. Hello my other love. 

Self made gelatin printing plate - Wing + Tree blog

The tools needed for monoprinting are simple: a gelatin printing plate (self-made or purchased) paint, a brayer, anything that will make a texture (stencils, stamps, bubble wrap, string) and pretty much any kind of paper. I created this rough looking plate with a recipe found on Pinterest. Due to overzealous mixing, it looks nothing like the beautiful, clear, bubble-free plate on the tutorial. I'll make it beautiful when it gets remade - they get beat up are renewable.   

The mono-printing process is simple. Roll out paint onto a soft, flexible surface. Texture it with stamps, stencils, a credit card, string. Place a piece of paper over it and press it down with your hands. Pull back the paper and you have an original, one of a kind print. Place a second sheet of paper over the remaining paint and pull for a lighter "ghost print." Seriously. If there is a cooler way to create, I have not seen it. I'm still shaking my head. 


These are my mixed media paint supplies - I bought mostly craft paint, which is great for exploration but dries really fast - a challenge with mono-printing. My e-course recommended Golden Soft Body Acrylics - they're very liquid and run with a spray bottle. They're also spendy - I have hundreds of dollars in paint colors saved to a wish list. For now, I'll work with what I have and reward myself with better quality paint once I'm sure that learning stained glass won't give my life meaning. 

Monoprinting, Sheree Burlington, Wing + Tree blog

Textures and masks play a big part in mono-printing. Here are a few I've collected in the last 2 weeks. With the exception of the two Tim Holtz stencils, I found all of these either at home or at the studio. All of a sudden everything in my world looks like a potential texture. 


This is my first "pull." I rolled out teal and blue, placed a stencil over the wet paint and covered it with a sheet of economy photo copy paper. Craft paints dry quickly - particularly with a ceiling fan spinning overhead, so it came out partially blank. Oh, but what a lovely blankness. Honestly, I feel like I have seen the some kind of light. Each piece as unique as a finger print. This is like fricken magic.

Monoprint by Sheree Burlington - Wing + Tree blog

I turned off the fan and doubled the amount of paint for this print, which kept it wet and gave me stronger color. The bubbles from my plate are visible above the leaf silhouette. I pulled several more, using all of the paint on my palette. They're not all gorgeous, but they are all cool. I'm going to need a storage solution. 

Museware Studio | Sheree Burlington | Wing + Tree blog

This is what printers call a ghost print - the second (or third) pull from a plate. If this is what can be done with no experience, craft paint and copy paper, I cannot wait to see what I can do once I figure this out. I found a number of artists creating gorgeous, restrained, distinctive art using mono-printing. 

This particular artist - Ruth Alice Kosnick was the most inspirational. This video is captivating - I've watched it several times and was fascinated the entire time. There is something beautiful about watching the creative process unfold. I was struck by how effortlessly she moved through each step, as if guided by a force who knew exactly what this paper and paint were meant to be.

After just one day playing with mono-printing, I have a growing pile of papers, each one unique and almost impossible to part with. The next exciting part of my journey will be figuring out how to use this limitless resource of original art. I already have a head full of ideas and they all involve collage - but this time, using my hands as well as my head.