Printmaking is a process of creating an image on one surface, called the plate, and transferring that image to paper or cloth. With gelatin prints the artist starts in the kitchen and makes a plate from gelatin and water. Gelatin is the stuff that gives gummy candies and marshmallows their chewy texture. It’s sold in little orange and white boxes at the supermarket and can be found in the aisle with the jello. Once the powdery gelatin has been mixed with water and chilled in the fridge (simple directions below) you will have a slightly rubbery surface that responds well to printing with textures that you can find outside.
Ingredients to Make a Gelatin Plate
6 tablespoons gelatin powder (6 packets, boxes generally have 4 packets per box)
1 1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cup hot water, almost boiling
9x12 inch shallow baking pan
Pour the cold water into the baking pan. Sprinkle gelatin into the pan. Mix until blended. Slowly add hot water while stirring continuously until all the gelatin has dissolved. Try to remove bubbles that may have collected on the surface by blotting with a paper towel. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the gelatin has set. You can remove the gelatin from the pan the same way that you would brownies. Just slice it into pieces and remove them with a spatula. Keep in mind that the size of your finished prints will be the same size as you slices of gelatin. You can begin printing immediately, or you can store your gelatin plates for up to ten days in the fridge.
Art Supplies for Printing
1. Drop cloth or newspapers to protect work surface
2. Water soluble printing ink or acrylic paint (available at most craft stores)
3. Large soft bristle brush, kitchen sponge or foam roller
4. A variety of natural objects such as leaves, shells, flowers, weeds, vegetables, fruit, feathers, bark.......
5. White drawing paper
6. A stack of newspaper torn into small sheets or scrap paper for blotting
For the best results, the natural objects that you collect should have interesting shapes and textures as well as being somewhat sturdy. A leaf, such as a maple, is a good choice since it has both an interesting shape and the prominent veins print nicely.
Squeeze some paint or ink onto gelatin plate and spread it out with your brush, sponge or brayer. If it looks too thick you can absorb the excess by laying a sheet of scrap paper on top and gently pressing. Press your nature objects into the paint. Pick up object. As long as you can see an impression in the ink, you will be able to make a print. Lay a sheet of white paper on top of gelatin plate and gently press with the palm of your hand. The gelatin plate can be cleaned between prints by pressing a sheet of scrap paper on the surface. Or you can wash it off in cold water in the sink. Make sure you dry it, too.
Have a stack of printing paper and scrap paper cut before you begin. A bit of trial and error is involved and it’s more fun to make many prints.