The character who created my 2013 fake journal had a very carefree and unstudied approach to creating the layers in her visual journal. She would add and add. She would cover other things with abandon.
I always thought I was carefree about doing background painting on my journal pages but this was a whole new level of "just do it and move on." I actually found it a little bit uncomfortable. So I knew I was on the right track.
I did three painting sessions with the Gelli Arts Plate using inexpensive Americana Craft Acrylic paints (which had been recommended in one of the YouTube videos I watched). They are liquid, in bottles. I believe they were successful because of how liquid they were. They would stay "open" long enough for me not only to take a first print with stencils in place on the plate, but then take a second print once the stencils had been removed, and sometimes even a third "ghost" print.
If you want to use a more archival or higher quality acrylic paint you'll have to experiment. I would suggest trying a couple colors of Golden's Open Acrylics first. I have a couple friends who have tried them and like them. I find the odor from the Golden Open Acrylics too strong for me to work with however. (It's an ammonia type smell. It knocks me out.) You could of course add a retarder medium to your regular artist quality paints, but I find those also smell strongly. More open time on the plate will also mean slower drying time on the paper, so plan your printing session accordingly.
Note: Click on any of the images in this post to view an enlargement.
Right: Extra paint on my brayer was rolled off across the top and bottom of the pages in this spread. I then pressed wavy corrugated cardboard that had been pressed into the "inked" Gelli Arts Plate onto the page as well.
The other approach my character employed with abandon was an almost total disregard for color theory as I might use it. She may have used a lot of analogous colors when inking her plate, and she often used complementary colors layered over each other, but she used tints and combinations of colors that I would not have used.
At one point in April I actually found myself saying to friends—Who knew I loved Pink!? (I can't blame the continued use of pink on my character!)
Above: In the third image of today's post you see graph paper top left and right, mulberry paper (purple and red) and lined paper with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch, all printed upon.
My working method was as follows. I would pick one to three colors of paint to put on the plate. Typically I would line them up in 2.5 inch squirts down the vertical length of the plate (10 inches) to make one long line of color in the center of the plate. With an 8 inch brayer I would then smooth the colors back and forth away from the paint line, thus covering the entire plate. This could be done in about 3 or 4 strokes and would create a distinct area of color for each color, as well as slightly blend the colors where they "joined."
Above: Stenciling on the left, with areas of inking with the brayer on the right.
I would then quickly walk over to the journal, open on a table (protected with a plastic sheet because I was working with acrylic paint.) I would brayer color on to the page spread, in effect "cleaning" the brayer, and using all the excess paint.
Next I would rush back to the "inked" plate and draw into the paint with soft-rubber tipped tools or place stencils and various other pattern making items (like bubble wrap, which is quite fun to use) onto the plate.
For items like bubble wrap which are going to block the entire surface, I would press them in, pick them up, and then rush to the journal and press down all the paint the bubble wrap had picked up down onto a page. I would then return to the plate to print.
Above: This spread started with a massive purple ink blot—Ziller Violet acrylic ink was spread on one page and the book was shut. This was one of the first pages painted and the ink blot technique was a test. The ink showed through the paper and required painting and collage on the previous and next spreads. It also created a huge area of "dark" which was, as you see, lightened with acrylic paint printing.
If I had been using stencils I would leave the stencils in place and I would lay a piece of paper on top of the plate and rub down with a 3M card style burnishing tool. Sometimes I would press and smooth just with my hand. One could also use a traditional barren for this task.
I would then remove the paper and that would of course be a print. I'd set it aside to dry.
Next I would REMOVE the stencils I had used on the plate, quickly take them over to other pieces of paper or the journal, and press them into the paper, transferring any excess paint they carried from being pressed into the plate.
I would return to the plate which now had lots of areas of interest because it had been printed when the stencils were in place and paint had been removed from the negative shapes, but not completely, and because the removal of the stencils had removed some paint. I then pressed a new sheet of paper into the plate, burnishing as described above. When I pulled that plate I considered it the "real" print of that run.
Above: On the spread I first brayered rubberstamp ink with a patterned brayer I'd carved a design into. Next I collaged papers down and positioned the face sketch (which you say in the printed papers image above when it was just stenciled with a checkerboard pattern). It was painted with gouache after being glued (with PVA) down into position. (The PVA was allowed to dry before I painted.) The lavender paper was cut and collaged into place and a plastic, articulated figure was arranged and put on the right hand page and stenciled with a stencil brush and rubberstamp ink. I stamped large numbers up the vertical left of the spread. My character, in layering, likes to cover things over, including her drawings. You'll be able to see the completed page in the video flip through I will post soon.
I set that print aside to dry, and if I had been working really quickly I would have time to put another piece of paper onto the plate, burnish, and pull a very light "ghost" print. I would also set this aside.
The paint dried quickly and because of its formulation it had a very matte surface—which was great because in the past when I've used higher quality acrylics in my books the better acrylic binders used in the paint have created a slicker surface which has caused pages to stick. This less expensive paint was actually a virtue in this situation.
Above: One of my favorite painted background spreads in the journal. There were several layers of printing, not only directly onto the spread with the plate and the brayer, but also a printed sheet, top left, that extends across the gutter, which was glued in after the first printing session, and then printed over in the second printing session. Collage scraps that had been printed upon were also stuck down (blue and green strip on the right page). Stencils from other printings were pressed down on top of the page when the collage items were in place.
I would then take a wet paper towel and clean off the plate. (It is very easy to clean.) And I would go over the plate with a clean dry paper towel (which became my messy plate cleaner in the next round) to remove excess water before adding more paint and beginning the process all over again.
Above: Collaged, painted with a brayer, and over printed with stencils that had been lifted from plates in progress.
I found that I could work fast and in a two hour window (including setting up and tearing down and cleaning up my workspace; cleaning the tools took a little longer) I could print not only a number of sheets but pages and pages in the journal. The paint dried so quickly that by the time I had finished with a particular plate anything I had printed in the journal was dry and I could turn the page and begin again.
Above: Besides printing and using the brayer to apply colors here some rubberstamp ink (the maroon color) has been stroked onto this page spread.
During the printing process there would be many sheets that didn't seem like much after a first printing or a ghost printing. They dried so quickly that I could easily use them in another round of printing to create even more layers.
In general, in my regular life, I go with the flow in these types of sessions, or so I thought. But I found that actually I do tend to plan and organize a "line up" of approaches, a series perhaps, or a sequence. It's because I'm after "repeatable" results that can be utilized as "approaches" in the future.
My character on the other hand was not like that AT ALL, and she worked at a speed that even I found uncomfortable. She created things so fast that I couldn't repeat them again if my life depended on it. She went blithely on, not giving it a second thought, but the real me who was standing next to her observing or cleaning up at the end of the session was "Damn, why didn't she take any notes?" Of course slowing down to take notes would have eaten up the paint drying time and defeated the whole purpose of working like this. It was fun, but it was also frustrating. Again I knew I was on the right track and way past my comfort zone.
Left: Another painted spread onto which ink was brayered and into which inked stencils were pressed.
During this process I began to work so quickly that at times I actually picked up the Gelli Arts Plate (no small task as it is a squiggly squishy mass that doesn't like to be held) and press it into the journal to print with it like a rubberstamp. One appealing thing about this approach is that the plate is so flexible that when you press it into a page spread if you are positioned across the gutter of the book you can press and deform the plate to print right across the gutter.
If neatness matters to you I wouldn't recommend it. This is how I ended up getting paint on pages besides the ones I had intended (no problem for this character) and getting paint all over my hands and sometimes then transferred the paint to the book's cover before I wiped my hands.
More often if I wanted to print from the plate in the journal I would pick up the journal and push it down onto the plate. This is a rather tricky maneuver and peeling it back up while not getting paint on the other pages and cover (from your fingers as you pull the two apart) is very tricky. But it's also pretty fun. When you work with a book that is bigger opened than the plate, you just have to wing the placement (if you're working quickly) and hope for the best. If you try this and it bothers you just remind yourself this is only the first layer on the page—there's more to come. Neither the real me nor my character had any qualms about this first layer being exact or "perfect."
This first layer of background was a fun process overall and I'm glad that I tried it in this freewheeling way first. I quickly got a sense for what I might be able to do with the Gelli Arts Plate in the future, and I accomplished my goal of creating very layered beginnings to the journal pages.
I haven't yet had time to set up the lights and video tape a flip through of this completed journal, but when I do you'll be able to see what became of these first layers of background.