Last week I celebrated a birthday. I emailed my friend who lives in Texas progress on goals I've made. It has come through hard work and intention. After a stack-up of losses and grieving those, one goal is to put myself out there both figuratively and literally. I joined a local art society to meet people, and submitted some 2D works for the first time publicly this year. 

I started drawing and painting again in 2021, using my ipad, when visiting my mom, who was ill. The image above is one I drew after that. There are things I would fix in this, but I've learned that fixing means you can lose stuff, so I leave it alone. It's a compilation of myself and people I know who are, or were, doing intensive caregiving. People who were caregivers for parents, who are caregivers for adult children who are disabled, and some who were caring for adult children and aging parents at the same time. We are in that developmental stage. 

An opportunity to see the plaster lathe walls in my granddad's old house led to wanting to do some "textural documentation" using gravestone rubbing techniques. I went up to what was my Granddad's house and took a rubbing of the stump of an old tree there. I want to use these "gathered textures" in printmaking somehow. After I set it up, I noticed that the paper and the bottles I was using to hold down the paper looked like a picnic. 

Traffic was definitely slowing down!  Here's a detail from that rubbing from that stump. I walked beneath that tree so many times as a girl. 

I want to take more textural documentations of places I have been, but also of places that I hope to be favorite places. I'm still figuring that out, and that's part of growing. 

Making An Homage Print as a Family

I was given a larger gel plate for Christmas. The day after Christmas, I persuaded my family to do an homage print using techniques shown by Fulton Sim aka ArtWhisperer88 on YouTube. If you are learning about gel printing, his channel is really worth watching! I highly recommend you subscribe to his videos if you want to learn about making monotypes with a gel plate. 

I cut up a snack box to make shapes for family members to add to an inked plate. The shapes laid on top of an inked plate will block the paint from printing on the paper.

The first print was created with three separate print impressions on the same piece of paper with different colors. The first layer was made using golden ochre rolled onto the plate with a brayer, and then drawing random squiggly lines into the plate using a silicone paint pusher/shaper before printing. For the second layer green and purple acrylic paints were rolled onto the plate using a brayer. Then straight pieces of  cardboard were laid around the plate before printing to mask off certain areas. The final layer was a dark Payne's Gray, I think, using cardboard shapes again laid on the rolled plate to mask off certain areas from printing. In this final layer, the shapes were dropped with the printed side of the box down, so it offset words on the plate. I didn't plan this. We decided to print the off-set words to paper  on their own. The last layer of paint (the dark color) might have benefitted from a little less paint, a little medium and maybe little bit of another color like white so it wouldn't have been so "squishy". I might redo something like this to see. We didn't wait for the layers to dry, and that might affect the result as well. 

The print using the off-set words from the snack box is below. This is the “ghost" of what was left on the plate from the final pull of the first print. It's interesting how the words transferred and were randomly cut off. I'll remember to use that offset technique on purpose sometime.

For both of these prints, I might have done another layer of color, but my family liked them at this point. 

I'm learning about how much paint to put on the plate, and sometimes it depends on the type of paper you are printing on.  

Collaborating with Happenstance

I sent the following email to a friend, and it's a good snapshot of what is going on here lately, although edited slightly: 

It's "blowing a gale" as old-time Mainers say. Trees are swaying, rain is pouring. We may lose power, as the lights are flickering. So it was declared a "storm day" for my son and I. I'm soooooo glad my husband suggested/insisted getting a generator installed years ago. It was ostly for us at the time, and meant we couldn't do other things. But I have for sure blessed him every time we have lost power and the generator kicks in. It has helped make these types of days easier and more predictable for my son who likes to know what to expect. 

I spent hours yesterday making prints using the gel plate. The process is very fast, and oftentimes it is the ghost prints (from the paint left on the plate) that end up being the most interesting. I look at paint that is left on the plate after doing an print and ask myself, what could I add that would augment what I see here? I love that process. The ghost print is a very loose print that I would never have planned. But of course I did make the color choices and decide how to apply the paint on the plate based on what I could see in the moment. So it's me "collaborating with happenstance." ™️  😁

I searched the internet for one of the founders of the art college I attended in the late 1980's. This professor was Oliver Balf. Anyway, in an interview, he talked about loving watercolors because using them had an element of surprise to it. That comment really stuck with me, because the element of surprise is why I like doing these gel prints. 


Take Away: Art isn't always what we can show others, but what art-making can show us. The motivation can be the surprise in the process. 

The Story on the Edge of a Print

Joni Mitchell talked about how she alternated songwriting and painting. She called it crop rotation. Sometimes a field needs to lay fallow for a bit, planted with a cover crop. You cultivate a new area. The old field is still there, it's waiting, receiving nutrients for the next planting. 

I've been finding joy in layering color using gel plates. The above image is a technique experiment in pulling permanent magic marker from a gel plate using a layer of acrylic paint. There was no attempt at composition. It was a fast layering of color. I didn't focus on registering the layers together on the paper. Because of that, you get surprises at the edges of the print. It tells the story of the print. Below is an extreme closeup of a very tiny detail. At the edges, I see things to use in larger ways, on purpose, with planning. But that's a future post. 

Deep Dive: Making Art Prints Using Gel Plates

Gel plates  have been around for quite a while, and have been used a lot in the crafting world. I own several Gelli-Arts plates which I have used in a more crafty approach making botanical images by pressing leaves. 

I'm interested in how these are being used as a tool to make fine art. If you are interested in gel printing, the following resources are excellent. We are so lucky to live in a time where the internet allows you to do a deep dive learning about new art types and techniques. If I were going to recommend only two art channels on gel printing, it would be the following: 

Mark Yeates YouTube Channel offers many technique videos on using gel plates. His voice matches his generosity of spirit in sharing these techniques. His use of resist techniques is fascinating. He is based in the UK. 

Fulton Sim's YouTube Channel is a treasure trove of technique demonstrations for using gel plates to make art prints. He is based in Brooklyn, NY. His website says he has an MFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute. Fulton Sim uses masking techniques a lot in his videos, and these are fascinating when they get to the final reveal. 

The above two channels will teach you a LOT about printmaking using gel plates specifically, if you try the techniques. I'm slowly and imperfectly trying each technique in a small format way. 

Linda German's site is another resource focused on "printmaking without a press".  She uses plates made of gelatin. I've made gelatin plates before, and they are fun. Many of the techniques used on gelatin plates transfer to gel plates.  

There are other tutorials on using gel plates that are worth viewing - many are excellent, while some have a tip or two that I want to remember. My collection of printmaking videos is here:

Returning to Monotypes

The surface of a leaf after a gel printing session. 

Thirty plus years ago I took a printmaking course at Montserrat College of Art, and discovered monotypes. In 2001 I took a class at UMaine in the basement of the art museum. It was a small and constricted space. In 2017, I took a class at the University of Maine so I could use their presses in the excellent printmaking studios. I was enjoying it a lot, but life took a turn, as it sometimes does, and I couldn't continue with the class at the university. A number of family members were facing challenges and needed support over a number of years. 

I love the surprise aspect of printmaking when you peel the paper back. You can *plan*, but not really know what you will get until you peel the paper back from the final trip through the press. The revelation of a print differs from painting, where you can see the impact of each brush-stroke in the moment. With printmaking (for me) sometimes you get tragedies, but more often than not you get pleasant reveals. It's fun. I really like and need the idea of making little surprises in life. 

For about sixteen years I focused on making folk art, and specifically folk art dolls.  I will still do that sometimes, but for now will be making more art that isn't tied to a reference point in the past. So I've decided to return to making monotypes, and not feeling they have to be constrained in any way unless I want to. It's something I can do in half-hour on a kitchen counter, while caring for my son. 

We will see where this goes. In the meantime, it's fun. 

Imperfect first experiment. 

Every Hoecake is a Good Hoecake

When I first started this blog, I wrote every day.  Every day!  That amazes me now. I cut back when my kids entered school years, and we were busier. But back then I wrote about every day stuff and didn't feel the need to create a polished blog post that was social-media worthy. 

Recently I listened to a podcast on perfectionism by Emily P. Freeman. In the podcast there was a quote along the lines of, "B- work can still change lives."  (Quote from Brooke Castillo). When I heard it I said, "oooooooh" out loud. That quote should spur some thought and also some action. The transcript of Emily P. Freeman's podcast is a good read, but I encourage you to listen if you can. 

Moving forward will include some goals that are in the B minus range. 

And in the spirit of my early blogging approach - here's what's been going on: 

This past weekend, my family had a "Georgia Breakfast" aka "Mom Breakfast" to remember our mom, who passed away in 2021. While cooking, I enlisted a younger member of the family to learn how to make hoecake (southern large biscuit bread cooked in a skillet) the way mom did. While we were talking about technique, I quipped, "Every hoecake is a good hoecake." We are all in learning mode. This young man is a much more advanced cook than I am, generally. Anyway, it took about 5 hoecakes to get to one that felt right. None of us will cook just the way mom did. We will have our own spin on hoecakes, and on life, really. And that's ok. 

For those who are interested, here are the instructions for making hoecake the way Mom did. But you will put your own spin on it. 

Carolyn's Hoecake Recipe 

1/2 cup of White Lily Flour

2-3 tablespoons of cold whipped butter or grated stick butter


Oil for a skillet 

1.  Measure out about 1/2 cup of flour in a bowl. 

2.  Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of butter into the bowl.  Use a fork to mash the butter until it is pea-like in consistency. 

3. Make a well in the middle of the flour. 

4. Pour about 1/3 cup of buttermilk into the well. Use a spoon and fold the flour into the buttermilk until it starts to clump together. If it looks too dry, drizzle a little bit more buttermilk on top. Mix it very gently. It should look like a ball at this point. 

5.  Heat oil over low-medium heat until it shimmers. 

6. Put the hoecake in the skillet when the grease is hot, and push the edges around until it looks like a big pancake. 

7. Adjust heat to low so it doesn't burn on bottom and let it cook until you start to see bubbles on top. 

8. Flip. And cook until the edges look quite dry. 

9. Break off a piece, spread it with butter, and add blackberry jam if you like it.  Heaven! 

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden