Have Gel Plate Will Travel

 In About My Work, Journal

After my initial surrendering to my mind and body screaming at me for some rest and respite … after some sleep and walking and reading and artist book makingI’ve pulled out one of my bigger gelli plates and had me some gel plate printing fun!

My little apartment for the week looks over the road, through a thin row of coastal foliage and out into the bay. There is a long beach, quiet and clean. Peaceful. Broken by fishing piers and stormwater outlets.

Silver gulls chase an Eastern Osprey as it skillfully skims the water’s surface for its sea prey. I’ve watched cormorants dive with determined precision for their fish and a Brown Booby float in the warm sea breeze. Crested terns. A pelican perched along the pier. And a silver gull hovering above the pier boardwalk riding the breeze for minutes at a time.

There was a distinct colour and tone and feel that I was cataloguing inside the vast creative filing cabinets in my head. Salty air. A hint of bushfire smoke from the back-burning in progress over on Fraser Island. The soft crush of the shallow bay swell, rolling in, rolling out. I could hear the breeze weave through the casuarina tree branches. The sand hard beneath my feet.

I was enjoying my awareness of the sights and sounds and smells around me. Feeling the thicker sea air and breeze. I thought my senses were still very much awake back home, but I was fast realising that the automatic ‘living’ I was doing had dulled them. I was loving noticing and feeling again.

My daily beachwalks had proven bountiful … I collected leaves and twigs and other beach botanicals, shells and pebbles and fragments of coloured stone.

And now I was ready to print!

I picked colours that I felt reflected the strong sense of place I was feeling. I started to print my layers of botanicals and colours to create a series of gelatin plate monotype prints that reflected what I was feeling and seeing. I love this process. Its spontaneous. It lends itself to quick expressions of place; it’s easy to travel with; and doesn’t need a lot of space to work with.

Layering colour and texture with my leafy finds, I worked to capture the colours around me and the movement of the casuarina trees that ran along the beachfront.

Low tide bought small broken shells and secret sea treasures to the shoreline. As a child I collected hundreds of shells … I can remember beaches full of small colourful treasures. Stopping constantly to pick up, inspect, collect, return, admire and marvel at the shapes.

The more I looked along the low tide waterline, the more I saw.

Little pieces of coral. Broken shells. Discarded cone shaped sea critter homes. Colourful fragments of what look like some sort of shale. Chinaman hat shells. Small muscle shells. Broken bits. I came across little starfish – and carefully placed them back into the water. There were jellyfish along the sand at the waterline – little transparent blobs (I’ve never been quite sure if these blobs are individual jellyfish or fragments a larger one). Emptied crab shells, probably picked clean by gulls or terns.

So … what to do with little beach pocket-finds? How to capture the sense of freedom and space and rest that I was feeling at my beachy retreat?

I made me two shallow origami boxes with slip case covers, using my new gel plate prints. I fiddled a bit to get the size I wanted. And I ended up with two little treasure boxes that I feel encapsulate my moments to respite and exploration.

And with that my little surrendering Artist in Residence retreat has come to an end.

I feel fortunate that we have enough freedom of movement here that I was able to get away for a much needed change of scenery.

And I’m feeling quite pleased with my two little treasure boxes and momentos of the mood and tone and feel of my escape. I’ll be sure to keep them somewhere I can see them, to hold on to this feeling for a while longer, and to remember that I need to be a little more attentive when it comes to my own self-care, and remember to stop, breathe, and go for a walk 🙂

Would you like to make gel plate monoprints like what you see above?

Gelatin plate monoprinting is easy, versatile, therapeutic, exciting, restful, accessible – and portable!

There are plenty of online resources sharing different approaches to this process, and I teach my approach in both my in-person and online workshops. From this starting point you can adapt and make the process your own in whatever way tickles their fancy.

With this process I like to print with thin translucent layers of paint. And I work almost exclusively with botanical materials. It helps ground me and keep me connected with my natural environment.

Whether you learn from me, from the myriad of online tutorials or teach yourself – I urge you to give this process a go! It suits all ages, all abilities.

And it is the perfect travel companion, helping capture a strong sense of places visited and explored and experienced.

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