The Devil is in the Printmaking
With The Devil, the printing process was more complex. Each finished print took between four and seven impressions. I used a 5x7 Gelli plate and cut all the paper to the size of the plate. I started with background textures, using fabric netting, corrugated cardboard, bird feathers and a pinecone. I generally printed these using warm colors, orange and flesh tones. I did maybe five with cool colors. I wished that I had used a gelatin plate for the bird feathers because could have achieved better detailing. Next, I began adding more objects. I inked each and impressed it on the plate that had been prepped with retarder. I did as many as three at once. The objects included a kitchen sponge, a balled stocking, a heavily threaded paper cut in a circle, and a dried rose. (I also tried a few where I inked the plate first and did straight impressions.) By keeping cool and warm colors on separate layers I was able to achieve translucent overlays of color.
I next cut a lino block to add abstracted figurative details. (It is not necessary to add such an image layer. I chose linocut because I can execute one quickly and assuredly. You can simply draw a figure with a hot glue gun on a firm piece of cardboard and ink it, use a pre-cut rubber stamp or paint directly on your gelatin plate to add a figurative image.) I inked it lightly and impressed it on the plate.
The prolonged process of working on The Devil resulted in significant observations about card’s nature.
In preparing the image, I chose Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet drawing collaged with elements from Grunewald’s crucifixion images as inspiration. In reflecting on Levi’s image, I was drawn to the sphere and cube supporting the figure. I realized there is no way that circle is proportionally squared by the cube, and the The Devil Card itself cannot square a circle.
When choosing a pinecone to mimic the reptilian scaling patter of the Devil’s torso, I realized the pinecone’s sap yielding property mimicked the Devil’s brutish fertility.
When carving the lino block, I finished 8 of the lines with downward pointing arrowheads. Eight is the number of the Justice card. I realized that The Devil might represent a sense of carnal justice emanating from the very bowels of the earth. The Devil is definitely “down there.” Justice is more “up there.”
I realized too that the Devil can be very hard to see and that was integrated into the highly distressed composition of the entire image. I became involved in a process in which different layers overwhelmed others never yielding a simple clear image. Hopefully overlaid textures and colors hint at shapes upon prolonged examination and suggest divinatory meanings.
In total, I yielded twenty viable prints before adding the linoblock layer. I set five aside because I could see taking them in another direction. For now I’m going to set aside my fifteen prints and consider if I want to do more to them. Because gelatin prints are relatively quick to produce, even the ones that don’t work are valuable for collage pieces, book markers, book end papers, etc. And they can all be printed on again or enhanced with collage bits, pen and ink drawing or painting.
Making your own tarot cards, provides rewarding opportunities to meditate on the meaning of the cards. The fugitive nature of gelatin monotyping can achieve unexpected results. When doing personal work, I tend to work in a more abstract expressionist vein. When using gelatin printing, I welcome creating more feral and less well defined images. But this is your personal work, so be true to your own aesthetics. It’s certainly possible to use this technique to produce clear visuals, and YouTube has many how-to videos to assist you. Of course if you have questions or comments, please use the form below.
In my next blog i will discuss how some of the monoprints I created here inspired other printmaking projects and were incorporated into them. (Of course you may see a blog from the prolific Thomas van der Krogt in the meantime.)