Sunday, February 26, 2012

Leafy Spring Prints

Negative leaf print by one of my second grade students earlier this year.
 Hey, guys! This post has been very popular on my blog...if you are interested in other leaf-y projects, look at my Leaf Relief project and my Pressed Leaf Project as well. Thanks!

I don't know what it's like where you live, but here in Tennessee, we are experiencing spring-like weather. For the most part. I mean it did snow the last two Saturdays (and, in Tennessee, "snow" means just a few flakes and a couple of inches) but the other day it was 78 degrees. Crazy, right?

For that reason, I've got touch of spring fever. You too? Well then you might enjoy this leafy printmaking project I did at the beginning of the year with my second graders. It's simple, scientific, beautiful and fun...okay, enough talking about me (!), on with the lesson.

For this project, you'll need the following:
  • gelatin, not Jell-o. Most grocery stores carry a brand called Knox which sells in boxes of 16 pouches.
  • cookie sheets
  • printmaking brayer, sold at most craft stores
  • printing ink
  • variety of leaves
  • paper
Print pulled from the same printing tray, this time the positive version.
The night before you begin, you'll need to prepare your sheets of gelatin. To do that, bring about 3-4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, whisked one pouch of gelatin into the pot. You don't want any clumps of gelatin, so whisk like there's no tomorrow. You'll end up adding about 12-15 pouches of gelatin into that one pot. Sorry, I'm not into exact measurements. Which could explain a lot about my cooking. If there are any remaining unwhiskable clumps, remove them with a spoon.

Pour mixture into a cookie sheet filling it about 1". Leave uncovered over night. If you see any bubbles in the cookie sheet, pop them or remove with a spoon. For my class of 20 students, I made three trays.

Pulling the first print always managed to get oohhhh's and aahhhh's aplenty.
The following day, we were ready to print. The surface of the gelatin was squishy yet very firm, perfect for holding our printing ink. I think I can explain this best in steps, so here you go:
  1. Using a brayer and printing ink, cover surface of gelatin in ink.
  2. Place leaves onto the ink-covered cookie sheet with the veiny side down. I don't recommend using anything with pine needles because that will puncture the gelatin. But experiment, you never know!
  3. Once leaves are in place, lay paper on top of cookie sheet and rub (er, we call it  "massage") the paper. 
  4. Pull paper off, as you see in the above photo, and viola! You have your first print!
Notice how clear the gelatin looks. All of the ink that was once on the tray is now on the paper.
I love her dainty fingers pulling up the second print. So sweet.
Now for the second print:
  1. Gently remove all of the leaves from the tray. It's best to pull them out by the end of the stem.
  2. Place a new sheet of paper over the now-empty cookie sheet and rub.
  3. Pull second print which will be a positive image of the first.
Looks like a black and white photo, don't you think?
Once both prints have been pulled, re-ink the tray and begin the process all over again. With a class of 20 students and 3 pans of gelatin, about 10 kids were able to print per half an hour class. The pans of gelatin can last about two days with an endless amount of printing. I tried to cover the gelatin and keep it for a little longer, but condensation droplets created strange little craters on the surface. If left uncovered for too many days, it begins to dry and crack. For that reason, if you plan to do this project for longer than a couple of days, you'll just need to prepare more gelatin pans the night before.
Our second go-round of printing involved using white ink on black paper. Just as pretty.
This project is so easy and the results so stunning that everyone is successful. I've now had a couple of craft get-togethers and this is always a hit. Once those leaves start growing in your neck of the woods, I do hope you'll give it a shot!
I love the photo negative quality of this print.

69 comments:

  1. These are amazing! Thank you for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Phenomonal! Thanks for sharing, definitely stealing this one!! Was hiking today and the only growth I saw was moss. I don't think that would work too well with the gelatin, so I have a few weeks to prepare :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. You were the first to comment om my new blogg! so thank you, I'm realy glad :D
    Try the smoothie, it's sooo good :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, Cassie, I think it worked now: I'm following you. Love your outfits and your art projects.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Really interesting technique! Thank you for sharing and explaining the process. I also love all your outfit posts, what a fun teacher you are!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous3/03/2012

    Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to make one of these!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow that is so cool... love it and i amd definately going to give it a go :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Absolutely fabulous.
    Wow can't wait to try it.
    Thanks so much for sharing this project.

    ReplyDelete
  9. just found this via pinterest and i'm sooo excited to try this!!! my kids will love it. i homeschool and have a 3rd grader and a 1st grader. this'll be a great project for them! thanks for sharing!! and i love that bird belt! idid you do a giveaway with jenny at the southern institute?

    ReplyDelete
  10. truly a cool idea. thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, this is a really great process. Kind of reminds me of marbling with shaving cream. I may try this our as soon as we have leaves on the trees in chilly New Hampshire.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous4/14/2012

    These are beautiful prints, but I can't help but think how depressing and bizarre it is to make "art" out of the suffering of animals. Gelatin is, of course, made from the boiled down bones, skin and ligaments of animals who have been abused and needlessly slaughtered. Pretty gruesome stuff. I have to think there's some bad karma involved somehow... I wonder if you could make something similar just by mounting the leaves to a board and then covering them in acrylic medium which would provide a protective surface before inking? Like making a collagraph...?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous4/25/2013

      Agar Agar. Solved.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous8/04/2013

      Unlike Renee below, I was glad for the information, and thanks also for the solution! :)

      Delete
  13. Hi Cassie:

    I was just wondering what kind of paper you used to pull the prints, and did you use oil based or water based ink? These are lovely.

    As for the karma, if you don't like it, don't do it. This is not a political forum!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so sorry for the delayed response...I just NOW figured out how to leave a reply on my own blog. Sad but true.

      The paper we used was cheapo manilla paper and black construction paper. We also used waterbased ink like the kind you can find at your local craft store. I hope that helps!

      cassie

      Delete
  14. Hi Cassie -

    Wondering if you could share what type of paper you used to pull the prints? I would like to make these next week with my class .....

    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Oh, you will love doing this with your kids. Please let me know if you have any trouble, I did a lot of trouble shooting on this one!

      We used inexpensive manilla paper (I just happened to have a ton of it!) and black construction paper. Any kind of paper that has the same weight as construction paper (but no heavier) would do the trick.

      Hope that helps, let me know how it goes!

      Cassie

      Delete
  15. Doing this with kids this summer (art camp) and next year in class. I'll send you a link when it happens. Thanks for the photo tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Fabulous project! Thanks so much for sharing! Can't wait to take a little look around your blog, and would love it if you'd drop by and link some of your projects on my little but very international linky party, opens every Sunday. all the best!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Such a brilliant project - so simple yet so effective!! Planning to try this out on a class of adults with mental health problems - I know they'll love this!

    (Btw; I hope you don't mind me pinning this on Pinterest? I just had to share! (Linked straight back to here and credited you, of course!)

    Emma ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't mind at all, pin away. I do hope you had success with your adult class. ...Cassie

      Delete
  18. TulumChica5/31/2012

    I love the way these prints look and can't wait to try the technique. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. VERY cool! I love the two different "negative" prints! Would look so good side by side in frames.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love this! Where has it been all of my life is all I can say! Going to try it as soon as I can. Thank you for sharing with us and Curbly Design.

    ReplyDelete
  21. so creative ! Loved the 2nd print , very very nice :) Thanks for sharing ..

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love this tutorial! I am definitely doing this one! :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hy there, thank you so much for sharing this. I'm gone try this with my kids here in France!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that's super cool! My students will love to hear about that. Hope you have fun! ... Cassie

      Delete
  24. Anonymous6/13/2012

    could I use fabric for this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm, there's an interesting thought. We didn't try that but I don't see why it wouldn't work. Now, you might need to switch from a water based ink to an oil simply because the water-based would wash out I would imagine. Please share with me the end result, this sounds like a great idea!...Cassie

      Delete
  25. Anonymous7/08/2012

    What about if you used it on a canvas board? instead of paper?

    ReplyDelete
  26. erm... whow? I'm gobsmacked, this is amazing. Ideas are swirling around my silly old head now, particularly regarding the possible use for fabric. Thanks so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I saw your post a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely loved the idea. I finally tried it with my son (he's 3 and 1/2) this week end and we both absolutely loved it. I took some pictures and posted them on my blog (with a link to your blog, of course) : http://petitabricot.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/henri-fait-de-limpression-2/

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anonymous9/01/2012

    delightful approach to gelatin printing... i tried it before, but used pyrex dishes and popped out the gelatin--it worked ok, but for working it with a class, the cookie sheets are a much more teacher friendly approach... love the black ink, white ink too... I am trying to remember what I used for color...and worked it more like a mono print.... gelatin prints are gorgeous.
    jc

    ReplyDelete
  29. Love! Can you reuse the leaves or do you have to replace every time a new student goes to print?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did! I used the leaves over and over for the duration of a class (about an hour) and they worked great. Have fun!

      Delete
  30. Definitely - i will try this with daughter - Thank You!!!
    It's really looks like black and white negative/positive http://www.jakadela.blogspot.com/2012/09/tirgot-enu.html .. - We are making the "shadows" from different things on photo paper ... , but there is no "leaf bars" - but in Your project it's look amazing !!!! In over country - Latvia.. its autumn now.. so its fool of leaves..

    ReplyDelete
  31. Really cool project. Are there other ink colors that can be used? What kind of ink is it exactly? I would love to do something like this in earth tones-browns, golds, etc. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! To answer your question, yes, I believe colored inks be used. I used water based inks, not oil based, for this project. You can find those kind of inks at most craft stores. Have fun!

      Delete
  32. What a great and cool idea! I have to try this! :)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi! Love your tutorial :) featured on my blog today! xox, d.
    http://www.inspirationrealisation.com/2012/12/do-inspire-yourself-19.html

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi! Great tut! I have seen monoprinting done on craft TV shows and read about them in Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines but never "knew" someone who tried it. So glad you did it first LOL!!

    Just FYI, you can do this on fabric (cotton is all I know for sure). You can also use acrylic paints in place of the ink so colors are great (put paint on a plastic/foam plate and use brayer to spread over gelatin). You can even put differant colors of paint in diffgrant areas for multi-color.

    The magazines recommend, as in quilt art, cutting different shapes from printing paper and using them in several areas of the gelatin. Such as birds. Then remove for the opposite effect. Great way to design your own fabric for pillows or whatever.

    Enjoy! Now I feel brave enough to try it myself, heehee. I know you aren't a famous artist doing it on TV thus the situation being "perfect" for the shows sake, if you know what I mean :-)

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great tutorial, I featured on my blog: http://kidsfuncraft.wordpress.com/,
    hope it is o.k.
    Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Glycerin will stabilize gelatin for SFX. You might try it to keep you gelatin from drying out and cracking.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Congratulations! This is the best thing, Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting information.
    Plot Gaint

    ReplyDelete
  38. You can chop up your gelatin plate if you need to and put it in the freezer then thaw it out over night and heat and put it to set in the tray again when you need it

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hello. I am new to your blog. I love this. Your explanations are so clear. I was wondering since one would usually keep the jelly to eat in the fridge, could you keep this in the fridge too ? I am a veggie so I hear what the person was saying about the gelatin, and it is horses hooves ! I won't touch the stuff myself but I understand not all feel like I do. There is a sea weed alternative to it for the veggies out there. But I have a gelli plate that I bought. I have not used it yet but it says you can reuses for ever. I love the way you are doing the two prints. You have motivated me to get mine out and play. It is supposed to be Aurtumdown here in Australia so we have lots of leafs. Not that we have many trees that are desiduase. We are green all year long except when we don't get rain for months then the grass goes brown and we look a bit sad. I am sorry about the spellings but the iPad and blogs don't seem to like each other.
    Any way thank-you, thank-you for this. I am off for lunch then to look some more.
    Regards Helen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Helen! Thanks for reading and for your kind words. I have tried to keep the gelatin covered and in the fridge...but a condensation drips from the covering to the gelatin creating craters in the gelatin. Which gave it a cool water droplet look...but it wasn't what I had in mind. I'm a veggie also...and don't love the idea of using gelatin either. Thank you for the alternatives, I'll have to give them a shot! Oh! And I do believe many different types of plants would print well, I say give 'em a try. Have fun!

      Delete
  40. Love the way these came out, especially the veins and texture of the 2nd print. I can't wait to give them a try.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I led this as a workshop at my school and the teachers loved it! It was a lot of fun to do and everyone got really into the critiquing/collaboration aspect. Thanks for sharing this process with us! I will post about it on my blog shortly and link the credit to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Looking forward to reading about this on your blog!

      Delete
    2. Anonymous6/07/2013

      I am having problems! The ink is sticking to the roller and not the gelatine. Any idea what i'm doing wrong? I tried it before and it was great, now today in front of a class it failed!

      Delete
    3. Hmmm...I've not had that happen. I'm so sorry! Is the ink water based? That's what I used...if it's oil based, it might not have worked (this is a total guess). Also, what's the texture of the gelatin? If it's too soft like jello and not very firm, I can see the ink possibly not sticking. I'm so sad! I hope you give it another shot!

      Delete
  42. Hi Cassie!
    I'm from Brazil, some products that you indicated in your blog, I have never seen here, but I'll will try with similar products.
    Thank you for the great idea! Obrigada!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Just saw this Cassie... def trying with 2nd or 3rd graders... I have one for kinders but I think this is over their little heads!!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anonymous10/02/2013

    I love the results of the negative and positive images of the leaves. I would love to do this with my group of Kindergartners. I'm really curious how you accomplished this so effectively with a group of 20 2nd graders and only 3 trays for them to use. So how did you manage your classroom in terms of what were the other children in the class doing while their classmates printed?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Anonymous10/16/2013

    Absolutely magnicant~

    ReplyDelete
  46. I can't wait to try this.... But I'm a bit confused (why am I the only one?? urgh). You say to put one pouch into 3-4 cups of boiling water, but then you say use 12-15 pouches in total. Why 12-15 pouches? Thanks for the clarification.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're not the only confused one, trust me! You need that many pouches of gelatin to make a SUPER firm surface for printing. 12 pouches will make the gelatin sit up firmly and therefore take all the ink rolling and paper pressing. Only a could pouches and the gelatin would be squishy and weird. Like my thighs ;) Have fun!

      Delete
  47. Hi, What a great idea! thanks for sharing! one question: how did you rub the paper? with your hands? the kids didn't push too hard? Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Yes, the kids just rubbed with their hands, firmly. The need to rub the entire surface to pick up all the ink with the paper. I hope that helps!

      Delete
  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Just started a a drawing class for 7 - 10 year olds using nature as our subject. Thank you for sharing this project! So excited to do this with the kids this week.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Hi Cassie Stephens, I just did this lesson with my second graders today and it was....magical:) Thank you so much for inspiring me and clearly, every other art teacher in the world! Thank you especially for the clear directions, I really needed it! You are an amazing teacher and you seem so in love with art and so happy to be doing it. I love seeing what you come up with! If you'd like to see my second graders' work, my blog is childasartist.blogspot.com. Thank you again!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Thank you for sharing this great idea! I'm planning to try it with K-6 graders this week.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Love this project! Was wondering though, will that 3-4 cups of water/gelatin make just one sheet of gelatin, or 3? I'm just doing trail run, but don't want to make more than necessary for me and waste gelatin. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)