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Peony and Parakeet

In the Spirit of Cassandra Tondro

The Rooster, mixed media painting by Peony and Parakeet.

This painting is a monotype print where I have added only few collage pieces and a couple of little details with pens. In this artwork, the rooster is waking us up to notice that in art, whether we are makers or viewers, we are always in the middle of an experience. Thus, if you want to become a better artist, you should not focus on the final results only, but also on the experience.

Cassandra Tondro

There’s a particular artist that I want to introduce for this subject. She is someone that I greatly admire, Cassandra Tondro. I am most honored to have Cassandra Tondro herself answering to my questions! I also got her permission to publish her photo and my favorite artwork of hers called “Illusion” in this post.

Artist Cassandra Tondro

The Supplies

Cassandra Tondro has not only thought through about what kind of paintings she wants to create. She has dug deep into the whole creative process. The development of her current way of working has started steps back from what most of us would think. She wanted to find an environment-friendly solution and discovered a way to work with leftover house paint.

I did not have extra house paint but some odd jars of similar kind of fluid paint like Tim Holtz’s Distress Paint. I also diluted few old acrylic paints with water to get more fluid paint colors.

Fluid acrylic paints

Working with Colors

Cassandra Tondro has made videos of how she works with the paint. Instead of plastic sheet and canvas, I decided to use a glass plate with blank watercolor paper. My plate is about 12 by 12 inches.

Monotype pront with acrylics on a glass plate

While I poured colors on the plate, I thought about how suitable this process is when you want to forget the rest of the world and have a quality time with your favorite colors. Cassandra Tondro embraces quietness while working:

I like quiet when I work.  My experience is that we are surrounded with so much noise all the time — traffic, cell phones, airplanes overhead, radio, videos, Musak in stores.  My studio is my refuge from all of that.  I like to be alone in the studio — no phone, no computer, no Internet connection — and I like it quiet.

I agree. This is a process where colors are the music players, and the painter is the maestro, fully focusing on how to make it all work together.

Unpredictability

One general characteristic of art is an unpredictable creating process. While you have to accept more unpredictability than usually, there’s a lot what you can control. Choosing the colors and creating color mixtures is one thing. Composing color areas is another. But as Cassandra says, this is an experimental process. Experimenting is also very freeing. As I was unable to repeat the strokes that I usually do, this process tweaked my style to an unpredictable direction.

Movement

When I pressed the watercolor paper against the glass plate, feeling colors crushing between the plate and paper, I felt like running. This process involves physical movement, even if you are working on the table, instead of laying the paint on the floor like Cassandra does. The action, combined with colors, lifts your spirit, forces you to concentrate and makes you curiously excited.

Monotype printing

When the paper is turned over, and the artwork is revealed, there’s no quietness anymore! The colors have found their home. They have abandoned the hard glass, and now lie rearranged on the soft paper. A good 24 hours of dry air and they are there to stay!

Fresh acrylic paint

A warning: Once you have made one, you won’t be able to stop!

Monotype printing with acrylic paints

I got fascinated by everything, including the cleaning of the glass plate!

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet

Inspiration

I asked Cassandra where she gets her inspiration for painting:

My inspiration often comes from dreams or during meditation.  I like to meditate before I start to paint.  It sets the mood for creativity, and ideas often occur to me during meditation.  Another good source of inspiration for me is taking a walk.  Getting outside and walking frees up my mind, and I sometimes get ideas that way.

This kind of art thrives on the freedom. When I look at my pieces, I hear the colors thanking me: “You released us!” And as colors are so close to emotions, it feels like they have been released too.

Monotype printing with acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

This is the next print after The Rooster.

Monotype printing with acrylic paints, by Peony and Parakeet

This piece was made on canvas textured paper instead of watercolor paper. It is not quite as sharp as those made on watercolor paper. If you create small pieces, as I did, I recommend using thick watercolor paper.

Peony and Parakeet experimenting with Cassandra Tondro's technique.

I composed the gallery-style image on a black background, but I think that Cassandra’s work would look beautiful on a brick wall. I like to imagine how the colors would have flown in the air and crashed against the hard blocks.

The more you experiment with this technique, the more you begin to appreciate Cassandra’s paintings. I see her art very powerful. Maybe because it is something totally different from my own, which often includes too much expression, too much explaining. Cassandra’s art is the art of listening. Watching her paintings makes me think: I am free to live, I am accepted, there’s no need for talking.

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Quick Gelli Christmas Cards

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

This year I had two requirements for the Christmas cards: quick and handmade! The theme had also been selected: candles, suitable for all religions and all ages. All I had to do was to figure out how to make a lot of cards and fast. This first photo is a snapshot from my studio while I was making the cards.

Planning

Before I got my table full of cards and more under making, I had to discover the process of creating the cards. My artistic side wanted something that looked handmade but was still somewhat warm and painterly. The task was transferred to my engineering side who turned on the computer and made a sketch of a single card in Photoshop. The card would consist of two layers of paint. Needless to say, using the Gelli plate would be handy!

Planning a christmas card on Photoshop, by Peony and Parakeet

But this plan was not enough. I wanted to create not only one card, but several at the same go. While walking the dogs, I solved the problem. Here are the step-by-step instructions of how to make simple candle holliday cards. You can make them more complicated by adding doodles and such but the basic design is very simple. By following these steps, you can serially produce handmade cards!

Supplies

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

You will need: Paper, glue, cardboard, acrylic paint in few colors, brush, brayer, scissors, black pen and 8” x 10” size Gelli plate.
Optional: Paper trimmer for cutting the straight edges. Some kind of a stick, a pallette knife or a knitting needle for example, for drawing surface patterns.Double-sided tape if you prefer that to glue for attaching the printed image to the cardboard.

1) 1st Layer: Candles

Paint the center of the plate. The width of the painted area is 5 to 6 inches of the height of 10 inches. You can cut a paper of that width and use it as a guide by putting it beside or under the plate.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

You can draw patterns with a stick if you like. I like to use more than one color to make the candles look lively. You can use brayer for the paint but I prefer to use brush and work horizontally. That way the candles will have horizontal color slides.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

Cut your papers to the size of the Gelli plate before printing them. You will get 2 to 3 prints from the one layer of paint. Let dry.

2) 2nd layer: Backgrounds

While waiting the paint to dry, cut the masks for the candles. You will make four candles from the one print. For the four candles, you will need four rectangles, 2-3 inches wide and 5 to 6 inches long. Furthermore, you will need four flames. Fold a paper twice in half and cut one flame at the same go or enjoy your time with the scissors and cut the shapes individually.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

Paint the background with two colors. The center with a darker color (blue, black or green, for example) and the sides with orange yellow. I like to use color mixtures here too. Place the masks so that the distance between them is the twice longer than the distant from the edges. If you want, you can emphasize the flames by drawing lines around them. Make the prints. Let dry.

3) Cut the prints, save the flames

Save the masking papers for the flames. Cut the prints in four parts with scissors or with a paper trimmer.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

In the third photo beside the trimmer you can see one alteration of this pattern: use Gelli plate in the other way and create an image with a several candles! By cutting various sizes of masks you get variation for your candles.

4) Finishing

Cut a small part of the background away from the both sides of the print. Cut curvy lines to the bottom edge of the candle. These will make the candle look like it’s set on the snow.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

Attach the print to the cardboard. Glue the mask on place or color the center of the flame with a colored pencil or a marker. Draw a wick with a black pen.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate, by Peony and Parakeet

5) Variations!

You can make all kinds of variations from the basic instructions. You can add the number of candles, cut them out and glue many candle on the same card, doodle on the candles etc.

Printing Christmas Cards with a Gelli Plate (make four from the same print!), by Peony and Parakeet

I still have few cards to finish and one more task to do: Write “Merry Christmas” or “Hyvää joulua” (same in Finnish) on each one!

More holiday crafts from the previous years:
Wrapping Paper from Newspaper and Elegant Christmas cards

Self-Expression with Gelli Plate

Humanity - a monoprint by Peony and Parakeet. See my tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Printing with a Gelli plate was one of the things that popped up from the reader’s survey. As I happen to love mono printing techniques, it was quickly selected for the theme of the week!

Glass Plate

Almost 30 years ago, long before Gelli plates, I used glass plates for mono printing. I usually made a sketch first and then added each color as a separate layer.

Sisters by Peony and Parakeet. Printed with a glass plate. See my tips for creating monoprints!

This monoprint was made in 1988, and it represents my sisters.

Gelli Plate

Gelli plate is a great invention, and it’s available in various sizes and shapes. My plate is 8 x 10 inches in size. Acquiring one is not a necessity. Glass plates work fine even today. You can also use any plastic transparent like overhead projector transparencies. The advantage of Gelli plate is that it has a flexible and sticky surface. That makes the using of masks easier. So if you fall in love with mono-printing, I would recommend purchasing the Gelli plate.

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

In addition to the plate, I have Golden Open acrylic paints. These paints have extended drying time, so they are especially suitable for mono-printing. I only have six colors, but by mixing them, I can get a huge variety of colors.

To create monoprints that include self-expression, I have 6 tips for you.

Tip 1: Use brushes instead of a brayer

The most common tool with the Gelli plate is a brayer. I have a Speedball brayer, but I often use brushes instead. They make the prints much more artistic, unique and expressive. With brushes, you can easily create non-repeating details and large color areas – the elements that contain more communication than monotone repeats.

Tip 2: Use a variety of tools

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Your artwork is much more interesting if you use a variety of tools. For this post, I have used two different brushes, a double-ended embossing needle for doodling and a long palette knife for wider strokes. Your imagination is the only limitation when tools are considered. Just remember to avoid sharp objects!

Tip 3: Use hand-cut shapes for masks

When combining a variety of colors and surface patterns with hand cut shapes, the result is much more organic than using one color and cutter-cut shapes. The temptation to create a repeated design is bigger than when using freely cut unique shapes.

Here are some patterned papers that I printed from machine-cut shapes.

I made these with Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate, and this might work as a fabric design too.

But with freely cut shapes, I avoided repeating the same motif.

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Tip 4: Let each layer bring something new to the artwork

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

When creating a new layer, I do not mix and match colors too much. Sometimes colors look even more amazing on a plate than on a print, so I had to take a close-up from the plate!

See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

I also think that cutting new shapes for each layer can really pay off. Add new and different with each layer, still letting the lower layers show too!

Tip 5: Create at least two monoprints at the same go

If you use slowly drying acrylics, you can get at least two monoprints from the same layer of paint. You can also experiment with that by creating two different artworks by changing the printing direction. I have turned the last layer upside down in the second monoprint. Thus the two prints differ slightly.

Monoprints by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Tip 6: Doodle and color over

A monoprint before and after decoration by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

I doodled over the other of the two monoprints created for this post. Besides a white gel pen and a black thin tip marker, I also used colored pencils to fine-tune the colored areas slightly.

Here’s the bigger picture of the decorated print:

Technology - a monoprint by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Finished Prints

Humanity and Technology - monoprints by Peony and Parakeet. See 6 tips for using Gelli plate as a tool for self-expression!

Here are the two finished pieces. Which one do you like more, the one that is not decorated or the one that is?

My husband asked after seeing these: What are you thinking while making these? – I try to think of nothing while creating, I said. I believe that you have to think before you create, not while you create. However, after a vivid discussion, I named these: the one on the left is Humanity, and the one on the right is Technology.

Gelli Printing Project in a Video – Apples and Tomatoes!

In this video, I talk about how and why to add diversity to your art. At the same time, I am creating a monoprint with a Gelli plate showing easy techniques to create an image.

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