Valentine Paper Arts Starting with Gelatin Prints

One of my favorite memories from childhood was making the annual valentine mail box. When I was a kid, we made boxes for the die-cut (or handmade) cards to go in when we exchanged them at school.

gelatin paper art
One of my gelatin monprints on paper.

The general idea was to take a shoe box, cut a slot in the top, cover the whole thing with construction paper, and then add hearts, paper doilies, Cupid arrows, and so on. There was a contest for the best one, and some people went all out.

One year, I remember, a girl made a replica of Snoopy's dog house, complete with cartoon Snoopy on top, for her valentines. She won the prize. I have no recollection of the classmate, but I can still see that Snoopy box sitting on her desk, mocking my own carefully constructed creation.

But the box was only part of the experience. The best part was going through the cards, many nestled in white, gummed envelopes, to see who gave you what. Did your best friend give you the most complementary card? Did your favorite boy's message, "I have a yen for you" mean that he liked you, or that that was the least gushy card he could find?

I always liked handmade cards. To this day, I'm a sucker for paper art involving red foil heart stickers, white paper doilies, and glitter. But I have more sophisticated materials in my toolbox, too. My latest passion is making monoprints on paper with heart masks.

It couldn't be easier. For a printing plate, you can use a piece of glass (be sure to tape the edges if they're sharp), make a gelatin plate, or use a Gelli ArtsTM reusable plate. Pull out your fluid acrylics and inks plus found objects for creating designs. Then get a stack of computer paper. Take a sheet and cut out basic shapes to use as masks-I like hearts.

gelatin monoprint paper art
Monoprint on paper mixed-media collage by Jenn Mason.

Ink up your plate using a brayer and two or three colors. Create patterns on the plate by lightly drawing with a plastic fork or chopstick, pressing something textured like bubble wrap on it, etc. Lay your mask down on the plate where you want to create a shape. Then place your paper over the plate and smooth your hands over the back of the paper. Carefully peel it off the plate and voilà.

Now you have a base for collage, handmade paper to use as a background, or a piece of paper art you can cut up for artist trading cards or to turn into a handmade card to give as a valentine. Or, you can let it dry and then repeat the process with another mask.

Oh, and be sure to save that ink- or paint-covered mask to use as a paper art element in another piece of art.

Paper arts and crafts are a wonderful way to spend a winter afternoon with friends, children, or even alone in your studio. Gelli plates, brayers, videos with instructions for making mixed-media paper art, and more are available in the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop.

Try making some paper valentines with your artwork, and don't forget to make a valentine box.

I bet you'll win the prize!

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Blog, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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