Printed Family Portraits

As I get older and time passes, I am always exploring ways to use art to communicate and share my East Texas roots and young adulthood. I write about some of this in my occasional Pine Curtain Stories project, but have also been thinking of ways to make art around the theme that is a little less illustrative. But I am not a portraitist or skilled in realistic painting , and I want to keep some of the figurative/narrative theme.

Since I have so enjoyed my recent plexiglass printmaking, I decided to expand that work to make abstract prints of family photographs. The first one is of my grandfather and uncle, sometime in the 1960s. It’s a work in progress, as I still need to do some embellishing.

I love making these, and using family and community images gives the work a deeper purpose. I also like this type of printmaking, because the final result is nothing like the original guide piece. It comes out more blurry in some ways, brighter in others. Fitting for such memories.

Plexiglass plate over a copied photo. I add the color one layer/spot at a time and quickly pull two prints, touching up the paint a little in between.
Background prints.
Print process complete. Next step will be to add some finishing touches with pastel and ink.

Plexiglass Monoprint

I really enjoy these plexiglass prints, because it’s a great exercise in letting go and getting into the process without worrying about the outcome. As you can see, the plate doesn’t look much like the print at all. Part of the fun is filling in the abstract shape with pastels, and even gold leaf! I purposefully don’t try and make it look like what’s on the plate. Instead, I simply go where it leads.

Usually, I get two prints from a plate like this, lightly re-inking after each one as the paint does dry quickly. (I use a mix of block printing inks and acrylics and they both work fine.)

Initially, I had planned to wash and reuse the plates, but I find that I like the effect of the paint/ink on the plexiglass. Plexiglass is pretty inexpensive, so I will just keep it as another art piece.

I’m considering opening up for sales again later this summer. These would be hard to sell as originals because the pastel powder is hard to control, thus hard to ship. But maybe I could work them into an embellished print (fine art print) series. We will see.

More Abstract Gel Printing

I’m really enjoying making these prints, not only the process (pulling the paper up is so satisfying!) but seeing where it can go adding different types of media and techniques.

I admit that I have not really been called to abstract art. I enjoy looking at it – my favorites are Larry Poons, Helen Frankenthaler and Gunther Fjorg. And, I’m crazy about them, but the list is pretty short after that. But, I also admit that I’m not the best at drawing, so I get frustrated when what’s on the page doesn’t match what’s in my head.

In loosening up my notions of what I do and don’t like and trying more abstract pieces, I have learned that I enjoy making color combinations, marks and other abstract techniques while I work over the more figurative stuff to get it just right.

In other words, where art is concerned, never say never and rule nothing out.


I am also experimenting with adding other types of art techniques and media to the page, incorporating Gel Pen details:

Acrylic, block ink, gel pen and gold leaf Gel print by Stephanie Khattak.

And Gold Leaf:


As is my process to avoid wasting products, I pulled a second print that came out with much lighter ink. To add interest here, I incorporated a portrait.


We will see where it takes me next.


“The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

Abstract Gel Prints

I don’t have a lot of time this week, but it’s important to commit to at least a few hours in the studio, both as a commitment to my art, and a way to make sure I prioritize something important to me. So, yesterday afternoon, I took out my Gelli plate and made some quick prints. I’m still learning this method and I really love it! It’s great for making quick pieces and having the validation of finishing something while taking my time with other things in the background.

I started with a few colors. Payne’s Gray is my all-time favorite color. I believe I have it in every medium – it’s just so versatile. Sometimes it looks blue, other times gray…it’s a good way to paint something “black” and still keep some nuance in the shade. I also used gold and a pale lilac. I use a mix of block print ink and acrylic paints, because I didn’t want to invest too much into the inks right away. As far as I know, they both work fine – I’m happy with my finished pieces, and both mediums wash easily off the plate.

Next, I take a small brayer and spread the colors. As you can see, a little goes a long way.

This is the first print. Pretty Straightforward.

One thing I really appreciate about this type of art, is that I can make many different pieces from the same paint spreads, and each looks a little different. (I could also have done more pulls of the first print for more similarity or a series.) Nothing is wasted. Here, I’ve laid out paper of different sizes, just to see what comes out of the process.

Before I placed the paper, I scratched some designs into the color. While I am sure there are specific tools or methods for this, I just used a plain palette knife, very gently.

Pretty cool. I like how, similar to clouds or ink blots, there are a lot of things to discover in these abstract shapes.

For example, I see a lot of city scapes or even highways here. The middle two remind me of a city and mountains. Maybe because I’ve had the Pacific NW on my mind. (I live in Texas – great barbecue, no mountains haha.)

I used a white gel pen to add in the smallest of details to guide the eye into seeing what I see here.

By now, the plate is pretty faded. But there’s still enough for one more pull. I use plain craft paper for the final print each time. Eventually, there will be enough to look like a series of abstracts that would look good displayed together.

Ta-Da!

All of this, plus cleaning the plate and tidying my materials took roughly an hour. While my heart will always be in figures and more narrative work, this was a great way to spend an afternoon, and got my wheels turning on how I can start selling art again without making it a whole “big thing” as they say. Stay tuned…