There are a wide variety of formal, often combed, marbled patterns, each with its own history. I thought I’d embark on a series of posts illustrating the process of creating a few of these patterns, which are much simpler to produce than they appear. These are by no means historically accurate examples, nor an exhaustive survey – for that I can recommend Anne Chamber’s The Practical Guide to Marbling Paper, Iris Nevins’ Traditional Marbling, or Patty & Mimi Schleicher’s Marbled Designs: A Complete Guide to Fifty-Five Elegant Patterns.
A few notes on my materials and process: Many types of pigments, sizes, and surfactants are used by marblers, each according to his or her preference. I work with acrylic paints on caragheenan, using Dawn or Photo-flow as needed. I find that an ice cube tray makes a perfectly-sized palette, and like glass pipettes rather than disposable ones.
Uniformly repeating patterns rely on a variety of rakes or combs with evenly spaced tines, ranging from 1/8″ to 1 1/2″ apart. I often prefer to hand draw the pattern with a stylus, which gives a less static appearance (and is freeing!). The diameter of the stylus does impact the line quality, while the distance between the lines drawn will have a marked impact on the scale of the finished pattern. If you are marbling paper destined for bookbinding, make a note of the grain direction before beginning so you can plan the direction of the pattern accordingly.
One of the primary marbled patterns is the getgel, from the Turkish ‘go and come’. Pictured above in an example created with a stylus. While fetching in its own right, the getgel is also the foundation for many other combed patterns. It is simply a series of parallel lines, bisected by a series of parallel lines running in the opposite direction. The getgel pattern can then be repeated at right angles to the first pass, which will create finer, more delicate lines of color.
Two sets of parallel lines completes the getgel pattern
The getgel can be repeated perpendicular to the existing pattern
In the studio the getgel pattern begins by throwing down a few colors, each addition driving the prior color into dense veins.
Followed by the combing process – a little shaky this morning.
The getgel is now complete, but I’d like to repeat it for finer lines and more uniform color dispersal.
And there you have it, the getgel pattern!