Rothko sunRISE with Gelli Arts® by Johanna Lawson

Happy LOVE day to all! Take this opportunity to #loveyourself and do something just for you. Open your heart and let art take you on a journey.

On this day of love, I decided to focus on something beautiful that inspires me – the Florida sunrise. It has been a glorious “winter” here and I want to just revel in the joy and warmth the sunshine brings. This is an abstract piece that also incorporates one of my favorite monoprinting techniques, magazine image transfers. This one has a little twist and starts as a Rothko replica.

For this project, I was inspired by the work of American artist, Mark Rothko, and his love of color. His “multiforms” are composed of bright, vibrant colors that express a sort of energy and create a mixture of overlapping colors and shapes. That sounds like my kind of painting. Rothko goes big. I mean BIG. I wasn’t able to go too big, but I did get the opportunity to use some of my larger gel plates and work on a 16 x 20” canvas.

Rothko looked at it like this:

“I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however, is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command!”

You are in it. One of the things I love most about monoprinting is the unpredictability. As you create, remember to be purposeful, but let the magic happen. Today, make art just for you. Use this tutorial as a guide and then make it your own! Get creative! For a list of all products used in this project, please see the materials section at the end of the post.

Rothko replica – a Florida sunRISE

Step One – Create Multiform #1

Find inspiration and then think abstract, just colors. When I picture the Florida sunrise, there is pink, yellow, and orange. These are the colors that stand out, these are the colors I will use. Multiform #1 will be pink.

Use more paint than you normally would when monoprinting. Rothko worked directly on uncoated, untreated canvases, so I went with it. However, the paint soaks into the canvas. There will also be enough paint for multiple prints as the canvas is moved around to cover.

Tip: Do not roll extra paint off the brayer, just set it on it’s handle. This excess paint will be used between prints.

Step Two – Create Multiform #2

Multiform #2 will be a mixture of yellow and orange to create an ombre effect on the canvas.

Step Three – Paint a Horizon

Using black paint and brush, paint a horizon line. This will anchor the image transfer monoprint that will go on top.

Step Four – Monoprint Magic

Magazine image transfers can be a little tricky. Use high quality paint and make sure the coating and quality of the magazine pages will allow for the transfer. I found this goddess in a fashion magazine and knew she would be perfect.

To match the Rothko sunrise, she got the ombre treatment as well.

Step Five – Cut it up?

YES! Cut your monoprints into half-inch strips and create something really special.

Step Six – The Final Touch

Using matte medium (or your favorite paper glue), adhere the strips to the center of the canvas, aligning the colors. Mark the center of the canvas lightly with a pencil and start with the center strip working out to the edges of the canvas.

Rothko was a beautiful soul that believed art should be an experience that exceeded the boundaries of pure aesthetics. It should go deeper. This is a special holiday that celebrates the incredible human conditions of love and kindness, but like most holidays, it can also stir up darker emotions. Rothko committed suicide on February 25, 1970. Love is complicated. It can be shared and shown in so many ways. The final touch to this piece is select lines from the poem, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, written along the strips of monoprint. Her poetry deals with trauma, heartbreak, healing, and hope. This poem speaks to me on so many levels and adds another dimension to the idea of a sunRISE. A new day. “But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

This Valentine’s Day, #loveyourself, educate yourself and you could #BeThe1To save a life. Truly see the people around you and help them know their worth. Please visit to learn more about this movement and suicide prevention.

This Rothko replica is my love letter to the world. A Florida sunRISE to brighten your day and bring hope.

Head on over to my Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook pages – @smallbatchcards – to see more of my tutorials and art. Order cards, prints, stationery, and other paper art gifts at


-Gelli Arts® Premium Acrylic Paint – Snowbound, Sunbeam, Tiger Lily, and Chili Pepper

-Gelli Arts® 4” Roller

-9”x 12” Gelli Arts® Gel Printing Plate

-8”x 10” Gelli Arts® Gel Printing Plate

-8.5” x 11” Cardstock

-High Contrast Magazine Pages – black and white work best

-Matte Medium

-Scissors/Cutting Tool

-16 x 20” Canvas

-Paint Brush

-Washi Tape


© 2019 by Gelli Arts®, LLC

Philadelphia, PA All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Rothko sunRISE with Gelli Arts® by Johanna Lawson”

    1. thank you! i so appreciate your love <3 i truly put a bit of myself out there this time and it is nice to know it spoke to someone…

  1. Johanna, This was a wonderful post! Thoughtful and thought provoking. Not only did I love the visual aspect of the work but the connections made between a great painter, the up-downs of emotions, a holiday that many feel excluded from, personal care, help information, celebrating the sun, strength of words from a powerful poem and woman. Also, celebrated Black History. Thank you.

    1. wow. thank you. this piece was a bit of a soul search for me, something new and different, yet also more of the same. women are my people, my tribe and i take every opportunity to celebrate them. like i said, this is my love letter to all the queens who came before and all the heroines yet to be.

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