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Monotype Mania - 3 Reasons

I have attended many printmaking workshops and experimented with a variety of techniques but for me monotype is 'the one' so I want to tell you more about it and why I love it. I hope you enjoy my video which demonstrates how I make a simple subtractive monotype. I like to combine this technique with dry point etching sometimes but I will demonstrate dry points in a separate blog.

Reason 1. Degas was one of the first western artists to adopt this technique and I relate to the many reasons he liked it so much. He called them, ‘drawings made with greasy ink’, and appreciated that unlike other techniques they can be manipulated right up to the moment they are printed. The ink on the plate can be worked and re-worked with fingers and a wide variety of tools, scrim, brushes, rags and sponges. My favourite for drawing is an old credit card which can also be cut to a variety of sizes. After printing I may, if there is enough ink on the plate make a ghost print by passing it through the press again. If I am pleased with the outcome I may ink up again and work on the shadow of the image underneath. I may add a coloured layer.

'Sea Leaves' was the first print and 'Leaves like Seabirds' is the ghost print. Exact same plate and drawing but very different outcomes

Degas thought it essential to work on the same subject over and over again and I have found myself making as many as ten prints per session, creating similar images while trying to improve my drawing or working out which are the right tools to make a particular mark or image…….on occasions the first print is my favourite! I love to get engrossed in a spontaneous process – no over thinking but going with the flow, a perfect medium to depict the fleetingness of modern life. Degas said that the idea for some of his landscapes came from looking out a train window (me too but more often a car).

'Twilight Journey' 1,2 and 3' all made in the same session

Reason 2. Mixed media. Monotypes are fantastic for making mixed media artwork. Degas often refined his work by using pastels over them. They can be worked on using oil paint, oil pastels, pastels, coloured pencils, biros, markers, highlighters and any thing else you can think of. I find this can deaden the energy in a monotype but if it is a print you don’t feel happy with there is nothing to lose by trying to rescue it in this way. My practice is made up of photography, printing and painting.

Reason 3. Unique handmade artwork. A monotype is a unique print no editions. A second print may be taken from the plate if there is enough ink left but it will be a lighter different version. Like a painting they are completely unique - one of a kind. They are therefore a good way to start your own collection of unique artwork by an artist as they are less expensive than a painting.

There are many techniques but 2 basic methods;

Subtractive; ink is applied to the plate using a roller and then removed using your tools of choice - see video. I prefer to use dampened paper as it really adds richness and depth to the colours.

Additive; ink or paint can be applied directly onto the plate, like making a painting. This why monotypes are often referred to as the 'painterly' form of printmaking

Both these methods can be combined with stencils and masks and with overprinting in opaque or transparent colours. Sometimes working in monochrome can be really relaxing for me - a sort of quiet introverted time.

Last point. They can be made at home without a press by painting on a plate, laying the paper on top and burnishing (rubbing al over) with a good sized spoon.


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