Sunday, July 31, 2016

Experimenting with Monotype

On most Saturday mornings, I like to relax by drawing or painting. This past spring, I got the notion that I would take on printing as well so I started experimenting with monotyping. I've always enjoyed sketching and liked the idea of trying to capture nearby views in print form. There is a permanence to the print juxtaposed to the quickness of a drawing that I enjoy about the monotype process. I also enjoy the chance affects that occur in this printing process. You don't always know how the printed image will come out or if it will come out at all so when you reveal the print, good or bad, there are always some surprises.

Monotype is a printing process where you ink a plate and then create a single print from that plate. For those that want to get into the nitty gritty of it, there is also a distinction between monotypes and monoprints. Monotypes are prints made from plates that have no permanent marks on them, they are unique and one of a kind. I began my first prints using a glass plate, some Speedball ink and a small sheet of glass. I applied the ink to the glass and used a reductive process to remove ink from areas that I wanted lighter in the drawing. I then printed it. It was a disaster. The ink didn't adhere to the paper as it seemed to dry too quickly. 

Glass plate with ink drawing on it. It looked so promising. What did I know? 
Disaster: printed drawing was too light and had no definition.
I decided to do some more research to determine what I was doing wrong. After a couple more tries, I've worked out a process that seems to yield good results. I first changed my ink to an intaglio ink by Akua. It stays wet for a long time so have time to work and know that the drawing will still adhere to the paper. I do the initial drawing on either a glass plate or a piece of palette paper. I then transfer the drawing by rubbing, with a bone folding tool, the printing paper over the ink image. 

I use both an additive and subtractive process to draw. I have found that starting with a black ground of ink has worked best for me. I then remove or add ink to create the drawing. I use a palette knife, paintbrush, and charcoal blender to draw with. I also keep toilet paper and wet ones on hand to remove any excess ink from tools or the drawing. I print on Strathmore 80lb drawing paper. The smoother the paper, the easier the printing process but I like the drawing paper best.     

My tools include a roller, palette knife, paintbrush, charcoal blending tool, palette paper, Akua intaglio ink, wet ones, and toilet paper. 
My subject matter is typically a local landmark, street or park view. I choose a view and create a sketch from it as a study. I then go to work on the plate or palette paper.  
Pleasant Home, a National Landmark in Oak Park is one of my subjects.

Composition / sketch study of Pleasant Home
Ink drawing on glass plate.
Final print of Pleasant Home drawing.
Sometimes I am happy very happy with a drawing but things happen in the printing process that create a faulty image. Too much ink can create blotchy areas with no definition. Not enough ink can make the drawing appear washed out. Not applying enough pressure when burnishing the image can cause printing issues as well.

Inked drawing of landscape. I thought this was going to turn out great. Unfortunately there was a little too much ink on the palette paper and it created a bit of a mess. 
Printed landscape image with too much ink shows smeared and blotchy results.
Printed landscape image of a plate that didn't have enough ink so the result was light and had little to no definition.
After a day of printing, I only had one image that I was happy with. You win some, you lose some. 
One of the things that some artists have done is to go back into the monotypes with pastel or watercolor to add additional character to the drawing. Edgar Degas is famous for this and is probably the foremost master of the process. Another favorite of mine who mastered this process was the American artist, Milton Avery. At some point I might start experimenting with color but for now, I am happy learning how to control the graphic quality of the simple printed drawing. I've collected some of my favorite monotypes and pastels on Pinterest if you are interested. Below are a few of my more successful attempts at printing from the past few months:
Monotype view of Oak Park Avenue
Monotype view of alley next to the Scoville Block.
Monotype view in Thatcher Woods.


Peggy Condon said...

Thank you for explaining your process. I will try this today.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Maybe try drawing with a great pen too. :)