Friday, May 8, 2009

The art of monotype - 1

Lupins (2004) 10 x 18, monotype

I love monotype for its unpredictability and spontaneity. It moved me away from being uptight and controlling when I created work. (You may be thinking that Lupins is pretty up tight, but believe me it is loose compared to what I was creating at that point in my career.) For me monotype was the first step in a long line of explorations that brought me to a place in art where I am quite comfortable not knowing how something is going to turn out.

Many of my monotypes were created several years ago and I am now using parts of them or image transfers of them in new mixed media works as you can see illustrated in the previous post. You can create monotypes with simple tools at home or in a fully stocked printmaking shop. I've answered some basic questions about how I create monotypes.

What is a monotype?

A monotype is the simplest form of printmaking, requiring only pigments, a surface (plate) on which to apply them, paper and some form of pressure, e.g., an etching or litho press, or hand pressure with a rolling pin, brayer, flat spoon or your hand. The process allows you to create a one of a kind print.

Is this a new process?
The first monotype was attributed to Giovanni Beneddetto Castiglione who lived from 1616 to 1670. Other well known artists including William Blake, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt and Paul Gauguin and numerous other artists experimented with monotype.

What materials have artists used for plates?
The plate can be any material that is flat and will release the paint easily. Many artists prefer plexiglas, but mylar, sealed multimedia board or cardboard, varnished wood or copper or zinc plates all work. For a really interesting experience try gelatin plates. This a great video by Linda Germain.

What media can be used?
I am most familiar with oils, water soluble oils, and oil based inks. I've had less success with acrylic and watercolour transfers. Other artists have created great transfers with water based media but I haven't found the magic formula for them.

How do I prepare the paper?
I prefer hot press watercolour papers , 140 lb. weight. Because watercolour paper has sizing it needs to be soaked well and blotted dry before using so that the paint won't sit on top of the paper. Most sized papers need to be soaked for up to an hour before using. When the paper is removed from the bath, blot it dry with a paper towel or shop towel until the paper has a matt finish.

If you are using unsized paper you just need to spray it rather than soak it. Once sprayed, it can be placed between two sheets of plastic (e.g., heavy plastic bag cut up into sheets, to keep the paper moist and to evenly distribute the moisture over the paper.

Rice paper or other thin papers can be used without wetting. You can also get interesting effects by transferring to dry or very rough papers. Experimentation is the order of the day.

How is paint/ink applied?
I use oil paint for my monotypes. There are basically two methods of applying paint, one is additive and the other is subtractive.

The subtractive method is know as "working from a dark field". The plate is covered with a medium and then portions are removed by scratching, scraping with a tool, cardboard, sponges, an gloved finger, etc. to create an image.

The additive method is known as "working into a light field" because the painting is developed on a clean surface. With this approach a sketch can be placed behind the plexiglas to guide the work. When applying paint use a thin, even application, otherwise you will get smearing or blobs when you transfer. Both methods can be combined to produce one piece.

I like to achieve a watercolour effect with my monotypes so I use sunflower oil to dress my brush frequently. I stay away from all solvents when using oil paint.

Stay tuned for part two....


Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Great description of the monotype. I like monotypes too and I did try the gelatin print...interesting!

Margaret Ryall said...

I think that most artists have dabbled in monotype at one time or another. I love the way you can experiment and nothing gives me the feeling of anticipation when you start to pull the print.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Great info, Margaret. Thanks for sharing this. The last time I made prints was way back in college! Maybe one year soon, I will revisit those processes.

Your header is beautiful and so are your monoprints. :)

As far as not knowing what results you will get, that is how I paint, and exactly what I like about it: the adventure!

Linda Dalton Walker said...

Margaret, have you ever tried doing a monotype onto mounted linen? I'm interested in obtaining a different type of a background for my figurative paintings, and I thought monotypes would work. What do you think?

Silvie said...

Hi Margaret,
When you say to soak the paper first, do you mean in water or in mineral spirits? I've tried making monotypes with water based inks and now want to try oils. I am unsure if I should spray the paper with mineral spirits or with water because as far as I know oil and water don't mix. I am using a cotton rag paper like Reeves BFK.

Margaret Ryall said...

Soak the paper in water. You do that to open the fibers in the paper and then blot all the water out of the paper .i know it sounds weird but trust me the process is compatible with oils.

Ainatacp@aol.comment said...

I used to do monocytes in Brooklyn College with leaves
and was very successful. I NEED to get a press ..... what do you suggest ?

Margaret Ryall said...

I can't comment on a press preference, I only use a heavy metal roller I hD made specifically for printmaking.

Tim Baynes said...

And greetings from London. I just read your piece on mono type and I think it is excellent thank you so much for sharing this idea and as a beginner in this area it was extremely useful. Warmest wishes and hopefully it is not too cold where you are right now! Best wishes Tim Baynes.

Margaret Ryall said...

Tim, glad you found my post helpful. And no, in fact it is raining today. We have had a mild winter so far in Newfoundland.