Friday, May 8, 2009
The art of monotype - 1
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....