Now that I've discussed what a monotype is, material options and the creation of a plate, I'm on to the next step...
How is the image transferred?
Many artists create monotypes in a printmaking studio but that is not necessary. I have a heavy stainless roller (85 pounds) that a friend made for me. I use this on the top of a chest of drawers that is just the right height for rolling. I've also used a wooden pastry roller to get a transfer and even the back of a wooden spoon for smaller pieces. They all work, but for the spoon and the pastry roller I apply my weight to the process. On top of my "table" I have a piece of vinyl floor covering back side up (no embossed patterns) and on top of this I have a sheet of lightweight paper that I can change if it gets dirty.
I lay the plate, right side up of course, on top of the vinyl and paper and apply the soaked watercolour paper that has been blotted of excess water on top of the plate. I lightly smooth it out with my hand and then place another sheet of absorbent paper on top of this. Then I roll over the top, usually rolling twice with my heavy roller or the pastry roller. With the wooden spoon I methodically burnish the whole surface of the paper.
I take a careful peek by lifting a corner to see how things are transferring. If I feel I need to go over it once more I will drop the edge of the paper and roll again. When you pull the print there may be areas that have a heavy application of paint. I use an exacto blade or regular blade to scrape off the excess.
If there's still paint left on my plate I usually try to capture a ghost image from the plate by using a lighter paper (90 lb. hot press or rice paper). This cognate or ghost is created in the same way described above. Sometimes the ghost is even more interesting that the original.
This monotype was created by painting the background on a plexiglas plate with oil paint. Then various abstract shapes were cut from transparency film and laid on the background. The print is pulled and then the stencil pieces are removed. The area behind the stencils is white. The stencil pieces are then laid paint side down on the white spaces and rolled out again.
This is the ghost image crated from the paint left on the plate after the monotype above was created. In this case I like the ghost print better than the monotype. The abstract images were created in the same way by flipping the stencil, paint side down onto the reserved white areas.
How are the prints dried?
I place the print between two sheets of newsprint and sandwich this between two sheets of plywood. If I have several prints I just add another piece of plywood to the layers. I then place a heavy weight (once I used my portable sewing machine, but now I have the heavy flat top of a metal bench my husband cast off). I change the newsprint for several days until the print is completely dry.
Then it is time to decide on the success of your monotype. Sometimes I embellish monotypes using acrylic or pastels. Other times I make am image transfer of parts of unsuccessful ones to include in mixed media work. Other times I may collage what I consider the successful aspect of a work into another work or there is always the reject drawer. Perhaps time will provide a new way to look at the work.
Tips when using oil paint for montotypes:
- Dip your brush in oil to dress it and then blot quickly on paper towel to remove excess oil (water if you are using water soluble oils). Don't forget to continually dab into the oil as you change colours/clean your brush. Too much oil will create thin applications of paint that will give a "watercolour" look to your transfer.
- Use several brushes to avoid cleaning or making mud.
- If you make a mistake scrape that part off with mat board or other stiff cardboard. Old credit cards make great scrapers too. Cut cardboard in various sizes that work with the scale of your painting.
- Concentrate on simplicity - you don't have to say everything, leave something to the viewer.
- Avoid layering colours because you will only get the top colour transferring. Anything underneath will be diluted or lost entirely.
- Subtle painting does not translate well in monotype. You need big jumps in value.
These are my top three picks for print resources on monotype:
Monotype: Mediums and Methods for Painterly Printmaking, Julia Ayres
I consider this the "bible" of the monotype process. It has never let me down when I've had questions that needed answers.
Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate: Printmaking without a Press, Nancy Marculewicz
If you want to try working on a softer plate this is the book to move your along.
Singular Impressions : The Monotype in America, Joann Moser
This book is a survey of over one hundred artists who work in many different media but who have all tried monotype. I like the range of artists and variety of work highlighted.