5.0 Monotype: Getting to Know my Materials

Acrylics

Before my printing inks arrived I had tried to use acrylics. It is possible to pull prints from them but they make strong patterns instead of evenly coloured areas. These can be fun of course, but not what I am after. One turned out interesting though:

Skog
Acrylic print pulled from a dirty plate

I have no idea how I achieved the stripes, it only happened once. It looks like tree trunks in a forest, leaving it to the viewer to decide which are the trees. I also like the residue from earlier prints, yellow and red. Acrylics seem to stay layered when rolled so that colours applied first turn up on top mottling the main colour. Oil based printing inks do not do this.

Oil based printing inks (Etching and Relief ink)

To begin with I used different tools to see what marks I could make in an inked plate, printed on newspaper paper. The marks looked fine on the plate but did not print very well – not enough paint. The paint was much thicker than I had expected.

Marks 1
Marks in etching ink

Mark making at random is not so easy, I wanted a subject to work on. Second print with more paint and a picture using marks from above:

Marks 2

For my third print I tried a landscape with mountains and used damp paper. I had learned that this enhances the transfer of ink onto the paper. I probably made it too damp as the print became very soft and details as well as nuances in tone disappeared.

Berg 1
Etching ink on damp newsprint

At this point the “Mono” in monotype sank in: there is no using that picture again. A new print wants a new plate. I was not really pleased with the etching ink (although it was said that it lends itself well to reductive monotyping techniques). So I changed to relief ink which is a bit softer. I soon found out that it is harder to remove, it smudges more easily than the etching ink (not wanting to come off), but the prints become more saturated:

Berg 2
“Night fall in the mountains”, raw umbra relief ink on drawing paper

I like this one very much. The mountains look very mountainy and the inked areas have the beautiful texture I connect with prints. I like that some of the roller marks show at the edges.

When drawing this I found out a lot of things about the mark making, what tools work for what effect, what not to do and what to do. I decided to try and turn one of my earlier drawings into a print. All my favorite sketchbooks are with my tutor at the moment so I chose the mortar and pestle from the part about tone. I know this subject well and could concentrate on achieving the marks I wanted.

Mörser monotype
Relief ink on drawing paper, reductive monotype

I am pleased with this, too, although the shading is not quite right. It felt a bit wasteful removing all that ink in the background and half way through I regretted it. The picture would have been more dramatic in a dark setting with strong highlights. Too late. But I have a photo of the printing plate (a mirror) earlier in the process:

inking plate

In order to quickly draw the shape of the mortar on the plate I made a traced print first as this leaves a faint mark on the plate. That print is quite nice, too. I was careful not to touch the paper with my hand as I wanted to keep as much ink on the plate as possible. Still the paper picked up quite a lot from just lying there.

Mörser traced monotype
Traced monotype, relief ink over an acrylic print, drawing paper

I like the halo effect around the lines, it is all dotty.

The second time I tried this the transfer was much stronger and blotchier. Maybe I had used more ink? Or the yellow ink is softer? Also the traced lines are the colour of the paper rather than printed. Strange.

Hand traced monotype
Yello relief ink on black paper, traced monotype

From this plate I made a reductive monoprint where my marks make darks, not lights, as the ink is a lighter colour than the paper.

Hand monotype
Reductive monoprint, relief ink

Not a very good drawing but the printing part of it is nice. However, the black paper makes the yellow greenish and reduces its brightness. I think it would be better to use the yellow on white paper in combination with black or umbra.

From this I pulled a ghost, after re-inking the plate. I had noticed in an earlier experiment that did not lead to anything, that the difference in hight between single and dubbely inked parts of the plate can show on the print. Worth a try. It produced a very faint image of the hand. It could be used as background to a drawing or for an other print on top of it. Testing it on my son it became clear that the hand is not recognisable without having seen the other print first, though. So to use this technique the shape has to be simple or abstract.

Hand reinked ghost
Ghost from the re-inked plate after the print above

With the rest of what I had on the roller plate I inked a last plate with a hasty drawing. The ink was not enough so the print is pale and there were bits of dust or similar somewhere that made white blotches. But I like the combination of two different colours for the same print.

Rosebush
Rosebush. Relief ink on drawing paper

Reflections

I had a really good time playing around with this. I learned a lot of things and have started to see what techniques can be used to achieve certain effects. I have also learned that monotype is more difficult than it first looks. But I think, from my research and my own experience from today, that it is a wonderful way of drawing with endless possibilities. I have only scratched at the surface.

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