My coloured inks having arrived I gave the monoprint exercises an other go. I wanted to try and combine different colours.
The traced print turned out very nice. I rolled the colours on the plate roughly where the head and hand (umber), the torso (magenta) and the background (phtalo blue) would be. Having watched the videos on printing technique on the OCA student site I was careful to achieve a thin layer of ink.
I have managed to get the colours almost in the right place. Where they miss the drawing – in the hand, the hair and a cheek – it does not feel wrong. I think it adds interest and gives the drawing character.
As before I wanted to use the marks on the plate for a reductive print so I was careful not to remove too much ink where I wanted dark colours in the reductive print. This gave the traced print the character of a partial negative. However, this time round the drawing is not as good as the first one and the features of the face become harder to read.
I also wish I had made the background pick up more colour.
I think this technique works very well with traced monoprints.
The reductive print from this plate did not work out quite as well. With this technique more of the colour fields transfer to the print. Where they do not match the drawing they are stronger than the line and disturb the shapes. The shoulder on the left side seems to be too high up due to the red colour field ending there. The brown around the head has not as strong an impact. Also I do not like the roller marks being as visible as they are. They make lines where there shouldn’t be any, especially in the face.
The traced print had taken off too much ink to allow for dark darks in this second print so I tried to fill them in by adding undiluted ink. The contrast turned out too strong, especially in the eyes.
To pick up as much ink as possible I wetted the paper as described in the printmaking video. This worked well. The marks on the wetted paper become softer than on dry, thin paper. I used smooth watercolour paper but it still shows quite a strong tooth in this print. I like the more evenly inked fields on the jutepaper better.
(Videos can be found in the Resources section on the OCA student website)
Monoprint >< Monotype disambiguation
According to Jonathan Jarvis, technician tutor printmaking at Farnham, a Monoprint is a one-off as opposed to a monotype which is a series of prints. Permanently marking the plate does not at all come into it. According to Drawing Magazine it is the Monoprint that produces the series (see blog post Research into Monotype)
Preparing the plate:
work the ink with a pallet knife. Cold ink is stiff, working it makes it softer.
Draw the ink out with the roller – the rolling movement has a flip (ensures even spreading)
fast rolling picks up ink – slow rolling puts ink down -> control amount of ink on the plate
Amount of ink on the plate:
thick layer of ink: saturated marks but hard to control (esp. for traced monoprints)
thin layer of ink: less saturated but results in clear and controlled marks
-> use not more ink than necessary. Listen! it should sound velvety
Traced monotypes need a thin film of ink for controlled marks
Reductive monotypes need more ink
Direct printing (not put through a press) is very sensitive to the paper used. The surface of the paper remains much more visible and influences the outcome very much. There are special printing papers that are not sized and soft.
Thick, soft papers result in soft marks >< thin, hard papers allow sharp, crisp marks
Absorbent papers draw the ink in >< non-absorbent papers keep the ink on the surface (can become glossy). Jonathan Jarvis also mentions that the ink can be put behind the paper. I wonder what he means??
Wetting the paper:
Different types of paper need different wetting techniques.
Wet thin papers with a sponge on both sides
Thick papers can be soaked. Soaking time varies greatly between papers!
Let excess water run off
Sponge off excess water on both sides with a natural sponge to not harm the paper.
Roll between two sheets of blotting paper
Sync the wetting with the plate, both should be ready at the same time!
Modification of the ink:
By adding printing bases the ink can be modified. Translucent base makes the ink more translucent so it will combine with the paper or colour(s) underneath it. An opaque white will make the colour of the ink chalkier and less translucent. -> Check out what there is and what it does!
Where colours are overprinted they become darker and lose some of their hue. Can be compensated for by adding an opaque base or white
Colour A on top of colour B does give a different result than B on A
Remember: The colour that is on top on the printingplate will be at the bottom on the paper, everything is reversed!
By overprinting colours a sense of pictorial space and depth can be achieved
Use the selfportrait from unit 1 to make a transfer monoprint
Then make a print drawing directly onto the inked plate with different tools (reductive method)
As I wanted to make the reductive print of my self portrait I decided to use the transfer method to make a “sketch” onto the plate from which to make the reductive print. I chose one of the ink portraits as they are simpler with less detail than my pencil drawing.
The first try failed. I had used relief ink. The paper for the transfer print instantly stuck to the plate and subsequently pulled off a lot of ink in random patches. The traces are almost invisible and the reductive print I made from this turned out blotchy and has no dark darks.
I painted some of the darks around the eyes but as the paint is very stiff and I have no thinner they turned out wobbly. I do like the eyes in this one, though. Also I realised that I did not really have any strategy to make midtones to vary the background and shadows.
For my next try I used etching ink, which is stiffer and had produced a very nice traced print of the mortar and pestle in my initial tests. Already when inking the plate I was careful to ink the darker side really well and ink the lighter side only lightly. After tracing I also pressed on the areas where I wanted a midtone in the reductive print. This would remove enough ink from the plate to make a difference I hoped. Consequently, the traced picture got characteristics of a negative, e.g. the dark eyes and light eyebrows.
I like this one. It has nice textures and the variations in tone give make it interesting, maybe because they are unexpected. As I wanted clear lines on the plate I pressed quite strongly when tracing and did not vary the lines. I wonder to what extent it is possible to do so. This needs investigating.
Etching ink clearly works better for traced prints. Removing it from the plate in a controlled manner, on the other hand, is harder than with relief ink. It does want to remain on the plate. The detail in the face took a long time. I had tops and rubber utensils that are used in oil painting I believe, rags, toiletpaper and bamboo skewers. Still the midtones are missing although I achieved a lighter background behind the shadow side of the head and some tonal variation in the sleeve. My attempt to make the main shadows of the face lighter than the eyebrows and the pupils did not work. I should have dabbed away more ink like I did with the shirt. By the same mistake the eyes became too dark.
The smooth jute paper is perfect to print on. It readily takes the ink and allows for fine detail.
I am happy with this print. I like the composition and the balance between light and dark. It has nice textures and character. I am especially pleased with the mouth, the hair and the sleeve.
It is hard to wipe away the picture on the plate after just one print. So I made a ghost, trying to remedy the dark eyes in the process. I wetted the paper this time to make it take more ink. It crinkled a bit but worked fine otherwise. Apart from the fact that I made the wrong part of the eyes lighter. It really became a ghost with its dark whites and light irises… This gives the portrait a very different expression. Interesting.
The self portrait was a challenge. I realised I had to make a number of decisions at the beginning and plan my way ahead. To draw lights rather than darks still feels odd. This might be one of the reasons why my tonal range is narrow. An other is tools and experience. This whole process is still very much trial and error. For this to work better I think I need to find better tools and learn to produce different tones.
As with paints on a palette I like to use up left over printing ink in a spontaneous print. Today this is the product of that – clearly influenced by the Karl Mårtens exhibition yesterday.
Use found objects to mask parts of the printing plate to make marks
Use what you have learned so far in the course
I began this exercise by testing different objects as masks:
torn sack cloth
a piece of tatted lace
torn rice paper
thin metal rings for tying flowers
pencil shavings (wooden part)
a copper stencil from the sewing kit of my great-grand-mother
All of these, apart from the stencil and the rice paper, turned out to be too thick and turned into blobs.
The right hand picture contains the actual print on its left side, its ghost (after removal of the objects) to the right of it and marks I stamped with the inked side of the sackcloth in that. In combination they became quite interesting, it looks a bit like some kind of steam punk face with goggles.
I tried to go thinner with my objects:
pencil shavings (graphite part)
The leaves and petals worked best, but are not very original. They felt very school project. The other ones were more promising.
The dog hairs turned out to be the thinnest lines so far and the pencil shavings marked the paper a bit which I found interesting. The flour made a nice cloudy pattern. The third picture shows the actual print and its ghost after removal of the thread (not the flour for obvious reasons). With this picture I had begun to think about balance and what I wanted to do with that.
I was thinking of the golden ratio, or more precisely the golden spiral I had come across in my assignment for the Introduction to HE (hence the spiral above). Into this came the idea of scales and a “riddle” we used to ask each other as children: “What is heavier, one kilo of iron or one kilo of feathers?” How to turn this into something visual? This is the page from my sketchbook:
I wanted part of the spiral to be the scales weighing up something simple and “heavy”, a white block, against something diffuse and “light”. I also wanted the dark area to be more complex with accidental edges, maybe reflecting the two sides of the scale. The first couple of prints turned out quite simple and a bit boring.
In the first I like the circular shape of the cloud and and the edges of the ink. The second discouraged me from the idea of different hights in the background according to heaviness. Almost from the start I put some cloudy elements in the lower right corner – for compositional balance.
I had used shavings from watercolour pencils and hoped they would colour the cloud, as had the graphite. They didn’t, or only very very weakly. Further testing and thinking solved the problem and resulted in two prints I like. During the testing I also noticed that I moved away from the spiral more and more, interpreting it more freely. A good thing I think.
The colours turned out clear and strong here, but there is no cloud instead. And I was not satisfied with the composition yet.
Here the cloud turned out very nice, but the coloured bits became blackened. Why? Maybe due to the blotting of the paper with a wet cloth?
Note added later: What happened was that the shavings are on top of the plate with ink beneath them. As everything is reversed when printed the end up at the bottom with ink on top of them. For them to remain clear they must adhere to the plate and only mark the paper. Less pressure and a wetted paper might work?
I like the scales (the sewing thread mark) being out of equilibrium, but still in balance. I also made the square larger.
The last print on this theme I like best:
I exaggerated the disequilibrium and with that left the idea of the golden spiral. It felt right. I like very much that I let the coloured bits go off the inked background. The roller marks turning into dots at the top left go very well with this I think. The image is dissolving. The cloud turned out the way I wanted it, it looks a bit like fireflies. What I am not really satisfied with is how the black turned out. It has horizontal marks the one before did not have and I rolled a bit obliquely.
Questions asked by the brief
The brief asks if the Prunella Clough image in the course material jogs ideas with me. It did not especially. It makes me think of horizon lines or city skylines one behind the other. For the balance theme I did not really get any help from it.
I think the lower part of her image could be made by the technique in this exercise. The object(s) would have to be something very thin that allows some ink through (like my ricepaper did) but that also blocks the ink out completely in lines. Maybe silk pieces cut up and sown into with a very fine thread? The white bits at the top I think are done by collage.
My working process
I had difficulties with this exercise in the beginning. I was not really pleased with my marks from the testing and I always feel a bit self-conscious when I try to express something explicitly, as “Balance” in this case. I don’t want to be too obvious. From this starting point I am really pleased about the outcome. I sat down and thought about the task, about what I had by way of materials and what I wanted my picture to show. The initial thumbnails were helpful to order my thoughts. But I did not come very far. The actual printing and analysing of the outcomes took me further and I think the prints show a progression, in the composition as well as in my handling of the materials. I very much enjoyed working with my ideas once I had found my stride. I think with this I have used something I learned on this course: to keep working, try out ideas, do things several times. Often the exercises I found demanding at first were the ones that let me push my boundaries. I am not really sure if my final print is any good as a print. But the process that got me there was a good and instructive one.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For monotype printing the design is made with ink on the printing plate leaving the printing plate unmarked. This can be achieved by inking a plate and making marks by removing paint to achieve lights (unless when printing with a light colour on dark paper of course). Depending on tool and pressure variations the marks become more or less light and more or less sharp (subtractive or “dark field” process). The opposite of this is the “light field” process where ink is added to a clean plate with a brush, cloth etc. Other techniques involve drawing on the back of a paper (verso) lying on an inked plate, where the pressure produces marks on the front (recto) side of the paper as the print (traced monotype), or by blocking out parts of the inked plate with objects or stencils. These techniques can of course be combined with each other or with other drawing techniques, either prior to or after printing. Common to all is the fact that there are no permanent marks on the plate and each print therefore is unique. Ghosts can be drawn – second or even third prints from the same plate – but they tend to have a very different character compared to the first draw. Hence the mono in the name.
This kind of print making can seem like an unnecessary detour. Why not make a drawing if there only will be one print anyway? Sherry Camhy from Drawing puts it like this:
Because prints have an aesthetic quality all their own and because there is something quite special that results from the process of printmaking itself. There is a balance between control and accident that inspires new techniques, new visual ideas and the courage to pursue them. Printmaking is freeing. (Camhy, S. 2017)
Monoprint, sometimes used for monotype, refers to a print making technique where parts of the design are permanent marks in the printing plate. The design is then varied by also marking the ink on the plate. This results in a series of related but distinct works. Rembrandt (1606-1669) for instance has used this to add areas of tone to his etchings.
I suspect monotyping to be deceptively simple, one of those techniques that only become more and more intricate the closer one studies them. Image googling produced a wide range of printing styles from coarse, expressive pictures with a sombre quality to finely detailed, drawing like prints with playing light, some monochrome, some multicoloured.
Giovanni Benedetto Castilglione (1609-1664) was the first to use monotype. He invented the dark field process where he inked a copper plate in a dark tone and then removed paint to achieve lights.
Compared to his etchings, the monoprints have a softer quality, they seem like paintings. David with the Head of Goliath (ca. 1655, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) is very detailed with a wide range of tones. The darkest darks in Goliath’s head seem to be painted with a brush. I wonder if he did this onto the printing plate or afterwards onto the the print.
Noah’s animals has a more expressive quality with only a few tones that make the lights more marked. The hard contrast between the sharp lights and the soft shadows very much stresses the thunderstorm in this scene. I like this very much! Castiglione has captured the animals with only a few lines. I especially like the horse shaking his head in the rain.
Paul Gaugin (1848-1903) made traced monotypes which he referred to as “printed drawings”, producing a drawing on the verso and a print on the recto side of the paper. The lines of the print seem to be quite uniform showing only little variation in thickness and tone. On the other hand the paper touching the printing plate picks up pigment in unexpected places, more where the drawing hand has touched the paper, less where only the weight of the paper transferred the ink. This gives these prints an accidental quality the drawing is lacking.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was introduced to monotype in the 1870ies and was captivated by its possibilities. It was a new medium/technique very well suited to expressing a new time. Degas could develop a much more gestural and experimental style to render movement (landscapes seen from a train, faces passing in the street) and new phenomenons like factory smoke or electrical light. He worked in dark field, light field and a combination of the two, often drawing ghosts and enhancing them with pastel. In his later prints he used oil paint rather than printing ink which allowed for colour. These works, especially the landscapes are very experimental, abstract and radical for his time. The freedom of monotyping had a strong influence on his other works, especially concerning the mark making.
For a selection of contemporary artists I used the not very scientific method of image googling and picking works that struck a chord. So this selection is neither representative nor exhaustive. Rather it tries to narrow down an open field of possibilities to what I like and to give an idea about where I would like to go with my own work.
Janet Mary Robinson is a British artist and natural history illustrator. Although I am especially taken by her mixed media pieces and watercolour landscapes I also like this carp.
It is a simple monotype but shows a range of different marks, crisp ones and soft ones, that give volume and interest to the fish. Also it shows clearly that this technique is sensitive to precedence of line. I think the artist used this to great effect. I also like the velvety quality of the background.
Kathrine Hagstrum is an American artist specialising in monotype. She makes coloured prints in atmospheric tones by using inks of different viscosity. Runnier ones will stick to dryer ones, she says. I would like to learn more about this technique. Does it involve several printings on top of each other or are the pictures achieved by one pull, like from a “Gelli-Plate”?
David Maddrell, a British artist, makes fantastic prints of forests and water with intricate detail in black and white. Although many of his prints contain a lot of black, it is the bright light that catches my eye. They make me think of cool shadow on a hot summer’s day rather than sombre darkness like in many of the other prints I saw on google. In some of the prints he made splashes of some sort. It looks as if he splashed on something that repels the ink on the plate. I would like to know how this is done!
In P.C. Lawson‘s prints I like the way she uses colour in the background, both the colour as such and as an abstract contrast to the more realistic depiction of the animals. It mimics the colour of the surroundings, but is in itself not representative. I can also relate to what she says about monotyping – it sounds exciting!
I use this printmaking technique because everything about it is dynamic and breathes life into an image. The painting tools are unlimited: rollers, fingers, rags, brushes, Q-tips etc., each with a unique gestural quality. They can add paint, or lift it, create subtle light or brilliant whites. The process is fluid, moving back and forth between application and removal of color, adding to the liveliness of the image. (P.C Lawson)
(where not linked to in the text)
Camhy, S. (2017, Winter) Painterly Prints: Monotype and Monoprint. Drawing 14(52), 20-25
As I looked through my work from early in this course I came across letters as a means of mark making and decided to try it out with the feet.
I had also been thinking about the relationship I have to my feet, what they mean to me and how to bring that across in a drawing. It is much more undefined and harder to express as with the hands. Especially as I can’t draw my feet running or walking.
I decided to put some of my ideas in a text an draw with that. However, I did not want the words to destract from the drawing so I wrote in German cursive. The text is memories from my barefoot days as a child. Where I grew up the rural kids (and farmers) walked barefoot from spring to autumn, in all weathers.
I started by making blue footprints, then sketched the outlines of my feet and legs.
I like the effect of the writing and how the feet seem to stand on it. I also like the footprints in blue. The picture has a subdued quality in colour and line that I think goes well with the idea of memories.
But The squiggly writing makes the drawing chaotic, too much going on.
In version 2 I tried to make it calmer. But I think I overdid it making the drawing too stiff.
Also the left foot does not seem to be mine.
Version 3 is the opposite of v 2, leaving the background blank and using the writing to model the feet only.
I like how the direction of the writing gives volume to the feet, adding a dimension more to the painted shadows.
All in all I think I like my drawn drawings better than these although I like the idea here. I have also strayed from the exercise and negative spaces so I’ll leave it at that and send in my assignment.
*Bodenhaftung, (German) means traction and figuratively grip on reality
Blocking in the negative spaces between feet and edge of the picture first
Work around and then inside the feet
Make your drawing interesting
This was a much harder task than part 1 of this exercise where I began with negative spaces inside and between the feet. I feel I lose my way when concentrating primarily on the spaces round my subject leaving it wonky. Usually when I draw I concentrate on the subject using the negative spaces to check on the shapes and get to grips with difficult ones. My perception flicks between the two.
This said, I found that looking at the shapes and spaces surrounding the subject makes me more conscious of the composition. There is a balance between positive and negative spaces, both in their size and in the way they are distributed. I kept that in mind when following the exercises in my first two sketches, but lost it, once I again concentrated on the subject and the medium more. I only noticed afterwards.
For this exercise I sat in front of a mirror and used the edges of that as the outer demarcation of the negative spaces. I began by jotting in the shapes of the negative spaces with graphite first:
Here the shapes of the feet are still ok, I think. Then I blocked in the background before adding shadows and lines to the feet and trousers in compressed charcoal (for the second drawing I used lighting from the left, the first one is in natural light).
The feet are all wrong. But somehow I still like both these drawings. I like the shape of the x that balances the picture nicely. The feet have volume which brings out their shape (even if it is a wrong one). I don’t like the background. I chose a horizontal movement following the direction of the floor boards but I think it has too much movement. On the other hand this makes for a nice contrast to the smudged shading of the feet and legs. The background also lacks depth. I am still not comfortable with charcoal, maybe that is what is wrong with the background. It certainly is with the shadow line in one of the legs in the second drawing.
I think I like the initial graphite sketch best!
Are these drawings interesting? These are initial sketches, trying out the exercise. I would like to do something with them as I did with the hands. I did not have a very creative day so went for something similar as with the hands. A line and wash. The difference lies in the red trousers I was wearing, they blocked out the yellow/blue idea from the hands:
I think the shape of the feet is much better in this, but something is lacking. It’s a bit pale and uneventful. And I’m not sure if I like the red “roof” the trousers make in this composition. I liked the more balanced x better.
Here a version with stronger colour and more interaction between oil pastel and watercolour. It is only A4 and the feet fill out more of the paper. I like that.
Draw your feet beginning with the negative spaces between them and between the toes
Work out from that
To begin with I did the same sort of sketches of my feet as I had done of my hands. I did concentrate on the negative spaces as the exercise states, but worked quite freely otherwise. This was about getting to know my feet, find their shapes and lines. I found this more difficult than the hands. One reason for that is that I don’t think I ever studied feet before. But they are also different from the hands in that they have less separate and small shapes to build them up, less definite features to guide me. There are the toes at one end, but then there is the whole of the foot as one block, so to speak. It is difficult to find this shape.
It was also less easy to find interesting positions and still be able to see them when I had my sketchbook on my knees. Seeing the underside to draw needs a mirror.
All drawings on A3 cartridge paper:
I then asked myself how I could portray feet in the “act” of being feet – something like the tools for the hands. It must be their relationship to the ground. Here is one idea, digging my toes into the soil:
I am not very happy with any of these. It shows that I am less comfortable drawing feet than hands. This needs more work.