5.1 Stitched Drawings

  • Create two stitched drawings
  • Use previous exercises as inspiration
  • Figurative or abstract
  • Highly experimental

The brief also includes a list of ideas:

  • Stitches create a repeated pattern
  • Continuous line wandering and curving, crossing itself
  • Built up marks overlapping and creating tonal contrast
  • Highly organised, creating grid like effects and geometric form

I had planned to make a kind of abstract landscape inspired by a sketch I had made early in the course.

hel bild
Charcoal on drawing paper

However, I got distracted and what I did in the end are two very different drawings.

Tree

The first one is a development of my test pieces for the texture exercise. I wanted the squiggly line to form a stylised tree with large leaves. This is my search for it:

IMG_6813
Initial sketches

I then painted the fabric with silk paints and stitched the line with two strands of embroidery thread. Stem and leaves were made as in the test piece.

IMG_6794
Silk paint, black and red embroidery thread on cotton and sun blind fabric

For the flower/fruit I chose red as a contrast. It is blocked in without allowing any white to shine through and built up from three different reds to give it volume.

IMG_6795
Detail from above. Red embroidery thread

I stitched the whole onto a piece of sun blind as a support and frame.

I am not satisfied with the leftmost leaf. I made the creasing too strong so it spreads to the surrounding fabric. The other two are better.

I like this very much although it seems different from what I do otherwise. The semi-abstract drawing appeals to me as do the colours and the single red dot. Maybe I have managed to work in key aspects of what “treeness” is to me – the root and in it the riches of the soil (although it seems to float in the air), green and specks of light around the leaves, all bound together in one movement, culminating in the fruit. But these thoughts came afterwards, I did not set out to depict anything like that. The roots of this picture are in the technique. This makes me wonder where the “meaning” in a piece of art comes from.

Landscape

A very spontaneuous image. As I was looking for fabric for my second drawing I came across this and the ink stains intrigued me. It was crinkled and some of the creases coincided with a stain giving me the idea to use creases as lines.

The photo does not do it justice, the shadows of unwanted creases become much too overpowering as the colouring is very subtle and delicate.

IMG_6798
Cotton and nylon thread on ink stained cotton fabric and sun blind

I chose a white thread so as not to deflect focus from the creases which I wanted to form the main lines. The stitching continues further than the creases to let the lines fade out in a way similar to the stains.

IMG_6800
Detail from above

For the lines in the water I used dark grey nylon thread hoping it would reflect the light and glint like water. It has not yet done so but I still think it might given the right light source. I tried to make the water lines horizontal which turned out to be very difficult as the fabric is old, worn thin and losing its shape.

I like the way the ink has followed the weaving of the fabric in the edges of some of the stains. The lines remind me of a skyline of fir trees. I left these lines unworked so they contrast to the creases and waterlines.

I also left the stains above the uppermost waterline unworked to make them retreat and add some depth.

The fabric had become crinkled by the time I was done so I ironed it where possible. I could not do that over the nylon thread so the creases there stand out. They disturb the effect I had in mind with the water lines.

I am not sure if this works as a picture. Maybe the drawing is too subtle in colouring for a viewer to recognise what I saw. Maybe the idea with the creases would work better on a larger scale and with stronger colours? But I like the subtlety, the mere suggestion of a landscape. The colours and composition play first fiddle here, I feel, making the figurative aspect take a step back.

Reflections

I am surprised at where this has taken me. During the initial exercises I have found new ways of using thread and fabric and they have led me down a different path than anticipated. I like that. Doing has had a different effect on me than thinking about doing. This is something to remember.

I have also seen that translating a paper-and-pen drawing to textiles does not necessarily mean to imitate it. Reworking an idea in a different medium can lead to something new and different. This might not be a new insight but with textiles being very different from pencil or ink it leads further away from the original idea.

In the brief it says the final drawings should be highly experimental. I am not sure if my ideas are experimental in a larger context, but they are for me. Experimental in the sense that I have been experimenting and following ideas I did not know the outcome of. The landscape especially although the stitching in that is conventional running stitch.

I am glad I chose this unit. It has further opened up my idea of what drawing can be. Ideas have been forming while I worked involving all kinds of materials and techniques. I will have to find a way to remember them and to revert to them in coming work.

5.1 Textile – Tone and Texture

Exercises 2 and 3

  • Look at my drawings and find strong areas of tonal variation
  • Recreate these using different shades of grey threads
  • Try to create different textures, visual and physical

After the exercises on line it felt natural to continue with ex. 3 on tone rather than texture so I started with that. I had made many drawings for Markmaking for Shading in Unit 2 from which I chose two I thought would lend themselves very well for stitching.

Tone

The pencil lines in this sketch are straight and very directional, like stitches. I had wanted to try and sew on pond lining for some time so I chose that. As it is black I could also try to stitch the light parts rather than the pencil lines. I chose a tiny piece as I expected the stitching to be hard. It was easier than expected but the lining dirtied the white thread.

Looking at it now (after having made quite a few samples) I see that I should have used threads of different thickness stretching into each other to mimic the pencil lines. More like the following.

IMG_6810
Pencil on cartridge paper

This sketch, too, is built up with straight lines. However here the directionality of the lines is broken and the overall impression is non-directional. Tone is achieved by varied density of the lines and by the thickness/weight of the line.

 

The first attempt is made with a thin black thread using only density of lines to achieve tone. In the second I used a thicker thread for the darkest tone. Having combined black and grey threads in the line exercises I decided to only use black for this. I feel the colours distract from the effect of the stitch and I wanted to work out that.

The second works much better. The tonal difference is marked which lends the shape a certain 3-dimensionality. What fascinated me most in this, however, was not the tone, but the texture. Stitching changes the feel of the fabric, it makes it thicker and stiffer. The stitches are also raised and cast shadows, albeit very small ones. They change in the light when the piece is moved. This gives the drawing a velvety feel, especially the one with two different threads. This can be manipulated further by using dull threads in combination with shiny ones.

I realised that it is very difficult to separate tone and texture here.

Texture

For Exercise 2 I chose a piece I had made for the mark making exercise in Unit 1.

IMG_6811
Ink and pencil on cartridge paper

What I wanted to translate into stitch were the dots in the uppermost field and the gradual shift in tone in the spiral at the bottom. I also like the squiggly line forming areas I could fill with stitch.

Not surprisingly, the result is very different from the ink drawing.

 

 

 

IMG_6804

 

The aim with this piece was to try out different kinds of texture, visual and physical. From the pieces above I had learned that stitches have a physical quality in themselves. I started there with the dots and the parallel lines discovering the physical textures as I went. The thickness of the fabric changed, long stitches produced shadows, tight stitches made the fabric bulge changing it from a flat surface to modeled shape.

Stipling

I am very pleased with the tonal gradient in this. What I had in mind was visual texture here, but when working I felt the physical texture become stronger as I increased the dots.

IMG_6808.jpg

Again I had to deal with the direction of the stitches. Although I tried to make them as short as possible they are still short lines. I was careful to make the directions random to eliminate that feature in the overall impression. Only when I had reached the solid black part I worked to a pattern in order to avoid white shining through between the stitches.

I used embroidery thread with two strands in the lighter parts, three strands in the darker ones. I also increased the length of the stitches in the darker parts.

Hatching with long stitches

IMG_6809

The long stitches are made with double thin thread. I did not manage to keep the two evenly stretched and the tension between stitches also varies. The effect is one of two separated layers. The upper stitched one moves and casts distinct shadows.

In the lower loop I also tried to achieve a tonal gradient by increasing the space between lines. The gradient is there but the wobbly lines disturb it a bit I find. The layering effect is stronger.

Modeling the fabric

IMG_6806

I had tried to make an even area here but stretched the thread too much (a problem I am familiar with from sewing lessons at school). I am glad I did because I discovered a new way of achieving texture. Stitching does not only involve thread, but the fabric, too! The piece becomes distinctly three dimensional and the role of the shadows becomes stronger. This fascinated me. I tried an other more conscious one as the last sample in this piece: a leaf.

IMG_6807.jpg

The creases here are achieved by stitching two veins alternately and stretching the thread on the reverse side. By stretching it distinctly near the main vein and gradually make it looser towards the edges of the leaf the creases can be kept inside the leaf.

Back of leaf
Reverse side of the leaf

I very much liked the leaf, the stipling and the overall build of this piece but it contains too many different things. I decided to use it in a simpler version for one of the assignment pieces.

 

Reflections

One of my strongest impressions from these exercises is the amount of time I needed to execute ideas. New ones would line up long before the one I was working on was finished. Rather frustrating. Sketching in stitch has nothing of the fast jotting down I can do with a pencil. On the other hand, ideas have time to ripen while I work.

From having had a rather crude idea of what is possible to do with stitch I think I have markedly widened my horizons. Unexpected effects, mistakes and new ideas popping up while working have opened up my imagination. Very early on I wanted to introduce painted elements into the textile work, on fabric but also on paper. I think combinations of the two can result in interesting images. These ideas are very loose as yet. Some I implemented in the assignment pieces.

5.1 Textile – Line to Stitch

Exercise 1

  • Look at my marks from unit 1 and 2
  • Find ones I can translate to stitch
  • Try and imitate the marks using black and grey thread in different thicknesses on plain fabric

As it turns out my marks from unit 1 are not very diverse. I used charcoal and ink, both of which I find hard to imitate with thread. Many of my marks are long and sweeping, playing with the change of width in the mark. Stitch as I think of it at this stage is short. For longer marks I need to combine them in some way which means that the long and sweeping marks become broken into bits. Also the thread has a fixed thickness. So what properties of the line can I translate to stitch and how?

For this exercise I tried to limit my ideas to the line, ignoring ones concerning texture and tone which will be the subject for later exercises.

I started with a simple outline. The fact that it is broken is of little importance here as the eye reads it as a line anyway. Still, I tried to make the parts where the thread is on the reverse side as short as possible.

IMG_6259
Flax thread on cotton fabric stained with printing ink

I took one of my cloths I had used to clean my printing utensils and stitched an outline in running stitch around a shape I saw in the stains. The white flax makes a nice contrast to the dark stains. I like the texture of the line and the shiftings in the stains. I like there to be a yellow one.

The flax thread I used, however, does not lend itself to stitching as it frays from repeatedly being drawn through the fabric.

Next I chose one of the simpler lines from my mark making and made something similar using backstitch.

I tried three different threads and found that the fine ones are much more sensitive to uneven stitching. I also found that the reverse side is much more interesting! This was a surprise.

IMG_6262
Reverse side from above

For my next piece I used the same materials but tried to imitate the varied thickness of the ink mark by stitching more lines where the ink line is wider and by covering an area with stitches perpendicular to the line. (This maybe is using tone rather than line?)

IMG_6256
Black and grey cotton thread on flannel

I think the effect would have been better if I had used black thread only. This is something different. However, I quite like the outcome. The reverse side of this does not work anymore as the grey and black stitches go across each other. I made one version where I worked from the reverse side, making the stitches from behind.

IMG_6255
Backstitch worked in reverse

I like the texture of this. It also fills out more and actually has a difference in thickness between straight and round line.

One of my favorite pictures from the mark making unit is one in ink and graphite. I like the energetic broad ink marks in this. How can I make tapered marks in stitch?

IMG_6261
Ink and graphite on paper

I tried using a tapered piece of ribbon sown into the fabric as if it were thread. This reminds me more of weaving than sewing and the effect turned out very different from the original in ink. The fact that the mark is partitioned lends it a different character. I stuck to the idea, though, and continued with wool and sewing thread in black and grey for the thinner marks in the ink drawing. While I worked the cut edges of the ribbon started to fray.

IMG_6258
Ribbon, wool and cotton thread on flannel

The stitching is sloppy and the ribbon used is the wrong kind but I think this could become something. It looks a bit like a tuft of horsetail with grasses.

To translate the energy in the ink marks to stitch I have to come up with something else. This version is much too static.

5.2 and 5.3 Coloured prints

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.

Traced multicol
Traced monoprint, relief ink on drawing paper

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.

reduct multicol
Reductive print, relief ink on wetted watercolour paper

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.

Printing technique – UCA video

(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

Paper:

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!
    • Soak
    • 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!

Overprinting colours:

  • 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
  • Explore this! 

 

Source

Reeves, T. (Project Leader): Printmaking – Monoprinting, UCA Open Educational Resources. (parts 1-5) http://www.oca-student.com/resource-type/video/printmaking-pt1-introduction-uca-video

5.2. and 5.3 Monotype: Transfer and Reductive

  • 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.

Note added later: The mistake here was that I used too much ink. With a thin layer rolled out on the plate relief ink works fine.

 

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.

transfer 2
Etching ink on newsprint

I like this one. It has nice textures and the variations in tone 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.

portrait 2
Etching ink on smooth jute paper, 100gms

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. I also like the white outlines in the dark parts.

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.

portrait 2 - ghost
Ghost

 

Reflections

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.

5.1. Balance

  • Make an abstract print on the theme of balance
  • Use found objects to mask parts of the printing plate to make marks
  • Use what you have learned so far in the course

Testing

I began this exercise by testing different objects as masks:

  • sewing thread
  • 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:

  • dog hair
  • flour
  • pencil shavings (graphite part)
  • plant parts

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.

Balance

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:

Balance thumbnails

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.

Balance 3

The colours turned out clear and strong here, but there is no cloud instead. And I was not satisfied with the composition yet.

Balance 4

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:

Balance 5

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.

Reflections

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.

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.

Research into Monotype

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.

 

Artists

Historical

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.

Noah and the Animals Entering the Ark, 1650-55. The Met, public domain

 

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.

Gaugin - Causeries
Causeries sans paroles, 1903, Europeana, public domain

 

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.

Factory Smoke, 1877-79, the Met, public domain
Landscape, 1892, the Met, public domain

 

Contemporary

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)

 

Sources

(where not linked to in the text)

Content:

  1. Camhy, S. (2017, Winter) Painterly Prints: Monotype and Monoprint. Drawing 14(52), 20-25
  2. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1613

Images:

  1. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search#!?offset=0&perPage=20&sortBy=Relevance&sortOrder=asc&pageSize=0
  2. http://www.europeana.eu/portal/sv/collections/art?f%5BREUSABILITY%5D%5B%5D=open&q=&view=grid