For my first monoprints I chose a few A5 portrait photos from a magazine, and set up my workstation; a piece of A5 glass on a table top, oil paints, liquin and zest-it thinners, turps for cleaning, a few brushes, rags and paper towel, and a stack of various types of A4 paper (textured and smooth, different weights).
Following all the instructions I painted on to my glass plate (cad red, phthalo blue-green, cad yellow, black and white). This is the image – fairly complex but I simplified it a bit.
I painted as suggested using well thinned oil paint, until I’d covered most areas. Those I left untouched were because I missed them rather than intentional. Then I took my print, on dampened cartridge paper from my sketchbook, rubbing with my hand.
I was surprised how it turned out; the paint had transferred well, hardly any was left on the plate, and the print looked good and sharp. It needs some darker tones in the background, which would give it more impact and pop the figures forward, but I like the effect of the white paper showing in places, it enlivens the print.
2. Rather than use random images from magazines, or my self portraits, I decided to try making monoprints from dear-to-my-heart old family photos I’ve recently collected in digital form. At first I thought I’d print a few out to use as my guide under the plate, then had the idea to lay the plate directly over my iPad. This way I thought I could play with the A5 images, zooming and cropping until I had compositions I liked, although in the event I used them all just as they were.
My second monotype was painted in black and white oils, using liquin as a dilutant. I painted quickly, using my fingers, rags and q-tips to manipulate the paint. The photo was rather over exposed, with large areas of sea, sky and the figure almost white, so I left equally large areas of the painting white. The paper used was fine textured, 165gsm, dampened.
Compared to 1, the lines and edges are softer, they have a lovely texture, like Degas’ trace monotypes; I suspect because the paper is more absorbent and slightly textured. I’d forgotten to clean around the edge of the plate before taking my print, but I quite like the lower edge, suggesting torn paper. I love the textures of the cloud. I’d like to have captured that my Dad is sailing – you may not know from the print. This isn’t so much wanting to add detail, as finding the lines and shapes that economically capture what I want to depict, so i need to take more time, wiping off and repainting parts of my plate until I’ve got it. If I were to add to the print, I’d add definition to his features, the rope and tiller in his hand, the horizon.
3. I used colour and Liquin for this portrait of my grandmother as a young woman, and the same dampened, finely textured paper. This time I was more liberal with the paint and took my time a bit more. I found the gel like texture of the Liquin as I added it to the paint resulted in clumps of paint forming on the brush. It might have been easier to slow down and premix some colours with Liquin using a spatula.
My fIrst observation is that the paint has transferred patchily (probably didn’t use enough paint or Liquin, or didn’t blend them thoroughly). I would like the background and neck to be darker, so i could add a dark glaze to the print. At first I thought the left side of the face and collar would have been better unpainted on the plate to use the white of the paper to represent the lightest tones in the composition. On reflection I like the complementary yellow / purple- it reminds me of the green/red of Mme Matisse portrait.
There was still paint on the plate so I took a ghost print, which I could use as an underpainting and work into with dry pastel.
4. Using Zest-it as dilutant, and a fine brush, I painted my father as a very young man, seated, and took a print onto Canson textured drawing paper (smoother side).
Almost all the paint transferred, but again the image was thinly coloured. The course instructions say oil paint is thick enough to produce striking, vivid images. Perhaps I’m thinning the paint too much. However, I like the outcome. The dark accents of the left arm, trouser leg and shoe work well to bring them forward. I’d darken the foreground more and try to make a little more explicit the table he’s sitting on. Keep forgetting to neaten the edges before printing!
5. So I tried to use thicker paint, building up layers in the background to try to get a more vivid print. This is easier in a composition with larger, less fiddly areas, so I chose a head and shoulders next. I keep finding I’m trying to copy the colours on my reference images, tonal greys. I want vivid colour here, so I chose bright red and green.
The colour worked well. The brush marks are very strong on all my prints, maybe that’s typical of this technique. I can also see curved marks in the background where I tried blending with my finger. As these surface marks are so strong, it would be a good idea to pay more attention to them when painting the plate, deliberately introducing a wide variety of marks to refine and add interest to the print. i wonder if there’s a way of getting the paint to grip the plate more if I want to achieve a smoother look?
I used a piece of tissue paper to protect the back of my print as suggested; then I used it to get a ghost print. Laid on to white paper, it has an ethereal look which I’d like to keep. My uncle was 24 when he died a gruesome, lonely death in a heroic WW2 action in far away Nagaland. In my prints he appears a lot older, which is a shame.
I had a go at making a monotype with oil pastel, using solvent to manipulate the colour, but with poor results. Next I tried acrylic paint, adding retarder and water and that seemed promising, although the water content made the paper buckle and the print very fuzzy. I wanted to slow down further the paint drying, so instead of water and retarder I tried mixing glycerine with the acrylic paint, then made a portrait on the plate of an unknown young 1940s woman, perhaps a friend of my uncle.
It transferred quite well, and I’m so pleased in this her youth, vitality and optimism have come across well. I wonder if washing up liquid would work just as well as glycerine to slow down the drying?
After making some work for the next exercise, I came back to this one and painted an image in watercolour on a plexiglass plate, then using damp, vellum textured mixed media paper I took a print, followed by a host print on lighter weight fine textured cartridge paper.
I still want to try trace monotypes; layering monotypes; combining elements from different images to create new compositions; using coloured paper to print on; etc. Next week I’ll find some plexiglass and larger glass plates and continue experimenting.