I chose some of my monoprints from the earlier exercises that I thought would most benefit from working into with extra paint.
The print and the ghost of my cousin and her father fishing both lacked readability – the crouching little girl was particularly hard to decipher – and the prints overall lacked perspective. I worked into the first (oil paint) print with watercolour, adding tonal contrast, and improving definition and aerial perspective. I worked into the ghost print with coloured pencil. This latter is the more successful, partly because I’d learned from doing the first one. I’ve kept the horizon line more distant; the little girl has acquired feet, and is lighter and more warmly and brightly coloured, and therefore becomes the focal point; and the foreshore is also warm coloured, fading to cooler tones, giving better perspective. Both were quite quick to do, the monoprints acting as a guide, and contributing texture and depth, a feeling of layers or veils of paint.
Like Tim Gardner’s watercolours of figures in landscapes, my two pieces are painterly replicas of a poor quality snapshot. Like his, they also capture a feeling, and I reflected a little bit on that. The photo, taken from a low viewpoint, is foreboding and ominous; the low perspective makes the father loom tall and dark above the child, and each is turned away from the other, as in many of Degas’ monoprints, not communicating, absorbed in their own thoughts and occupations. This feeling comes across in my watercolour rework too. But in the coloured pencil version, tiny changes to the light on the heads, and the warmer colours within and around the figures, pull them together, making them seem intimate in each other’s company.
My first attempt at making a monotype of my great grandmother had turned out dark and dense, so this needed a different approach; additional opaque tints of oil paint, using the print as a guide and ground, helped me bring out the portrait. The background on the other hand became more solid and darker, and I added details like the door hinge, and an indication of its wooden construction. I added the ground and her shadow; and details of the chicken.
The ghost print of my grandmother as a young woman was lacking in contrast and definition. I wanted to see where I could take it with additional print layers. Concentrating on the background to start with, I made a mask to cover the subject and printed additional acrylic layers into the background in orange, red, lilac and ultramarine. I think the original oil paint acted as a resist to these acrylic layers, yielding pleasing textures I hadn’t anticipated. When the portrait started to emerge I went into it with a brush and acrylic paint, sculpting the head and shoulders with light and dark tones, hard and soft edges. I learned about the potential of printed layers from playing with this and I’m quite pleased with the process. I’m not very happy with the outcome though, and wish I’d stopped sooner; there’s something about the form of the face which isn’t convincing, and I have a tendency to over-define features, drawing them on too emphatically rather than describing the patterns of light and shade they make. I think the original print has far more appeal and character.
The print of my cousins had yielded a useful ghost print, and I wanted to use it to improve on the tonal composition in my original monoprint. I reworked in gouache, making the figures stronger, and adding detail in the right background. The rework makes for a stronger, more satisfying image, and I’m pleased I managed to do it without over-working the faces in particular.