Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adventures with Monotypes

I have been a little under the weather the past couple of weeks battling a rather nasty virus which had me finally resort to getting a prescription for an antibiotic. Although I prefer to treat ailments using homeopathy or naturopathic medicine, in this case neither was really helping to defeat this virus so hopefully the prescription will do the job?
Needless to say my energy level has been running at about 50% and also suffering with sore achy body. However have managed to at least create something that doesn't require a great amount of physical labour (as say carving a lino surface). I was able to achieve a couple of studies created using a type of printmaking that produces a one off image.

Below are two examples of painterly printmaking. Both are Monotypes.

The first pictured above was created by first sanding the surface on one side of a piece of thin plexiglass plate lightly using a fine grit sanding sponge. I then coated this surface with a thin layer of diluted dishsoap solution and allowed it to dry. Then applied pure watercolour pigment straight out of a tube using brush. You can also use water colour crayons or pencils.
This was allowed to dry. Using masking tape I hinged a piece of Masa paper to the edge of a an equal size piece of paper (the registration sheet) and then centered the plate and drew a pencil line around the edges to mark it's position. A fine mist of water was sprayed over the paper and then I folded it over to cover the plate. The moisture on the paper will reactivate the watercolour pigment which will probably have dried before being printed. Using the back of a metal spoon I used hand burnishing to transfer the reactivated watercolour onto the underside of the paper.

I then folded back the paper and removed the plate which I washed clean and repeated the process with coating the plate with the diluted dishsoap and applying a new layer of watercolour. The plate was again set into the pencil outline on the registration sheet and printed again using hand burnishing. I repeated this several times to build up a series of layers of colours.
The print is a bit organic in it's composition and the layering of colours created some interesting effects.

 This is the plexiglass plate with the final colour (dark indigo) painted on the surface.


This is my second study and is a that uses a process of removing ink.
It was created by first coating a piece of plexiglass using a brayer coated with a thin layer of oil based black relief printing ink. Ink was removed from the surface of the plate (here is where the subtractive comes into play) using a variety of tools that included the pointed end of an old paint brush, q-tips, wood toothpicks and my finger tip with small bit of tissue wrapped around it.

The plate was printed onto damp Somerset paper. The plate was first set onto a sheet of white bristol board which had the plate outline marked in pencil in the center and cross marks in pencil to indicate where the corners of the printing paper should align. This was set on the press bed with the inked side of the plate face up. The paper was placed on top, then a piece of newsprint and finally three layers of wool felt blankets over top of everything. The entire works were then passed under the roller of the etching press and transferred the image to the paper underneath. This is the same routine you would use to print an intaglio etching althought not as much pressure is required. My plexiglass was thin enough that I didn't have to worry about bevelling the edges ahead of printing, If it were a little thicker then I would file a bevel so that both the print paper and blankets do not get damaged from the edges of the plate under the pressure of the roller.

The inked plate with details created by removing ink using a variety of tools.


  1. Very interesting explanation of monotype with watercolours. I've oftern wondered how on earth one can use watercolours to print with but presumably the sanding of the plexiglass is what prevents the watercolour paint from coagulating.

  2. I love the painterly effect you've achieved with these. I'm quite new to printmaking so thanks for the helpful informations.