This year I finally fulfilled a resolution I made a couple of years ago after watching this video of Stuart Shils making monotypes. I had the privilege of meeting Stuart a couple of years ago and was captivated by his work, and I often look at his catalogues just to remind myself of the impact that a flawless use of colour has. Until this video I had come across the word monotype but I didn't really know what it was.
View part 2 of this video here
I had done a little bit of etching in my twenties, and used to enjoy everything about it. In fact I was studying illustration at the renowned printing house Il Bisonte in Florence, and the printmaking was what I really liked best of that year and what stayed with me. After that course I bought a small printing press with which I worked for a couple of years in Italy. Kids and acids don't really go together so I put my kit away twenty years ago.
The first thing I realised when looking at Stuart's video was that the acid part of the printing process was missing and that it seemed like something I actually could do in my studio.
When I read that the Prince's Drawing School was offering a montype course, tutored by Mark Cazalet and Henry Gibbons Guy, I signed up straight away.
We are now halfway through the course so I thought I would post some of my works.
I am sure I have annoyed both tutors with my swot behaviour but I just completely fell in love with this printmaking technique. I am keen to learn and understand as much as I can so I can then work on my own.
What captivated me in this form of printmaking is the contiguity with oil painting: printing inks can have a flat quality and an intensity that recalls the feel of oil, they have a certain body and they show the brush marks. There's an element of surprise every time because there are many variables so it's not easy to predict exactly how the ink and the paper will behave, and then of course the image is reversed so looks totally new and unexpected.
During the first lesson we were shown some examples of monotypes by the masters and introduced to the most simple monotype technique, for which there's no need for a press. Gauguin and Klee produced some works in this way, some call it trace monotype.
The zinc plate is completely or partially inked with a roller and a sheet of cartridge paper is placed on top of it and secured with some tape on one of the sides ( essential if one needs to lift the paper for checking the print). A drawing in pencil is then made on what will be the reverse side of the print and the ink would transfer to the paper by the pressure of the pencil.
The difficulty here is that I needed to push on the pencil so the lines are drawn slowly and clumsily, and of course there's no coming back once a mark is made. One can also push on the paper with the hand to create a tone.
You will recognise this technique in Tracey Emin's monotypes as well, its charm is in the softness and " hairyness" of the line. I have tried it at home with rice paper, it's fast and easy to set up - ink, plate, roller and paper is all that is needed.
In the next post, enters the printing press.