Sunday, 24 March 2013


This is the last post following the progress of my monotype course. In the latest classes we experimented further with coloured inks, embossing, offset printing.
After starting out with earth coloured inks, we were then given saturated colours: cadmium yellow, cadmium red and a very tinting cyan. These can be used on their own or mixed, and they can either be painted on the plate at the same time or one at the time.
It was interesting to work with pure colours but very difficult for me, and I didn't really produce any passable work.

In order to produce a print with several colour layers we learnt offset printing, a technique that allows one to work with one colour at the time and printing them opaquely one on top of the other.
Monotypes can basically be printed once, and after that some ink remains on the print: barely enough for a second print but definetely enough to get mixed up with subsequent layers.
With offset one can transfer a very faint trace ( ghost image) from one plate to the other so that the image can be cleanly reworked and printed again on the same piece of paper.
Offset is much more complicated to describe than to do, so I won't venture in all the passages here ( take the course!).

Other techniques we have been experimenting with have been printing patterns with different materials such as netting, lace or corrugated cardboard. These can be used also to emboss the paper and obtain different effects.  We also have tried working with white opaque ink over black sugar paper, and using it on warm rose paper to produce highlights.

I was very happy to be back at the printing press after twenty years, now that I have more experience with producing images.
I have coined a phrase for printmaking, that the plate is the ultimate battlefield for composition: it's small and the edges are sharp, there's no escape, particularly when working with monochrome, all aspects need to be considered.

There are a lot of decisions to make, the weight of lights and darks, empty areas, the dynamics of the composition, the four corners, the quality of the marks. Once the work has started, there's only about one hour to complete the work, and, coming from oil painting, I found it particularly difficult.

One cannot put the work aside and have a think about it, there is a moment when you need to stop and print, and that's final. The plate can be reworked straight away and printed again but there's always a time limit. I felt that working under pressure yielded surprising results and I am very keen to keep working in this medium as I find it a wonderful way of investigating the subject further, before and after painting it in oils.

1 comment:

Gary said...

thanks for your monotype series - really interesting insights, including your internal struggles along the way

I also wanted to thank you for your earlier Michael Andrews post. I didn't know him but as fate would have it, my local gallery (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) has just re-hung "All Night Long" and needless to say I have been totally mesmerised by it

best, Gary