Monoprinting experiments

I had a fruitful studio day yesterday working on some monoprints and a small text painting.

Here are the results of the monoprinting session.

I wanted to concentrate on expanding the work I did at the last Sherwood printmaking session. I had bought some water soluble oil paints and some extender to use as printing ink. However, after the first experiment I discovered I had bought oil extender which worked brilliantly with the paint, but was a nightmare to clean off because it turned the water soluble paint back into oil paint! The blue experiments were conducted solely with the paint, watered down a little. I have ordered a water soluble extender for further work. However, the happy accident revealed some interesting effects, so I was not unhappy anyway.

I tried taking some consecutive colours from my diary and overlaying them. I tried to be conscious of the opacity of the colours, but since I was working with stripes over a base colour, it didn’t really matter too much.

For these tests I used normal cartridge paper for all. I used newspaper to mask the stripes and in some instances left the edges of the inked colour unmasked to see what effect this had too. The extender really loosened up the colour and made it easier to spread around and create a solid colour. This also allowed for interesting marks from both the spreading of the colour and the impression. I don’t have a drying rack, so have used my washing airer with the prints pegged up which has worked really well as an alternative! I haven’t allowed the prints to dry before each following pass and all the impressions were made with dry paper. I like these most when the colour has worn off and thinned out a little. I also like them best when the colours don’t quite register – so the stripe overlaps the edges. The gold leaf doesn’t work (I tried it on ones that felt a bit ’empty’ and not well-developed) as I feel it makes them look too ‘crafty’ and kitsch. I didn’t clean the plate off after each colour (mostly as the colours had been thoroughly transferred) and it makes for an interesting final couple of passes with all the colours that are left on the plate. As I was mostly placing stripes over a base colour, I only transfer those areas.

As the initial pass is too dense, I could continue with this as a ‘waste’ pass OR try pulling colour off the plate with newspaper or cloth to lighten the colour and make further expressive marks.

After (prolonged) cleaning of the plate, I moved on to trying out the paint thinned with water and also tried using watercolour paper for a couple of passes. The paper I had is ‘laid’ on one side and ‘wove’ on the other (laid appears as lines and wove is a consistent, regular surface) so I tried out the effects of both. This time I tried making a blend of 3 blues which was overlaid by a separate pass of masked orange – as per my diary.

The use of the paint with water is interesting as it makes ‘spiky’ marks and the laid texture of the watercolour paper picks up the colour with a lot of texture and leaves the marks in the colour for the next pass. The colour is thicker in this technique and less consistent, but gives really interesting marks that I really like. I also like the blended colours with the one pass of contrasting colour over the top. With this format I mind the gold leaf less (it reminds me of something Japanese) but still don’t think it is necessarily right.

They are still reminiscent of Barnett Newman, but his colour is far flatter (being done with screen printing rather than mono) which is therefore slightly more consistent than my work. I also like the mis-registration in my work and the fact that I can’t see what I am doing and it is reversed as an outcome. Newman’s work can be seen as it is done and is the ‘right way round’ as it is made, so is much more considered and contrived in a way. My work is dictated far more by chance – which is better for me, as I can over-control work and take away its spontaneity and interest.

I particularly like the works on the laid side of the watercolour paper – it will be interesting to see if this can be replicated with water-soluble extender or if the effect can only be created with the addition of water. The marks on these (and on the subsequent print made afterwards) remind me of Richter’s Cage works – only in reverse: he scrapes away to reveal the layers underneath, I allow the chance marks on top to cover over what was there.

Both Newman and Richter are using screen printing techniques and tools to create their works, whereas mine are with traditional litho offset printing.

I also wanted to move on to test out some more painting on some smaller long, thin canvases I had found. I also wanted to test out an idea I had after reading about pointillism in Bright Earth: the artists understood that the mixing of the paints then available often lead to a dulling and muddying of the colour – so they created pointillism in an effort to use the pure pigments and allow the eye to do the mixing so to keep the colour as vibrant and luminous as possible without muddying the colour.

My idea was to use dots of all the colours of blue I used in the larger painting to try to make up a composite colour from dots on a test panel. It didn’t work and I hate this. I wouldn’t do it again. However, I might try an experiment with formalised dots from my filler experiments – either as a way to represent the colours in a different way or as mixing.

I initially tried the dots on the painting too, but early on this was not going to work – neither in the colours or the marrying of the informality of the marks with the crisp lines, so I abandoned this early on and painted a solid colour over it. I also painted a thick varnish over the darkest blue, which I really like. I am calling this piece ‘Blue Sunday’ as it’s the day before everyone goes back to work and the evening is often filled with ‘dread’ for many – and it is a play on ‘Blue Monday’.

I like the small format, but feel these would work well as a group/series rather than on their own as they seem rather insignificant for what they are.

Where next? Push further with the printmaking. I like the overlaying of colours. I also have larger plates that I would like to try out and to increase the quantity of colours and complexity of layers. For painting, look at further series of stripes; investigate dots and textures of dots in solid colour or as a device to put colour onto.

Having just seen the Van Gogh image on a heading of a previous post, I am reminded that it is also possible to paint on the plate and pull impressions from it which degrade with each impression. This will also be interesting to do and perhaps test out printing onto a canvas panel too.

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One response to “Monoprinting experiments

  1. Pingback: Colourful Journey #screenprint #fineart #colour #multicolour | Sophie Sabina Creations·

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