I have been a little obsessed with making monotypes since my time at Ballinglen Arts Foundation
this past October/November. Taking advantage of the beautiful print studio there and a few tips from a fellow artist in residence, I rediscovered the process I had first learned in college. (If you're not familiar with the term, a monotype is a single print on paper, made from an ink or painted image on a plate--usually made of plexiglas these days.)
Back home in my own studio, I dug out the small table top etching press I bought second-hand years ago that had spent most of its years with me stored under one of my tables, bought a few colors of ink, cleaned up a plastic tray for soaking paper, and made space for a printing area in my studio. The approach I use is quick and spontaneous, one pass through the press, and my set up is very basic and easy to work with--which means that I can make a few monotypes whenever the urge hits (and it seems hit to rather often.)
So far, my prints are small--my press bed is only 12" wide, and my prints about 6"x4"--and although I'm sure I'll be buying more ink, for now my palette is limited. (I add a bit of oil color or go back into the prints with my chalk pastels if I want more color.) I find that I enjoy the various ways that the ink can be manipulated within these parameters, and on this intimate scale.
I love the monotype process for its spontaneity, the element of surprise every time the print is pulled at the end of its run under the rollers, and the rich variety of textural and gestural effects possible. I also find that the tones of the oil-based inks I use have a beautiful emotional resonance for me. All of that is compelling enough to keep me involved, but I'm also more and more intrigued by the effect these small prints are having on my work as a whole. That something small and spontaneous can serve as a point of departure for much larger work in oil and cold wax delights and energizes me, and is something new in my experience.
In the examples below, you can see the way that the colors and shapes from the monotype work have found their way into the larger paintings. Not a direct copy of course--more that the two processes overlap. That the emotional content expressed so spontaneously in the small print carries into a the more developed paintings is intriguing to me.
I'm seeing the value of including monoprinting as a part of my oil/cold wax medium workshops, as a way of generating ideas and experiencing a spontaneous approach. Several students who have come to my studio this winter have enjoyed the process, and this group at my Florida workshop in January became very involved in a simple approach to monotype--pressing one piece of paper to another by hand, as a loosening-up exercise. I'm planning to include some form of monoprinting in most of my upcoming workshops this year.