Behold the Power of Monotypes

I'll admit, I'm a big fan of monotypes. They're colorful, versatile, and can let me be expressive and spontaneous in a way that I can't get with drypoints or woodcuts.

These three prints, for example, all feature the same drypoint of a tree stump, yet the monotypes I painted completely transformed the character of the scene.

Another thing I love about monotypes is their ability to conceal things. I admittedly make a lot of mistakes as a printmaker. Many would call me sloppy, and I agree with them. I get overexcited about my projects sometimes, and work a little faster than I should.

Rather than give up on these botched images, however, I use them as an opportunity to both learn from my mistakes and experiment with other techniques to turn my errors into something beautiful (hopefully). For me there is no print that's a complete failure: it's simply an unfinished project. I was taught this when taking my printmaking class, and it's the single most important thing I learned during that course.

These two prints originated from a botched drypoint, and are among my more experimental works
I recently used the concealing powers of monotype for one of my lobster prints. A co-worker had asked me for one, and since I like giving people choices, I decided to print off a few different images. I happily went to the studio, expecting to dash off a few pieces and be done with it, but it rarely turns out to be that straightforward with me.

When I went back to the studio a few days later to pick up the prints, I discovered that one of them, much to my chagrin, didn't dry properly.

You can't see the imperfections here, but the boards I'd sandwiched in between had left distracting dents and stains on it.  For a purist, the print was ruined. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away though, so rather than throw out the print, I invoked the magical powers of monotype to salvage what I had.

I started out by adding some blue ink with a wet brush for a splattered effect. I also included a few yellow and green splashes to match the stains on the paper, and make them appear intentional. I wanted to lobster to maintain visual dominance, so I outlined it in yellow, suggesting the appearance of a halo. I could have stopped here, but the print felt a bit empty to me, so I decided to add another layer.

I printed a second monotype with red ink over the image.  I liked the greater spectrum of color, but it still felt hastily done, and I thought that the monotype needed to match the opacity of my yellow outline to feel balanced.

Finally, I added another layer of yellow, and printed that onto the page. I painted a hazy border around the plate marks in order to further conceal the dents and stains.

Perhaps it's not my greatest print, but thanks to the power of monotypes, I didn't have to throw it away. And that, in my opinion, makes any experiment with monotypes worthwhile.


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