Old-Timey Monotypes

Monotyping was the first form of printmaking I learned how to do in Burlington, and it's the printing method that appears most frequently in my work, usually to provide color and texture. Typically I use Akua Kolor inks, but recently I decided to try my hand at monotypes the old-fashioned way by using black intaglio ink.

First, a little history:

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Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Theseus Finding the Arms of his Father, 1643, monotype. Image courtesy of British Museum: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/g/giovanni_benedetto_castiglio-1.aspx

Monotypes have been around since at least the 16th century, with Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione being credited as its first practitioner. William Merritt Chase, Edgar Degas, and other artists also played with monotypes during the 19th century. These prints were small in scale, typically executed in printer's ink as opposed to oil paint, and were black and white (unless you were Degas and further experimented with your monotypes by adding pastel. Maurice Prendergast would also experiment with color at the turn of the 20th century). Monotyping wasn't considered a serious art form at this time, it was regarded as being too casual for that status, but professional and amateur artists alike seem to have enjoyed making them. A popular fad at the end of the 19th century was the so-called monotyping party, where art-minded folks would get together to spend the evening socializing and making prints.

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William Merritt Chase, Self-Portrait, ca. 1911-1914, monotpye, Terra Foundation for the Arts. Image Courtesy of http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/monotypes/chaseobj.html
I decided to give my hand a whirl at monochrome monotypes after looking at the works of Robert Pelegrin. The Museum has several of his pieces, and one of them, Untitled Landscape, is currently featured in the exhibit, One Time Only: The Monotype and Monoprint.

I started by coating a Plexiglas plate with black intaglio ink, as if I were preparing to print an etching.

From there I used a combination of tarlatan, brushes, and my fingers to create a design. Normally I would show you step-by-step images, but since my hands were covered with ink, I only have pictures of the finished product:

This first image is the silo in downtown Roswell. It's not the best thing I've done by a long shot, but it was fun to do, and gave me an idea of how the printing ink worked as a painting medium.

There was still some ink on the plate, so I printed a second image, known as the ghost:

As you can see, the value here is much lighter, giving the scene a fainter, almost foggy appearance. I can see why so artists like working with ghosts, they have an atmospheric quality to them, and definitely have plans for this one. I actually added two layers of color monotypes over the image while I was still at the studio, though I'm not finished yet:

I enjoyed the process so much that I did a second monotype, this time of the underground passage on the Spring River trail. I also printed its ghost:

I haven't fully articulated it yet, but I could see an interesting project arising out of this that would pair the more saturated, crisp monotypes with their smokier, softer ghosts. Knowing me, I'd add additional layers of color and texture to the ghosts to further obscure them, perhaps as a way of commenting on memory and its overall haziness.

Who knows, but it's definitely enjoyable!