T1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – basics on cartridge paper

Print p4-17

Print p4-17

Print p4-17
Copying the Masters is a traditional approach to learning, and I decided to attempt to copy just a few of the marks of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in this print. In my research (18-October-2015) I noted that Castiglione used repeated lines and perhaps limited tools to build up his expressive forms. I selected and printed a couple of detailed areas of The Creation of Adam and tried to mimic some of the lines.

Looking back I’m surprised at how surprised I was to find it impossible. Those shards of light behind God’s head – sharp and clear, triangular, apparently all ink removed? Nowhere close. The curve of fabric over the shoulder was equally impossible. Adam’s biceps? Foolishness.

On review, there are some interesting areas in my attempts. The near horizontal lines middle right are varied but combine together to create a shape. Top right is a combination of different widths of line that could become tall grasses blowing. Bottom left is the failed shoulder drapery, successful as another example of the power of repetition in line. On the other hand, soon after my attempt I was looking at images of monotypes by Matisse, such as the line of the neck of Emma’s Face Turned to the Left I at MOMA (www.moma.org/collection/works/149434) – a lot can be done with one line!

In my sample, colour was a mix of violet and red with around 40% transparent base. I printed onto cartridge paper using a baren. There was a stickiness and graininess to the ink I was unable to resolve.
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print p4-18

print p4-18

Print p4-18
In the previous print I used some of a set of boxwood modelling tools when looking for that perfect line. On this sample page I worked more methodically, exploring marks with each tool. Twelve tools, each with different ends, each end able to be used in different ways – I got a bit lost in the possibilities and in the similarity of line some produced.

The ink was the same as p4-17, using cartridge paper, but printed through the ezicut press (5 layers of wool quilt batting).
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Print p4-19 detail

Print p4-19 detail

Print p4-19

Print p4-19

Print p4-19
The next idea was to create texture in the ink by flicking on fluids it might react to. I gently placed a piece of newsprint over the lower part of the inked plate to reserve it for other fluids, then flicked akua blender medium over the exposed ink using a toothbrush and mesh. Nothing seemed to be happening, so three drops of blender were put directly on the plate. Then I lifted the newsprint from the lower area and discovered much of the ink had transferred.

Printing was onto cartridge paper using the bamboo baren.

Given time to develop the spatter of blending medium worked. There is a milky way effect of mottling, larger and more varied than earlier unintended sticky ink mottling. The drops of medium moved the ink around in rough circles. This could be more interesting if brushed or rolled across the ink surface.

The lower area looks more like a ghost print, which effectively it was given the transfer onto newsprint. I like the variation in tone over the print as a whole, and that the spotting appears light in the top section and dark in the bottom section. The variation in size or graininess of blotches creates a lot of interest. Responding to the inconsistent contact with the newsprint, a larger scale pattern can be traced.

The image looks to me like a landscape from an airplane. Clumps of trees define higher hills, water spreads over the plain, reflecting light from the starry sky above. I don’t think this effect could be controlled, but it would be interesting to explore the technique of random touch of lightly draped paper.
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Print p4-20

Print p4-20

Print p4-20
This is the newsprint which lifted ink from the plate in the previous sample. Bold in its patterning, this suggests another way of creating varied texture – rest a light paper on the inked plate, not flat and without pressure. This could provide a background for later work, or be worked on directly itself. I’d like to try this with a light rice paper.
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Print p4-21

Print p4-21

Print p4-21
Continuing the earlier idea of moving ink with a fluid, I splattered the inked plate with water. A cork was used to circles of texture in the lower part of the image. A foam letter S was used as a stamp to lift ink from the surface. Finally a fine-cut stylised flower wooden stamp was used several times.

The plate was printed onto white cartridge paper using the ezicut press (7 layers of wool batting).

The water created a strong mottling effect which could be useful, especially if I could develop methods of at least partial control over the area affected. The letter stamps are strong and clear. This could be an effective way of adding text to an image assuming I can get the mirroring right. The precut letters are only at one scale. Perhaps I could cut from the craft foam I have, although this is thin and could be hard to handle. The wooden stamp was not effective. I wonder if temporarily putting some padding under the plate (etching plastic in this case) would assist.
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Print p4-22

Print p4-22

Print p4-22
Red-violet was rolled across the entire plate. Ink was partially lifted from the lower area by pressing in crumpled foil by hand. Yellow ink was roughly rolled over this area. A length of plastic kitchen twine was covered in yellow ink by running ink-covered fingers down its length. The string was then laid on the plate. The loosely bundled string moved around slightly during the process, leaving random smudges of colour.

The plate was printed onto white cartridge paper using the ezicut press (8 layers of wool batting).

The colour scheme is simple but dramatic. The string goes slightly out of bounds on each side, including the lower edge where it extends into the textured, colour-layered region. This together with the white edging of the line pushes it forward and creates a dynamic image. The texture of the background red-violet varies with the movement of the yellow line, providing a subtle additional layer of interest. The layered colour at the bottom acts as a base, adding to the dimensional effect of the line.

The technique of partially lifting colour and then over-inking worked well, providing interest in texture and colour. The unprinted space around the line of the twine is an important idea. The feather in p4-10 (18-October-2015) blocked an entire area. Here a line has been created rather than a shape. The inking of the twine was also significant. It would be interesting to use feathers again, very lightly inked, possibly in different colours. This could allow something like the detail of p4-13 to be inserted and integrated into a plate.
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Print p4-23

Print p4-23

Print p4-23
This is basically the ghost of the previous print. It was taken on cartridge paper using the bamboo baren. After the initial rubbing one side of the paper was lifted and the twine carefully removed. The page was then pressed again.

Capturing the previously untouched areas of ink protected by the twine produced a strong line which contrasts with the much lighter background areas of the ghost print. I think the contrast is too strong, unbalancing the image. Cropping the bottom so that the string marks fill the printed area gives a better result. There is a lot of detailed interest in this print, but it is hard to see given the dominance of the line.
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Print p4-24

Print p4-24

Print p4-24 detail

Print p4-24 detail

Print p4-24
Without cleaning the plate I reinked in red-violet and yellow. A stamp of corrugated cardboard was used, being inked at different times with red-violet and with yellow. At times the stamp was used in the area of contrasting colour. At other times it was used in the matching colour area with the idea of creating a textured, embossed effect.

My notes do not include the method used to print onto white cartridge paper.

The overall image is static and fairly uninteresting. Colours are too evenly mixed, the scale of mark is too constant, there are so many lines from the cardboard going in different directions that any potential for the dynamic is lost.

At the detail level it is interesting to see the layers of colour interacting. However the result is blurred, and it’s not just camera work. A sharper effect might be obtained by printing the background plate and then overprinting with the stamp.

The effect of the uncleaned plate is visible but not strong. In this case the curved lines are too dim to create any tension with the overlaid straight grid, and instead they muddy the composition. Layering has the potential to create complexity and interest, but in this print it hasn’t worked.

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Print p4-25

Print p4-25

Print p4-25
It was late in the day and I wanted to finish the last of the ink. Mixed all together it created a rich brown which is not well captured in the photograph.

Then I froze. I made some marks, disliked them, rolled over them. Multiple times. On the positive side it’s interesting to see how forgiving the monotype technique is. Major changes can be made without waste of materials. After many false starts I created pattern by lifting colour with a stamp cut years ago from polystyrene. This layout is influenced by sketchbook work I did on Louise Nevelson (Sketch 20150815, 21-August-2015).

The polystyrene has created interesting texture and I like the clear but not sharp edges. The stamp had never been used, and it shed little pieces which caused the blotches seen in the print.

The plate was printed onto newsprint using the ezicut press. In the unmarked areas I got some of the flattest colour of any of my prints. This could be the different paper, but I suspect is more related to the repeated rolling of the ink, and to a lesser extent continuing fine-tuning of padding through the improvised press.

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I felt discouraged immediately after this printing session. I hadn’t got the effects I was looking for, the prints seemed very flat, and while the goal isn’t perfect prints the continued major imperfections were frustrating.

Stepping back, reflecting, looking hard for potential in the details – all have helped. I can feel energy and curiosity returning. P4-22 is the only print that excites me in itself, but all the “failures” have elements of interest and provide ideas for future exploration.

T1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – basics on cartridge paper
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 1: Monoprinting
Exercise 1: Mark-making
Basics on cartridge paper

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In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info fibresofbeing.wordpress.com

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