Monoprinting

My tutor has suggested that I take a look at techniques of monoprinting, so I am curious to explore that here.

A definition by Tate:

“The monoprint is a form of printmaking where the image can only be made once, unlike most printmaking which allows for multiple originals.

An impression is printed from a reprintable block, such as an etched plate or woodblock, but in such a way that only one of its kind exists, for example by incorporating unique hand-colouring or collage.

The term can also refer to etchings which are inked and wiped in an expressive, not precisely repeatable manner; to prints made from a variety of printing elements that change from one impression to the next; or to prints that are painted or otherwise reworked by hand either before or after printing.

The beauty of monoprinting lies in its spontaneity and its allowance for combinations of printmaking, painting and drawing media.

This last sentence is what really captures my attention!

Two examples here:

Monoprint with Red Hand 1973 by Berenice Sydney 1944-1983

Berenice Sydney- Monoprint from cut perspex on paper

[no title] circa 1955-6 by Naum Gabo 1890-1977

Naum Gabo- Monoprint from wood engraving on paper.

Tate. 2017. Tate. [Online]. [9 June 2017]. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/monoprint

Now to the more practical side- how do I try this out? How can I make an etching? a wood engraving? or what is cut perspex? This is really all new territory for me.

Etching:

“Etching is a printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image

I have watched the episode of the BBC series “What do Artists do All day” about Norman Ackroyd and his stunning landscape etchings.
Etching is definitely not something I can try in my own home without special equipment.
Wood engraving:
“A printmaking method distinct from woodcut in that the line is incised into the woodblock, rather than the background being cut away to leave a line in relief.”
Wood cut:
“The block is carved so that an image stands out in relief. The relief image is then inked and paper placed against its surface before being run through a press. It is possible to make a woodcut without a press (Japanese Ukiyo-e prints for example) by placing the inked block against a sheet of paper and applying pressure by hand.”
These two methods sounds rather like they can be managed at home. But woodcarving? This would be a whole new experience!
I have already ordered two small flat pieces of wood that will be ready soon 🙂
How about “cut perspex” like in the example above by Berenice Sydney?
A Google search teaches me that Perspex is an acrylic sheet and I have found various tips on how to cut it using various tools like “circular saws” and “jigsaws”. I will have to find some simpler version here, that does not imply investing in tools a month before moving houses and even continents.
What is thin enough to be cut with a blade but resistant enough for printing? How about trying my old yogamat?
And a stupid question.. Do I use normal Indian ink? Or is “printing ink” something different?
Ah yes- of course there is a whole world of printing ink out there. They can be waterbased or oilbased . They are thicker in consistency  than a usual ink and can be wiped off.  So lets see what I can find here.
My further research has led me to find some much easier “home” ways of creating monoprints:
Placing objects:
Apply a thin layer of ink on a sandpapered plexiglas sheet and then placing various soft objects on top. Cover with the paper and press. I do not have any kind of press but a high pile of heavier books may do the trick?
Also I can probably do something similar using the old acrylic paints I already have instead of searching to buy special ink? And not having a rubber roller… could I use and empty bottle?
Tracing
Another technique is to ink up the sandpapered plexiglas, place a paper on top of it and simply draw with the end tip of a paintbrush. This is getting more and more accessible!
“Kitchen lithography”
This method mimicks traditional lithography, but instead of using a copper plate, uses simple aluminium foil, and instead of chemicals uses carbonated drinks.
Place a sheet of aluminium foil on a plate of plexiglas, shiny side up, the foil slightly smaller than the plate and don’t touch the surface as the oil of the fingers will stay and make dots. Foil as flat as possible as the wrinkles print too. Lightly sand the surface of the shiny foil with a very fine sand paper to add texture and values. Mope it off with vinegar on a kitchen towel. Draw directly on the foil with a “lithocrayon”.
Pour cola fizzy drink over the drawing held over an empty bucket, the drink has to touch the whole drawing for about 5 seconds. Dab off the resting cola. Buff the image away using a sponge with vegetable oil.
Make the plate wet. Slowly use rubber roller to ink up the image. Keep the plate wet. Use damp paper. Place the paper on top and ideally use a press. (hm)
Probably the rubber roller IS necessary- to roll out the ink on a separate plate/plexiglass/ surface seems to be the first step of every of these methods.

Time to experiment!
I have ordered some wood to try carving but as it will only be ready in a couple of days, I start by trying to carve a rubber yogablock. It is softer than wood, but not as easy to carve as I imagined. The edges keep rolling up and the elasticity does not work in my favour.
I am carving feet, as I am pondering the saying ” I bow down to the lotus feet of the guru”, and have this idea with printing multiple feet in front of a small bowing figure.
First trials with acrylic paint and an empty glass bottle as a roller are not very successful. The rubber yields too much and it just gets messy, the grooves get full of paint and print darker than the “surface”:
 Despite the result, my taste for experimenting is awakened.
The wooden panels have arrived and I will try my luck with wood engraving:
 My little amateur tools are far too weak and the wood far too hard – my hands are red and bruised and I will not think of how much time this took and how disappointingly ragged my drawing is…
Also I have bought a rubber roller but still no luck in finding printing ink, so I will try with acrylic paint again, maybe it will work better with this hard wood.
IMG_9616
No, acrylic paint does not work.
IMG_9619
I really have to make some printing ink appear magically. This is one of the times that I would love to live in Europe and have an address…

A little more research and I discover that it is perfectly possible to use acrylic paints mixed with acrylic media and also wetting the paper to delay drying of the paint.
Time for more experiments:
I mix the acrylic paint with acrylic media and some water to create a still rather thick but very smooth texture that I apply on my wooden block with the rubber roller:
IMG_9837
And here is the first monoprint:
IMG_9841
Yay! It is working! It is messy and imperfect, but I am already encouraged to continue.
I thought the paint was too thick to be even , so I thin out the paint more and wetten the wooden plate before applying the ink. This proved to be the wrong way- everything just blended:
IMG_9849
I try again with a blue color and find the right thickness:
IMG_9880
I am monoprinting!
Now I grab the rubber yogablock and experiment with that as well:
This is fun! Now I start blending colors- printing one layer on top of the other:
And back to my wood block again:
I move on to the next type of experimenting: with a sheet of plexiglas.
First I scratch the surface with a fine sand paper to make the paint stick better:
IMG_9899
Applying the paint evenly still was a nightmare! The rubber roller just wipes it off instead of spreading it. I experimented with all kinds of ratio of paint/ media and still was just wiping the paint around.. This is the best it got:
IMG_9901
I then placed the soft objects on the plate , a piece of cloth and feathers, pressed the paper on top and covered by another plexiglass sheet and a pile of books.  Definitely failed! (and this sounded so easy!)
I then placed the ink stained objects directly on the paper instead, which created something more interesting:
IMG_9921
And finally I tried inking up the plate, pressing the paper to it and drawing on the back of the paper.
For the black one, the paper was too dry, so it stuck to the plate. The pink one was wetter and slipped off easily, but the paint was still very blotchy. On both I drew random curls or fantasy letters:
All of the above experiments were pressed by hand or with heavy books in my kitchen. None of the results are really good, but I feel so happy about having tried! I will save the “kitchen etching method” for another time. The main issue was really to ink up the plate evenly and I still haven’t figured that out.
I have learned A LOT about a subject I had no idea about and feel curious to seek out some courses that offer experimenting in various printing techniques with equipment and the right facilities.

 

 

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