The monoprints are taking on a life of their own. When I started doing these it was with the intention of using them as a base for drawing into, but as I have become more confident with the process they are starting to stand alone. Layering has been a key ingredient in the progression, adding depth and intricacy. Each time I peel back the paper after a pass through the press I am surprised at the changes that appear.
Random additional elements, such as pieces of raffia, string, textured paper ribbon, fabric and so on add another series of forms. Once colour has been added to these, they can be re-used to offset that colour back onto the image. Stencils have added another level of interest. I cut bird shapes from a piece of stencil paper and applied them in different ways. Adding a recognisable shape has changed the character of the image, now they have gone from completely abstract images to more of a landscape, or something reminiscent of a map or aerial image. The tertiary, earthy colours that I have been using – usually a mix of about three colours – also help this feeling.
Something I am also finding is that I like the small elements of the images, in some cases more than the complete image, such as the above image which is about a quarter of the larger piece below, so I could end up cutting the images into a series of smaller pieces. (The paper I use is approximately 50 x 40 cm.)
(Above) This is the complete image which includes the detail at the top.
Two more details of the image.
Two more full monoprints, made at the same time as the top one. There may be more layers added to these …
An area of printmaking I never much enjoyed was monoprints, but I have been converted. There can be a lot of pleasure in starting with a sheet of acetate and a selection of printing inks and just randomly adding marks. There is a purpose behind doing these, I don’t see them as artworks as they are, but as a base for drawing into, developing the marks that appear or manipulating them into a new image.
Strictly speaking what I am doing are monotypes – a monoprint is a print made on a plate which already has an image on it, usually an etching, but it can be done on a relief plate too. Instead of inking it up and printing an edition of identical images, for a monoprint the plate is inked up in a unique way that can’t easily be repeated, hence ‘mono’. A monotype is made on an unmarked plate – in my case 1mm acetate, or it can be glass or any other impermeable smooth surface. Some artists do a regular painting, then transfer it to paper either by hand-rubbing or putting it through a press, but I am simply making random marks. Interesting results can be obtained as a ghost print, in other words, putting the plate through the press a second time when a lot of the ink has been lifted off. These can be beautiful, delicate images, perfect for drawing into.
The main image above is one that I have started working into, but not yet finished – part of the right hand side has been worked, using coloured pencils and some pen and ink, you should be able to see the difference between the two sides. Once it is finished it may remain complete, but if I find there are elements of it I like, it may well get cut up and remade into something new.
The gallery below has several prints that are just awaiting attention – they may look like a splotchy mess, but to me they are ripe with possibility! Once they are worked into I will post an update.
Now that the pieces for my imaginary orchestra are complete, I have been able to spend time experimenting and exploring in printmaking. In some ways, the imagery is peripheral – I am not looking to make one beautiful plate that stands alone, but create unexpected results from layering and masking, using different colours and methods. The plate used has an image inspired by the workings inside a piano.
Luggage tags are nice small shapes to use as masks to interrupt – or disrupt – the base image. I especially like the patterns made by the tag strings. In the top image the tags simply masked the main image, but small residue marks can be seen as I used the tags on another print and some of that image was offset onto the tags. On the second one, I ran the print through the press with the tags in place, then lifted the tags off, turned them over, moved some around, but replaced them within the tag marks and ran it through the press again to offset the images back into the shapes. It sounds complicated but in fact is very simple!
The bottom photo is of some of the tags, which are now printed on both sides. Even the strings have picked up imagery. These are probably asking to be turned into a 3D object of some kind.
The prints are 27 x 39 cm, printed on Magnani Corona paper and the tags are 5 x 3.5 cm.
Printmaking is an art form that somehow gets inside you – once you start it is hard to leave it behind. I would have described myself simply as a printmaker 20 years ago, but over the years other media became important to me, and printmaking became less of a focus, but was always in the back of my mind. Now it is front of mind, I have an allocated day for it once a week, and of course preparations for that day occupy a lot of the rest of the time. There is so much pleasure in creating prints, that moment of the reveal as paper is peeled back from the plate – did you get what you expected, or something entirely different. The weather affects the print, high humidity makes the ink run more smoothly, and dampens the paper, low humidity makes the ink harder to work. Cold and heat too have sometimes unexpected effects. All this adds to the nature of printmaking, the constant surprises that emerge.
I am not looking for perfect editions, in fact the reverse is what interests me, the moment of serendipity, the reaction of layering another plate over the previous image, how the inks respond to one another. Even results which could be interpreted as a disaster can be turned to advantage. Inspiration comes all the time – an image may be offset back onto the second plate, and a new ghost print can be taken from this. Printing on the back of the paper gives new possibilities and this is what I have been using in then developing three dimensional forms from the prints.
Coming up is a print exhibition with the title of ‘Music Box’, and I will submit some of my 3D works. So far, two are complete, the one shown above, which was inspired by the workings of one of those tiny hand-wound music boxes that play a tinny version of Happy Birthday, and the one below. This one I see as an imaginary musical instrument, perhaps something from a civilisation we know nothing of, so no-one knows how it should be played.
More prints have been made, so the next step is turn transform them into more musical objects.
As so often happens with my work, this was started some time ago and then set aside for the ideas for completion to gel. In my earlier post about this (see here, also for a gallery of the individual panels) I felt that the panels needed to be sturdier, and it was suggested that I add wood to the backs, and make them darker. So I bought some sheets of balsa wood and painted them with shellac, to give a warm, transparent and slightly shiny colour. Also, I have re-stacked the panels – originally there were only two in each level, which made a tall, narrow tower, but it was not stable. Here there are three panels to each layer, so the structure is more squat and grounded. I continued to wonder if more need to be added, maybe even threads to link the pieces together, but now I think it is a satisfying form as it is. The panels are simply pushed in place, not glued, so it can still be taken apart and re-stacked. Choosing a title has been difficult, but at this stage it is called ‘Growing Up’, a reference to the plant forms on it, and the fact it is not a flat object, but that could change.
The prints are multiple layers of etchings, drypoint and monotype and the structure in this configuration is about 28 x 28 x 28 cm.
The so-called blot series continues … as I do more, the character is changing, and so are the names I am choosing. ‘Galaxies’ still seems a good overall title, with individual titles for each. This one is more colourful, and has a few whimsical parts which I am not sure work … such as the dangling spheres on the lower right. When I look at small details I feel like expanding on some of these, enlarging them and redrawing them with more detail. Maybe that is the next development.
Details of No 4
This one, number 5, is back to the limited palette, more understated with more graceful forms. I have called this ‘Filaments’, and it is now framed and ready to go into an exhibition.
Detail of Filaments.
The first three in the series. All are worked on a base of Liquid Pencil random blots, worked into with graphite pencil and coloured pencils. The paper is Magnani Corona, and each drawing is 25 x 35 cm or 10 x 14 in. Filaments has been cropped for framing to 18 x 27 cm (7 x 11 in).
The third drawing in the blot series is complete. I have decided to give the series the title of ‘Galaxies’ – ‘blots’ doesn’t really cover where these drawings have progressed to, even though that is where they began. The word Galaxies can cover more than just other physical worlds, it can be the worlds of our imagination. Something I am really enjoying about these is the input I get from viewers as to what they see in them. Some are quite literal, faces or insects, others much more ephemeral, to do with stories and ideas, brain activity and portals into distant worlds. All are equally valid. To me they are floating, drifting shapes, changing form and character, coming in and out of focus, each element has a story of its own, and these stories change from one day to another.
Above are details of this drawing.
Above are the first two drawings in this series.
All are made using Liquid Pencil and Caran d’Ache coloured pencils, graphite pencils on Magnani Corona paper, 35 x 25 cm.