Stencil monoprints

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Each week’s printmaking session leads to the next. The stencilled birds have been an element for some time now, so I decided to use the stencil idea for more forms. The idea for this print stemmed from thinking about Central Australia, its desert landscape and massive red rocks, also the spindly, twisted black trees that are often found there. The result is not really like Central Australia, but still has an Australian landscape feel.

As the layers built, I re-used some of the stencils I had made previously. To apply the shapes to my acrylic printing plate I use a roller to apply thin layers of ink, often turning the stencils over, so excess ink then transfers to the plate as well, which is how the dark green tree forms appeared. I had not intended them to be trees, but clearly, that is what they are. The interesting textures appeared by a lack of care as much as anything else – when I finished printmaking last week, I piled the stencils into a plastic bag. This then adhered temporarily to the inky side of the stencil, making crumpled patterns, and thus was transferred to the plate when I pressed down with the roller. I love the serendipitous results of this method – it doesn’t work every time, but the good surprises make it worthwhile!

To make the stencils I used Yupo, which is a thin, plastic-like medium, like paper but shiny and non-absorbent. (I sometimes use it to draw on with Liquid Pencil, as it pools in interesting ways.) I simply draw the shapes I want on, then cut them out with a sharp blade.

Below are details of the above print, and also images of the first layer.

Rogues Gallery 2

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Last year I made a small book of drawings of early twentieth century criminals, (see here) using images inspired by photos from the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney, and now I’m continuing the theme, but with larger drawings. Every face tells a story – some aggressive, some cocky, some dapper, others beaten down and sad.

Photographs of some Sydney criminals were taken in an almost casual way between about 1910 and 1930, some sitting, others slouching against a wall with their hands in their pockets before more formal mug shots came into use. It seems that these photos were quite random, not all criminals were photographed, some were named and their stories can be found, others were quite anonymous, but to me every one of these has a story written on his (or her, there are women too) face.

There is a book published by Sydney Living Museums which has a lot of these photos, and this is what I have used as my inspiration. I have not tried to copy the photos too accurately, but I’ve tried to gain an essence of who these people were.

Each drawing is 15 cm square, on Arches watercolour paper, drawn using water-soluble graphite. I do a loose sketch with an HB pencil, wet it with a brush to get in some tones, then when it is dry work into it more with a 4B pencil, wet it again, and so on till I’m satisfied.

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Before and After

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This is the result of drawing into one of my monoprints – the top image is the untouched monoprint and the lower is the enhanced version. In some areas I have added a lot of detail, in others I have left the original marks almost untouched. Overall, I have tried to bring the image together, to create a unified whole that tells a story. Its the kind of thing where I could keep working in to it, maybe I will, but for now I think it is done. Using coloured pencils in a limited range of tertiary colours leaves the monoprint colours intact below. However, it may end up being divided into smaller pieces, so that the eye can focus on more contained areas.

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Detail.

The overall image is about 43 x 34 cm.

Desert Morning

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The monoprints are continuing, still offering surprises. This one will be going into an exhibition in the next couple of weeks. Like the previous ones, this is the result of much layering, texture and tone being added each time. It is possible to see embossing in some of the lighter areas, created by paper ribbon and strings of raffia. I can see forms in this that can be interpreted in many ways, every viewer will have a different take on it, but I have given it the title of Desert Morning as this is what the colours and the transparency of light suggested to me. In the Australian deserts, such as the Simpson, the range of colours are astonishing, and every sand dune is patterned with marking from animals, insects, reptiles and grasses, and the marks I have unknowingly created resonate with the patterns found out there.

This print is 40 x 30 cm, using Schminke water-based inks on Magnani Corona paper.

More monoprints

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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.)

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(Above) This is the complete image which includes the detail at the top.

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Two more details of the image.

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Two more full monoprints, made at the same time as the top one. There may be more layers added to these …

 

Monoprints

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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.

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Miniature sketchbook

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The sketches I made on my recent trip to Tasmania have proved a valuable resource for further artwork – I made a large drawing using some of the elements (see here) and now have made a miniature version of my sketchbook.

In creating this miniature book, I scanned and reduced the pages from the sketchbook, then re-arranged the drawings to suit a small format, going from an A4 sketchbook down to pages that are 10.5 x 9 cm. All the drawings were redone from scratch, I felt if I traced the forms I would lose the original loose quality of them, and the painting was often reinterpreted too.

Once the drawings were done and the labels added, I glued the panels onto a long strip of mulberry paper, a thin but strong Japanese paper which has small pieces of organic material embedded in it, which felt like a nice accompaniment to drawings of natural objects. The front and back covers were made of card with mulberry paper pasted on, and the decorative corners and the panel beneath the title plate were made from offcuts from my recent prints.

This little book, along with the portraits in my previous post, and a small oil painting will be submitted to the Annual Awards exhibition of the Australian Society of Miniature Art. The exhibition is not until June, but I wanted to have the work complete well in advance.