Project 4: Textured and combination monoprints

Project 4: Textured and combination monoprints


For this fourth project I started off with a portrait, and particularly a self-portrait.
I was planning to get the portrait done in back drawing, on two different background colours, one for the hair and one for the skin tone. Firstly I sketched my portrait from a mirror onto paper. Then I traced this sketch onto another sheet, to have a reference when back drawing and to select the lines I wanted to reproduce.

I mixed the colours for the base and roughly spread them with a palette knife in the central area. I didn’t use any registration method on purpose, to obtain a slightly shifted image, which hopefully would have turned more interesting and expressive.

I took 2 prints of my background colours, the first one on a coloured paper and the second on a white one.

A printed a third time with the same colours on white paper, this time applying them with a brush.

Once I had my backgrounds done I started with the back drawing.

The first print on coloured paper was back drawn using a ballpoint pen.


The second print has instead been back drawn with a coloured pencil.

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Finally, the third print back drawing has been obtained taking a second impression of what the previous back drawing left on the plate.

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I am really satisfied with all of the portraits, and I find all of them very interesting, however the one I think stands out the most is the first one.

Still life

I went on with a still life, sketching 3 of them. In the first place I decided to go for the matryoshka doll so I started cutting masks from the drawing. I decided that I wanted to have an oval frame and I rearranged the masks of the doll so they could fit in it. But I didn’t think that I would actually need some kind of guide to align the shapes through the various stages, so when it came to printing the faces and the apron I messed it up.



I decided to go for another subject, a jam jar, a toast and a knife.
This time I traced the drawing on another sheet so that I could use it as my guide for registration. This second time was definitely better than the first one but I must say I struggled quite a lot, maybe especially because I felt it was quite difficult to get a good definition of the shapes, due to the technique itself and so, making it really hard to create a recognisable still life.

I also tried using some objects to give texture, but the result was very poor, I guess the best way to make textures stand out is by using a press instead of hand printing.

Furthermore, it looked to me that layering those printing inks too many times didn’t allow them to dry properly, so when I tried to back draw the label of the jam vase, it turned out really weird.

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The abstract composition was the best to realise. I tried to plan it a bit in advance but I confess that I let myself go on this one and that is why I felt I reached good result enjoying the process.
For the first layer in violet, I used some stripe shaped mask teared from a newspaper and a bamboo mat I found in the kitchen to give some texture.
For a second layer I cut some shapes from a folded piece of paper (the kind of things I was always doing when I was a kid!) and used yellow ink, while on the other side I directly squeezed some white ink on the plate, which gave nice circles.
The next step was splashing some red colour (this was acrylic) and working it with the stick of a brush. I loved the way it melted with one of the white circles.
Finally I added some back drawing in black ink mixed with some blue.


I realised I liked the result more because I didn’t have precise expectation on this one, being an abstract. I find mono printing really unpredictable and even though I think this is the beautiful side of it, it also is the hardest aspect to control, when you are trying to refer to reality.


Lastly I worked on a landscape. I imagined an industrial landscape and I did a quick sketch.

The first layer I printed has been the background, which I textured with a feather. Even though some of my fingerprints are visible I quite liked the result, as the shapes obtained together with the colour I used reminded me of trees.

I printed the top hill as a second layer, using a palette knife directly on the plate and darkening the same colour used for the background.

The next step has been back drawing in black the thin structures onto the background and over printing them with the dark silhouette on the top of the hill.

I then painted with a brush onto the plate the two darker hills in the bottom, texturing the darkest corner with a smaller feather.

the final touch has been the smoke coming out of the factories chimneys.

I quite liked the final result of this landscape, even though I still found difficult to texture the ink and to plan everything to get a what is in my mind.


Project 1: Your first monoprints

Project 1: Your first monoprints

Experiments in mark making and painted plates

In this first project of Printmaking 1 course, I started exploring how monoprints work.

The relief printing inks I used are quite cheap and water based; I used red, blue and yellow for these experiments and obtained other hues by mixing them.

In the first mark making exercise I realised how quickly the colours were drying, so I had to try my best to be quite fast, as I could not add much water.

I used different kind of brushes and also a small palette knife to spread the colours on the glass, finally used ordinary cartridge paper to lift the ink off the plate.

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I have to say the most interesting part came when I started to mix the colours. By then I also started to gain confidence with the medium and tried to spread a background colour rather than just making marks.

When painting over the background, the colour looked like moving rather than mixing. The palette knife point dragged through the ink also moved it to the sides, exposing the plain glass.

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Considering that I had never tried mono printing before this was a very useful experiment to explore new techniques and effects and to start becoming familiar and confident with them.

Research point: Monoprints by Edgar Degas

I looked at Degas work with monoprints and actually realised how interesting is his approach to printmaking.

He was working on etched plates, modifying each single print by manipulating the ink and adding other mediums over the finished prints. What he was actually producing were monotypes.
The freedom in the approach is definitely what I can learn from Degas and his printed works. We are often scared by the ghost of perfection, mostly trying to do things following the rules, without realising how imperfection and experimentation produces far more interesting results.

Painted monoprint from life

I worked on a still life choosing two very simple objects, I placed them in different ways and sketched them a couple of times.

I then started with inking the plate. I found it quite hard in the first place to depict something onto glass with quite fluid colours, trying to make it recognisable and at the same time trying to work quickly.

The first print I pulled off was in fact quite a disaster. I found interesting the brush strokes in the depiction of the objects, but the overall impression is quite confused, due to the colours being exposed to the air for to long.

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In my second attempt I tried working faster and adding a bigger quantity of colour on the plate. I also fixed the paper to the plate, so that I could work a second time on the areas that where less clear, by adding more colour. It definitely worked better, but I realised that the confused impression was also due to a poor choice in matching the colours, so I decided to try again, using a light background.

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My third and last attempt worked definitely better, the image is more recognisable and at the same time it present interesting textures. Changing the orientation from portrait to landscape also helped to get a better overall impression.

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I am satisfied with the last result, considering how poor was my confidence at the beginning. However I am definitely considering to get to work with some oil based inks, for richer textures and longer time span to work on more complicated figures.

Exercise: Visual distortion

Exercise: Visual distortion

I really tried for long time to catch my cat in a pose which shows her quite well: she has a total black fur (just a little white patch on the chest) and it is quite difficult under a certain light to distinguish her contours.
I draw her from a picture, trying to keep the portrait quite faithful, as the exercise asks in the first place.

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A second step consisted in drawing a cat with five lines, which I thought was quite fun.

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But the funniest part was actually to make a collage: while making it I realised how most of the time I am so tied to reality that is difficult to let my mind go. That is when I placed aquamarine long, curly moustaches on the cat’s face and climbing rope for her tail.

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Having used dried palm umbrellas texture for part of her fur, an image came to me of this character hiding in the middle of a haystack (or actually being an haystack!), trying to catch a little mouse with a treat placed in the middle of her lazo-tail. The cheese smells so good…but wait…something greenish is suspiciously poking out of the mass…!

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I had so much fun with this exercise and made me realise that infinite possibilities can sit before our eyes, we just need to let ourselves go and materialise them.

Exercise: Abstract drawing

Exercise: Abstract drawing

This exercise required the listening of an instrumental piece in order to create an abstract drawing.
I choose as a starting point a piece originally composed by Johannes Brahms, Hungarian dance N. 5, interpreted by a young Lithuanian artist named Martynas. I really love this piece and it literally gives me goose bumps every single time I listen to it.
In the first place I listened to the music a couple of times without making marks, just trying to understand which colours to associate with it. I couldn’t really choose between two range of colours: the red/brown or the blue/green.
I had a go with the reds first, trying to let the marks being as instinctive as possible. I had in my mind that fabric called damask which is often composed with two tones of the same colour.
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Being poorly satisfied, I tried with the blue, adding also some green and brown.

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Disaster. Honestly I couldn’t find any connection between my squiggly drawing and the musical piece I was trying to describe.
So I decided to change method motivated by the interesting idea of making marks as I was reading and translating the sound in lines.

What came out looked like a diagram of a very bad earthquake or some weird medical exam. But I loved the effect and I thought that those lines could have been transformed in a colourful sequence of geometric patterns.

However even this time I was not entirely satisfied as the outcome brought me to what looked like a South American heritage decoration more than to the eastern, mysterious and folkloristic feeling the actual music gives me.
That’s why in my final go, I used only a fine liner and slightly filled in the contours with an exhausted one.

I think this reflects much more the spirit of the piece and I also figured out that the colours I would best associate to it are the range from red, brown and okra.

To verify if it could have worked as a cd cover I adjusted the patterns to a square format and paid more attention to the forms, even though being only guided by straight lines, to leave some imperfections visible.

I like the final result after all, and I was actually quite surprised of the outcome, considering how frustrated I was in the beginning.