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.

Scan 2.jpg

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

Scan 3.jpg


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.

Scan 2.jpg


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.


Exercise: Working with children

Exercise: Working with children

When I was a kid I remember being terrified by an image from the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. It was hunting me at the point that I used to keep that particular page always far away from my eyes, turning the book and keeping distance from it. Only now I realise how much an image can affect a kid.  I could say that images are not only a media between text and reality, they can be alive through imagination, and this is a great power kids are capable of.
However, as an images lover, illustrations and visual products in general still have a great impact on me.

I visited my local library to get more familiar with children illustration, which has evolved quite fast since I was a kid, obviously giving space to digital images.
I could distinguish the five main categories given by the exercise brief:
The first is the one of the patterns, simple shapes, textures and colours, clearly for the youngest.

A second category sees the introduction of characters, simple drawings, still featuring textures and bold colours but accompanied by a simple text, often teaching some very basic lessons like numbers, the names of colours and so on. Very often the brief stories contained in those books are moral lessons.

With the third category the illustrations start to be more articulated, more detailed and more accurate, with shading and with a larger variety of colours. The text is also much more detailed, taking the shape of proper tales.

A fourth category sees a more mature approach to the images, which are giving more and more space to the text, now completely mature, only different in subjects from the adult one.

For the category older age groups I think the main illustrated subject becomes the comic book and the graphic novel.

I thought it was not always simple to distinguish the categories, and also I think the impact the illustration is having,  really depends from the personality of a kid (If I think that I was very interested in some of the books it really makes the theory just a theory!).

I chose to work on the preschool category and on the established reader one.
I brainstormed on some of the words given by the exercise and then chose the ones which inspired me the most.

Scan 55
I matched a couple of animals per category and then combined them with the chosen word, recording some ideas in thumbnails.

Scan 56.jpg
In the end I selected two images: An elephant walking on a very poorly stable bridge, symbolising the word journey and a angry wolf patrolling the forest at night, for the word scary.

I used a different approach for the two images.

The preschool images is treated in a less realistic way, not only in the shapes but even the action is practically impossible. I think to make the characteristic really extreme in this case conveys the message: a journey might be not always easy and pleasant, it can be really dangerous, but it is always going to bring you to something good.

Scan 60
The established reader image features a more realistic situation, even though the colours are probably not responding to reality.

Scan 59

I am satisfied with the outcomes, I think they are communicating what they are suppose to. However, regarding the technique, I believe the wolf illustration is better than the first one.

I think colours have a huge impact on children, far bigger than the one they can have on an adult.
I don’t think it is correct to generalise and think that full colour is always the right approach with kids. I think even monochrome can have a major impact of them, influencing their mood. To conclude, I believe the combination of colours is far more important than the variety.


Exercise: Text and image

Exercise: Text and image

This exercise got me working on the relation between the text and the shape of the letters communicating it. A first step was writing some given words in my own handwriting and a second one was to try to convey their meaning through the shape of the letters.

Scan 61
I then used digital fonts in the same way, trying different solutions.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 19.08.12Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 19.08.33
For the following step, I chose an option per word and then traced those fonts trying to match them with an appropriate colour.

Scan 65
Then came the mood board stage. I found this step a little confusing, having to create a moodpboard for so many different words, but in the end I managed to find few pictures and mostly textures which I thought where conveying the sense of those words. The result is more like a ‘narrative mood board’, which moves with no interruption from the word big to the word mad.

Scan 62Scan 63Scan 64
In the end I experimented various materials for each word, which I believe could match with the concepts.

I used a large black marker for the word big; a simple biro for small; Acrylic paint and dark pencil for fat; fine liner for thin; indian ink and brush for fast; pastel for slow; Acrylic, biro, marker and poster paint (and fingers!) for fun; pencil for boring; watercolour pencil for calm; acrylic and marker for mad.

I have to admit the last step was quite funny and particularly I think the word mad is the one that best conveys the message and the passion behind the letters.

Printmaking: Soft ground etching

Printmaking: Soft ground etching

Following the same principle of the hard ground technique, the soft ground process it is quite different. Soft ground is in fact a different wax where the resin is replaced by oil, making it obviously more sensitive and malleable at room temperature.

The first steps prior to drawing, have been to prepare a board with some pieces of cardboard to hold the plate firm once we applied the soft ground and to back the plate with tape, to protect it from corrosion. In this way, once the plate was rolled up with the oily wax, we didn’t have to handle it to much, spoiling the even layer of soft ground.

After that, a piece of tissue paper was placed on top of the plate and secured with tape. This is the surface where the drawing is made with any medium we would normally use for drawing, like pastels, charcoal, pencils and so on.

I used a normal pencil and draw a little platypus, from a picture I found online long ago.

Once finished, I removed the tissue paper from the surface, in this way lifting the soft ground where I made marks, therefore uncovering the metal.

Right after that, I left the plate in the saline sulphate bath for about 10 minutes.

I then washed the plate with a delicate spray, just in case I needed to keep the wax on to etch the plate further.

I checked how the acid worked my marks with the tutor and we decided it was ok to print!

So I cleaned up the plate, inked it and finally pressed it.


I am so impressed with the result, probably because I really didn’t expect it.

I have to admit, I was not so attracted by this technique in the first place, but I definitely changed my mind while having a go at it! I particularly loved the freedom this technique allows in making marks.

I really enjoyed the process and even more the outcome!



Printmaking: Hard ground etching

Printmaking: Hard ground etching

At the end of the first printmaking session we have been given a zinc plate covered with hard ground. This is a mixture of beeswax, bitumen and resin which protects the metal from acid corrosion.

I had in fact, to produce a drawing scratching away the wax to expose the metal, allowing in this way the acid to work its way through the lines .

I bathed the plate in acid for about 5 minutes and then rinsed it in water. after drying it up, I checked that the lines were properly etched and the passed to the usual inking and pressing.

The result was a print with extremely crisp lines which I really enjoyed!

I managed to do in total four trials, visible in the image below from the first on the top left to the last on the bottom right.


At the end of the printing phase the tutor also taught me how to prepare the plate with a layer of hard ground.

I am literally falling in love with printmaking!

Printmaking: Drypoint

Printmaking: Drypoint

I have always been fascinated by printmaking, that’s why I recently enrolled in a short course at the Royal Drawing School which is going to give me a basic knowledge about etching.

I attended the first lesson yesterday and we were introduced by the tutor, Rossen Daskalov, to the very basic drypoint process.

After a tour of the studio and an introduction on the technique, he gave us a copper plate and we started experimenting the process.

I did a quick sketch on paper before going straight onto the copper with a pointy tool I bought some time ago.

As the tutor said, there is a close relation between this technique and drawing, but obviously having to work on metal, the lines are hardly fluid as they would be when you have no resistance in moving your hand.

It is difficult to see what you are drawing, the figure will be mirrored and even if you have a fervid imagination what finally comes out of the press will always surprise you, heavily influenced by the inking process.

I loved that! I had so much fun printing, retouching the plate and printing again and trying different ways of inking.

Here is my result, from my first attempt on the left to the last on the right:


It was a great experience and I wish to influence my illustration process with the things I learned.

I can’t wait to experiment a new technique next week!

Exercise: Using black and white

Exercise: Using black and white

This exercise asked to play with black and white. The theme I chose from the list has been sea and in particular I draw a lighthouse, inspired by a picture I found of the abandoned Aniva lighthouse.



I tried to keep the drawing really simple by using few solid lines and then I photocopied the original as requested. I made 2 normal copies and two inverted ones and I started experimenting. I have to admit I was not quite sure of the procedure and ended up leaving my first attempt half way.


The pieces I cut from the first black copy were already too small and didn’t allow me to go in again with the white. However I think the image, even though incomplete is already somehow effective. I used my second set of copies to have another go. This time I cut larger pieces off the black copy:


When going in with the white pieces, I tried to suggest light coming from one side: the most difficult thing to render was the water and I had to watch the result from far away to make sure it was readable.


I think the result is quite good, but I can spot imperfections, for example I didn’t manage to cover all the lines, because they keep appearing from the back drawing.

Comparing the final image to the line drawing, I would say it became alive and it gained a dramatic narrative aura which reminds me of comics and graphic novels.
I browsed some comics artists, but the one I kept thinking of was Frank Miller. I think he really uses black and white to obtain that certain atmosphere typical of his dark novels and his skills are honed to perfection in giving even the smallest details only by the use of black and white areas.

In particular the following examples are from his graphic novel Sin City:

five-days-of-sin-the-ladies-of-sin-city-20050328064445688 16476_512