Re-learning Monotype

Wow it’s been a long time since I wrote a blogpost. I had to ask for a new link because I forgot my password! It’s true that I have been focussed on other things recently, not least a huge building project which takes up most of my waking hours. However I have found the odd corner in which to be creative too. I have being doing some more family linocuts which I will share soon.

On Saturday, on a whim, I signed up to a Monotype printing day at the Cardiff Print Workshop where I am a member. This is the most basic of all printing methods, and something that I learnt in the ‘printmaking basics’ course that got me started a few years ago. I have remembered a few bits and pieces that I use when making cards, but linocut swept me away (always with black ink), and I got stuck in my own happy little rut. It is good to shake out the cobwebs on occasion though, and this course did just that. Bill Chambers is a fantastic teacher, and my fellow course attendees brought their own disciplines to the day, meaning that we all learnt as much from looking at what others were doing as we did from our own efforts. Monotype printmaking is like being back in nursery school, but being old enough to appreciate it. A purely exuberant opportunity to play and experiment. The intellect can take a rest and let curiosity run rampant! Despite hot competition, I won the prize for the most profligate user of paper, and of course not everything is worth sharing. But I have a very definite set of ideas that I intend to develop.

Starting from my own comfort zone, I dug out my tetrapak and metal wire (pre-formed from previous prints) and started using the laid out inks. The more garish versions made my head hurt, but I loved the yellow with a tiny bit of magenta (a gentle orange), overlaid with some black which had been reduced to 50% with extender (or probably more). The washer I found in my box was particularly pleasing as it picked up the ink really well.

The final print didn’t even use any additional ink. It is simply the ghosts of previous printings, all overlaid to produce levels of subtlety which are so beautiful to create. I even like the Fabriano watermark making it’s entrance. Who says material things don’t have agency??

So what have I learnt which I want to explore further? First and foremost the importance of using the ghosts of previous prints to work on. The beauty of embossing. The power of ink to pick up the tiniest detail, allowing the beauty of skeletal leaves, and the textures of everyday items like string to shine through. Most of all though, is the benefit of revisiting basic techniques when I’m in a position to absorb more information as a result of my few years experience. On the basics course, I was like a kid in a sweetshop. Within a couple of weeks I forgot almost everything. On this occasion I feel I have a solid base to develop further.

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