Monday, March 28, 2016

Exploring Dark Field Monotype with Mixed Media #1

A monotype is a hybrid of drawing and printmaking. Monotypes are divided into two types - the dark field and the light field.  Degas used the dark field method of monotype

Edgar Degas's "Three Ballet Dancer (Trois danseuses)," 1878-80.
(Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute)
"Although the monotype process typically yields a single print, Degas often made more than one impression, or “pull,” from a plate. Each successive pull yielded a less intense, more degraded image—both a repetition and a transformation—and these later prints often served as the basis of Degas’s pastel drawings. (Source: Wall Street Journal; To Better Understand Degas’s Prints, MoMA Team Got Hands Dirty)

Edgar Degas - The Star - Pastel over Monotype
 It is estimated as many as a quarter of Degas' pastels 
have a monotype underlayer

The Breakfast - Monotype with Pastel and Graphite - Edgar Degas

Belinda Del Pesco posted a video recently about trace monotype printing (see Monotype: Between Friends (& a video tutorial on Trace Monotype). This is when I knew for sure I had been bitten by the bug to pull out my printmaking supplies and get printmaking again!

In the video below, Belinda Del Pesco shows how to make a dark field monotype with mixed media.

Time to Explore!

After watching Belinda's videos, I was so excited to start experimenting and exploring this new process!

I gathered some photos that I thought would be interesting to experiment with dark field monotype in a few of my favourite subject categories:
  • animal (Lexie)
  • figurative (snowman building)
  • architecture (Abiwin porch)
  • a portrait (Great grandmother)
  • landscape (lavender farm)

Photos gathered for my monotype experiments
Mt First Experiment - The Snowman

To make things simple, I thought it best to start my experimentation with some simple black and white photos. I started with the snowman.

With my first subject selected. I gathered together everything I could find to make my first monotype: My Akua Intaglio ink (payne's gray), various papers, the creative palette, a spray bottle, a brayer, etc.

I wasn't entirely sure that the creative palette would work with this method (softer than plexiglass or zinc plates)  but I had purchased it on sale at Michael's and never used it so I thought it would be a good place to start.

For the mixed media materials, I gathered anything that I thought might be interesting and/or useful: my watercolours, pastels, pastel pencils, conté crayons, watercolour pencils etc

Below is my initial result using mixed media on my ghost print:

Dark Field Monotype with Mixed Media: First Attempt (Ghost Print)  

The plate with ink on it

The first pull and the ghost print
 Lessons Learnt on My First Attempt

My 'learnings' from this first experiment
  • the creative palette is unsuitable for this process. After using it for my first attempt, I washed the plate off, re-attached the acetate liner and used the acetate liner for my next attempt. 
  • the Akua Intaglio ink is beautiful - does NOT dry on the plate (only when it makes contact on the paper). It cleans up beautifully, has no smell and dried quickly taking all the wet mediums I added later without smudging. The colour - payne's grey - gave interesting results but I think a Mars black would have worked better?
  • I completely forgot to dampen my paper before printing (even though I had my spray bottle handy) and I wonder what the result would have been if I had not forgotten?
  • Paper matters! I used the printing paper that I had on hand and the SUBI block printing paper - while lovely for my linocut prints - reacted badly to the wet medium I added. The Strathmore printmaking paper I have on hand was great for gelli printing but I suspect it will be disappointing with the mixed media process here as well. I plan to stick to a good mixed media paper or watercolour paper for my next attempts.
  • I loved trying all kinds of dry and wet media after my print dried. The inks, as promised, took pastel beautifully. What I really enjoyed using was my watercolour pencils and gouache. I think I would like to continue experimenting along that vein.
I really enjoyed the dark field monotype with mixed media process despite my immediate failures, errors and omissions, I can't wait to try my next one!


  1. Hi Cindi - I see no failures here at all - you did a *fabulous* piece of art and your documentation of the process is inspiring, and I predict it will also be HELPFUL to anyone else interested in playing with monotypes! Great job! Keep it up!

  2. P.S. I forgot to mention that you can roll your ink out on a slab of glass (even a large, flat plate), or a mirror, or a taped-down sheet of acetate (like the stuff you'd print on for an overhead projector display). A hard surface will likely work better for getting details than the flexible surface of the gelli plate, but even still, I like the results of your image transfer. :)

  3. Thank you for your comments Belinda - you are both kind and generous and I am so grateful that I am able to watch your informative printmaking videos - you are SO inspiring! Thanks so much for all that you do.