Discovering Printmaking – Part 3: Monotype

After etching and aquatint, now is the time to share with you a third printmaking technique I learnt with Hilary Daltry at Heatherley’s: the monotype.

Portrait of Sally, monotype on newsprint and its negative print on Cartridge paper (c) Clara Niniewski

Monotype is a printmaking technique which, unlike etching and aquatint, yields only one good impression from each plate before the ink is used up. This makes monotypes inherently unique.
A monotype is made by drawing on glass or a plate of metal or stone with a greasy substance such as printer’s ink. The drawing is then pressed onto a sheet of paper either by hand or through an etching press.  

First explored in the 17th century by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, the monotype technique has been extensively used by Edgar Degas who produced around 400 monotype prints throughout his career (see here some examples of Degas’ monotypes).

Portrait of David, monotype on newsprint and its negative print on Cartridge paper (c) Clara Niniewski

A first way to produce monotypes

A first way to create a monotype is by placing a newsprint paper on top of an inked metal or plexiglass plate, and then drawing with a pencil or finger across the paper. The pressure of the finger/pencil captures the ink underneath. The residual ink becomes a negative of the image which can go through the press and produce a unique print. 
The portraits of Sally and David above are two examples of this technique.

A second way to produce monotypes

Another way to create a monotype is by covering a plate with ink and removing the ink from the plate in areas that will create highlights over an originally dark surface.
See the step-by-step below:

Above are three stages of creating a monotype: the “white” areas is what became transparent on my plexiglass after I removed the ink with a brush. The right-hand picture shows the final stage of the plate just before it went through the printing press. See below the resulting – and unique – print!

Portrait of Katie, monotype on Sommerset paper, (c) Clara Niniewski

I admit being enchanted by the immediacy and spontaneity of monotyping which results in unique brisk and energetic prints.

Portrait of Marcus, monotype on Cartridge paper, (c) Clara Niniewski

See the rest of my monoprints and monotypes on my printmaking gallery

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