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Exploring Floral Monotypes

Updated: Mar 14

Gardens, ghosts, and painterly prints...

Peonies in Vase I, II, and III, oil monotypes on textured art paper 5"x7", available in shop

January’s “in between month” led to the delight of experimentation mode in the studio by mid-month. As I look ahead to two new series of works, it was key to slow down and live in that space before production, where the NEW and the UNKNOWN lives. Where you can try things and see what works, discover new color combinations that foster the desired mood, where you develop the arc of the story you are going to tell.

My current obsession is creating monotypes, which are often called the “painterly print”, because you paint directly onto a plate and then transfer the paint onto paper. The plate can be any non-porous surface, such as glass, plexi, or painted wood. The image is transferred to the paper with a press, barren, brayer, a spoon, or even your hand applied to the back of the paper facing the plate. So far I’m using my hand and a brayer. The process includes satisfying surprise moments, as the paper is peeled from the plate to reveal these floral monotypes.

The painted plate and monotype print.

Revealing a "ghost", which is a second pressing from the painted plate.

There is an aspect of serendipity that comes with monotypes. You never know quite what you’ll get when you peel back the paper. You can add more layers, and press again. You can use the “ghost” of paint left on the plate, and take another pressing, often with soft dream-like results. The paint dries quickly, so you must work quickly. I have a loose idea of what I’m creating, and some compositions sketched out to guide me, but it’s also a lot of intuitive work, letting each impression guide what comes next. This is quite different than how I tend to work when doing an oil painting in the studio, where I plan out several layers in advance. This by contrast feels so free.

The journey has been gratifying, has revealed new color combos, layering ideas, a looser and softer language that appeals to my impresionist leanings, and has reminded me how to be more playful in my process. There will still be planning and production, but they will be re-grounded in joy. Is that contradictory? I hope not!

Anyway, I’m sharing here a few of my favorites so far, a “sneek peak” if you will for a floral series that will start be fully in bloom by May, or possibly even by March, we'll see. Either way, color and blooms, they feel like a lovely antidote to the gray skies, yes?

Monotypes, Monoprints and Block Prints

So what is a monotype anyway? A monotype is a one-of-a-kind unique artwork that combines aspects of painting and printmaking. Paint is applied to a smooth, unaltered plate to create an image; that image is transferred to paper. The paint on the plate is consumed with the first pressing; you might also get a second pressing, often called a “ghost”. Color can be added and pressed multiple times, allowing layers to build.

With a monoprint, all or part of the artwork is created from a matrix, such as carved blocks, or an etched plate, that can be painted on multiple times with multiple variations. Each artwork produced is unique.

Block prints are at type of relief printing, created by carving a block, on wood, linoleum, or foam. The uncarved, raised areas are what is left to print. The block is rolled with ink and pressed, creating a similar image each time. Block prints tend to create a crisp image.

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