Ok, just what the heck is a monoprint?

Asparagus //Monoprint on paper // Anne Belov 2009

Monoprint, monotype…what are they and what’s the difference?  A monotype is a singular form of printmaking, which kind of seems like a contradiction in terms.  I mean, if it isn’t going to be a multiple, why do it?  Why not just do a painting?  Well, settle down in your chair, and I’ll try to explain it in a way that won’t make you run screaming from the room, with your eyes rolled back in your head.

It boils down to this: ink transferred from one surface to another has a different look than ink or paint applied directly to paper.  Simple, no?  There is a spontaneous and accidental quality that you can get when doing monotype as compared with any direct painting method.  Now, for me, I like a little more defined detail than you can get while doing a straight monotype.  In monotype, you apply thin layers of ink or paint to a smooth surface, lay your paper on top or the plate and run through a press, or rub from the back of the paper.  You can add as many thin layers as you like till you like the image.  I learned the hard way not to put too much ink on the surface, as it just squirts out the other side, making a mess of your press and the blankets.

A monoprint, on the other hand, adds the element of a repeatable image, such as an etching plate, woodblock, or lithograph.  You can turn a plain old etching into a monoprint by a method called “alla poupe`” (or as some printmakers like to call it, “Grey Poupon” ) which is french for “big stinking mess. ”  In this method, you add different colors of ink to the same plate, and then blend the edges of color together.  You will never get the exact same inking on subsequent prints, so they will be similar, but different, thus making them  a monoprint, more than an editioned etching.  I like to use lithography as the repeatable part of a monoprint, which is what I’ve done with the print above, and my Italian series of prints.  By combining the detailed and structured litho with the loosey goosey-ness of the monotype, you get something that is both structured and spontaneous.

Hope this answers some of you questions about what this monoprint – monotype business is all about.


5 thoughts on “Ok, just what the heck is a monoprint?

  1. Nice descriptions….FYI polymer plates can be used on a letterpress in relief. I did some back in the eighties that I can show you if you are interested…good luck with kickstart …

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