The Beauty of Monotype Ghost Prints
Monotypes are painterly, singular prints made with a smooth plate and pigment. There is no carving, no incised lines, no adhered ephemera to leave a repeatable mark on printmaking paper. And you don’t need a press to transfer the print.
Monotypes are made by manipulating printmaking ink or pigments (oil paint, watercolors, gouache, etc.) on a smooth plate, and pressing those pigments against a sheet of paper before they dry. If you’d like to see some of the step-by-step process photos, visit this page.
Monotype ghost prints – like the one that became the art at the top of this post – waited in my flat files for months before I pinned it up, and had a good long stare at its possibilities. (If you haven’t heard about monotype printmaking yet, visit this post and this one to see video tutorials, and process photos. You’ll be ready to make a monotype at the kitchen table in 20 minutes!)
The beauty of monotype ghost prints is that you can take them anywhere you’d like to go, with other media. Ghost prints are a perfect underpainting to get you launched into creating a new image. Read on so I can explain….
Monotype Printmaking Process
This monotype started on a sheet of beveled plexiglass, coated with Daniel Smith oil-based etching ink. (This is called a dark field monotype, because we are starting with an ink-coated plate, or a ‘dark field’.)
With my reference photo propped nearby (you can see it in the upper frame of the process image above), I’ve drawn into the ink with the point at the end of a watercolor paint brush handle, just enough to give myself a map in the pigment.
I’m using paper towels to lift ink away from the plate, to clear areas of big sky. Dark field monotypes are rendered using a subtractive process – or a removal of pigment. Pretend you are “carving light” into the dark field.
Ready to Print
The ink (above) has been pushed, cleared, scraped, lifted into halftones with finger-tapping, and grooved with pastel stumps. The plate is ready to have a sheet of soaked and blotted paper laid on top of the still-wet ink, and rolled through an etching press to transfer the ink to the paper.
Pulling the paper off the plate is always a surprise, because the pressure of the paper’s surface – either via the press, or a hand transfer with a baren or the back of a spoon – squishes the ink against the paper’s surface, and moves the pigment in a myriad of ways. It’s great fun.
Monotype Ghost Prints
After a monotype is pulled, the plate usually has a faint layer of ink left behind, which is altered a little from your original mark-making because the ink was squished by the paper.
You can lay another sheet of soaked and blotted printmaking paper on the sheer layer of remaining ink on the plate, and either run it through the press, or rub it with a spoon for a hand transfer to pull a ghost print.
Where to Learn More About Monotype Printmaking
If you’re new to the process of monotype printmaking, you can visit a playlist of tutorial videos on my youtube channel here. You can also check out a 5 minute video of dark field monotype from start to finish by British printmaker Chris Gollon here. And if you’d like a fun online course about Monotypes, sign up here to be notified when the online classes I’m filming are available.
Play with Your Monotype Ghost Prints
Almost finished, with my reference photo on the left (above). You can see that I’ve used a little creative license, and strayed from the photo by adding a few trees, the clouds, and an altered shape of the horizon on the finished monotype.
Make a Monotype Print
If you’ve never made a monotype, I hope you’ll give this flexible, no press required, inventive and painterly printmaking process a try. Follow along on any of the tutorial videos on my channel, and if questions come up, leave them in the comments here, or under the video you’re referring to when you make your print. Have a monotype party with friends and share the results online so we can see. Tag me (@bdelpesco) on social media so I can check out the fruits of your labor. Whataya say? Let’s get started!
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post!
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P.P.S. The title of the monotype in this post is Central California Farmland – which is a subject-based title. Not very imaginative.
After titling that print, I created a painless system to title art that moves away from subjects, and towards titles that actually enhance the art, especially for viewers. I might have called that monotype Single Knave Quilt, or Cirrus Sentry, or Roaming the Hinterland…
If you need help with titles for your art, here is a course that’ll solve that quandary once and for all.
Helpful Printmaking books for you:
I have done a few drawings. All in all, I have been less courageous than I expected to be. I refuse to give up before I get results, though. As I am at loose ends here, I might as well make the most of my time and study my craft. I have started down a hard path that requires great patience.
~Degas 1858 (age 24) in a letter to a friend while visiting Florence, Italy