Monotype Portraits

For this assignment I was asked to produce three monotype print portraits, gathering together all of the artist research and learnt experience following completion of the exercises. I enjoyed the different angles I used when I painted the quick ink paintings and wanted to continue with this. Of the ink paintings I particularly liked the poses of me looking to the left and right and up above. Thinking further ahead around sequencing I thought these three poses could evolve into a good conversation and connection with one other.

I struggled to produce monotype prints I was happy with using the ink paintings so decided to take photographs of myself in these poses to work from instead. I also thought a lot about colour and how I wanted to translate this into the triptych, I wanted to experiment some more with the portraits and didn’t necessarily want them to look uniform like some of the series I had seen when looking at Annie Kevans but I still wanted for them to be connected to one another.

‘Boys’, by Annie Kevans

Another artist I have really loved for a number of years is Francis Bacon, and I particular enjoy his triptychs, there is a burst of colour, and they are connected but not necessarily uniform, for example in the works below the subject matter is the same but the paintings are created from different angles – a similar idea to my different angled poses.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), by Francis Bacon

Indeed Bacon also produced portraits of George Dyer as well as many others seated in different poses. In the example below I particularly like the dark background, as I discovered in the works of Kim Baker, which was something I also wanted to try and incorporate in this assignment, although through experimenting with different background colours in a previous exercise, I decided it would be better to keep the monotype simple by using a plain white background.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, oil on canvas, in three parts, 1963.

Bringing together all of the research and responses I had worked on, I decided for these self portraits I wanted to incorporate different poses, interacting with one another, using some of the simple and subtle painting marks seen in Annie Kevans work, as well as the bright colours added by Eleanor Moreton and the movement of Yuko Nasu, I wanted the portraits to have energy and interact with one another.

Above are some of the photographs I took of myself posing at different angles. I manipulated the images using digital software to crop the photo and also transformed the photo into black and white, changing the contrast. Thinking about different ideas I could bring into this assignment, I particularly liked painting Yayoi Kusama in my response to Annie Kevans work and I think this was because of the addition of the bright bold wig. Without a wig to don myself and photograph, I decided I would imagine the wigs, once added in the painting they would transform my self portraits into someone else, a little like the work of Yuko Nasu, where her portraits aren’t painted from real life – they’re imagined. I also enjoyed painting Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker in my response to the works of Geraldine Swayne and wanted to explore this idea of painted faces and roles people play further.

In the images above I printed out my manipulated photographs and using oil paint, created wigs, as well as new facial features, such as face paint and a clown nose. I had lots of ideas on how to explore monotypes further, one of which was to also embrace accidental errors, the blobs of paint or the mis prints resulting in movement on the page.

I tried to experiment with the double printing technique here, whilst also incorporating this with the wigs. When I was thinking about wigs I also considered different roles of people who wear wigs – clowns, judges, aristocrats in history. In the monotypes above I painted the hair onto the acetate on each print on the first double print, and then on the last print, painted the hair in afterwards around both images. Ultimately though I think they are just too messy and actually the addition of the hair over-complicates the image and takes away from the simplicity and movement of the double print.

I also wanted to experiment with using different coloured paint for the face itself, as Annie Kevans used more subtle colouring in her portraits. However actually I much prefer the black and white monochromatic style in comparison to this orange above. I also noted from these prints that the portrait looking down doesn’t quite work, the pupils of the eyes are needed to understand the gaze, as this image could be mistaken for closed eyes as opposed to looking downwards.

Ultimately through these various experiments I decided for this assignment I’d like to incorporate the restraint and subtle facial features achieved via monotype, rather than pursuing this narrative of identity or roles people play through the addition of face paint or hair. I particularly enjoyed painting my responses to the works of Yuko Nasu and Eleanor Moreton and wanted to continue working on the simple floating heads. Throughout the exercises I have attempted to add in colour and rework the prints but as time has drawn on I have really come to like the simplicity and subtlety that can be achieved. I also really like stripping the heads back to just the simple shapes with facial features, they almost become slightly anonymous and homogeneous.

I had been using printer paper to practice the monotypes and had intended to use better quality watercolour paper for the final assignment, however above is the monotype I created using the final floating head design, and the print quality was no where near as pleasing as the printer paper. Clearly the printer paper is much thinner, which I enjoyed using during the printing process as it helped me to guide the second print more easily, however as an end product it doesn’t feel of good enough quality. To push this project further I’d like to try and experiment with lots of different types of paper to find the right match.

Below is the selection of floating heads I created for the assignment, the print on the far right end I decided to not include at all, as the head is not a whole figure and doesn’t look right, I also wanted to discard the fifth painting as the spacing between print one and two isn’t large enough, resulting in a cluttered image without enough movement. So I decided for the final assignment the first three images as these are the most clear and accomplished.

I explored different ways of presenting the three monotype prints and actually different messages and meanings can be conveyed or interpreted depending on their sequencing. In the below sequence I like to think that perhaps these anonymous heads are three people intertwined in maybe a love affair with the ‘other partner’ on the far left. or perhaps a falling out of friends – it feels as though there is some tension and conflict, and uneven energy or power between the three.

In this second sequencing the group are looking inward and feel more connected, perhaps they are having a conversation, although the middle portrait is turned slightly to the person on the right, maybe they are agreeing with something they’ve said.

Lastly, this sequence looks like it could either be conflictual, like a falling out amongst friends, or I can also sense some adventure or foreboding they are all looking out away from one another but what are they looking at? What’s to come? What have they discovered?

This last sequence is my favourite of the three, it feels somewhat hopeful and exciting.

10 thoughts on “Monotype Portraits

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