First Mono Prints

To create my own still life compositions I used a selection of plastic bowls I use as paint mixing pots in my studio. I chose these in particular due to the colours, and varied shapes. The bowls are smooth and have a slight shine in some of the photographs. I also wanted to introduce a different kind of material to the composition for some contrast, so I chose a selection of coloured thread I have for another project I plan to work on. Thinking about the different compositions used by Giorgio Morandi, Georgia O’Keefe and Armand Fernandez I experimented with stacking the bowls in different ways and taking photos from different angles.

After reviewing the different photographs and compositions, I settled upon the below four to experiment with further. Each offers quite a different use of space, with the still life objects taking centre stage in the middle of the frame with lots of negative space, utilising the foreground, filling the frame, or drawing the viewer close.

I haven’t necessarily tried to capture the colours realistically and instead much like Henri Matisse responded in colour intuitively. Taking into consideration the drying time of the printing inks which is much quicker than say for example oils, I felt that a realistic match in colour wasn’t the most important element to capture for these prints. For each image I practiced with one composition, and then took a second “ghost print” with the remaining ink residue on the plate.

Above is my very first mono print, I used an acrylic paper with 230 g/m2, it has a slight grain on the surface which you can see in how this has picked up the print ink. The bowls have printed quite unevenly, with heavier layers of paint on the edges, the ghost print has distributed more evenly though and there is more consistency with this print. In the second composition I decided to subdue the colours a little more, although I don’t like this one as much, the bright colours work better and I haven’t been as precise in painting the figure so it looks a little uneven – it reminds me a little of the leaning tower of Pisa! I wasn’t sure if I had used the correct paper, but continued to work with it. I felt like thinner paper wouldn’t ‘present’ as well so I continued into the next composition.

As you can see the resulting mono prints of the original image is mirrored, as is the nature of mono printing. For this second piece I first continued to use the same kind of paper with the grainy surface, I wondered if perhaps using a different composition and introducing some water to loosen up the ink might make a difference. I also decided to use the back of the paint brush to denote the threads sitting in the top of the paint pots. The overall outcome feels quite similar to the first. I can see some little pools of watery ink that have formed, which I quite like, but that’s not necessarily the aim of the task. I think the scratched markings using the back of the paint brush have been quite effective. The first print and ghost print still needed improvement however so I decided to change the paper I used to something with a smoother finish, and settled on another acrylic paper with 250 g/m2. I don’t think necessarily the weight made much difference but rather the surface texture. I continued to use the adage of water to loosen the ink which has again resulted in little pools, and as the paper lifted it has caused this vein-like appearance which looks quite effective but again not the mark of a successful print per se.

For this composition, unlike the previous two, this is a birds eye view of the paint pots and thread, which transforms the image. Especially the bundles of thread, I haven’t used the back of the paint brush on this occasion as they aren’t as close up so instead I have tried to just use the paint brush gesturally to depict the threads. Much like the first composition, the ink isn’t necessarily evenly spread, and thicker at the edges of the bowls, where I have used the paint brush in circular motions. The ghost print is more even, although the colour and vibrancy has lost impact. I’ve continued to experiment with water as a way to produce more opaque colour, however in the subsequent prints this has had somewhat the opposite effect. Although again I do like the vein-like prints that are left behind, especially where there is a mix of colour.

Finally I think this last collection has been the most successful, I decided to switch the paper use again to something thinner, opting to take pages from my sketchbook which has 150 g/m2. It’s clear to me at this point the thinner the paper the better! Which feels contradictory in a sense that such thin paper doesn’t have a high value with regards to presentation but clearly when using printer ink there are more advantages to the thinner paper. I think it has more ability to soak up the pigment, resulting in a stronger more vivid image. In this print too the still life really fills the frame, and I like the contrast between the smooth bowls piled high and the haphazard thread beneath. I returned to using the back of the paint brush to depict the individual thread, and have also attempted to add in more shade and tone to the images, although I think I have been a little heavy handed with this, as its not very subtle. I’ve also used a little water to thin the paint slightly and this has resulted in some softer blurred print in the foreground which I think works well. For the second print I changed the colour use slightly, and I think the orange works particularly well to inject some vibrancy against the pastel bowls.

3 thoughts on “First Mono Prints

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