By: Mia Adams
Monotype is a printmaking method that has been around for thousands of years but has no determined origin. Yet some of the oldest monotypes have been documented from the 1500s from artist Hercules Seghers who has a legacy of being one of the most influential printmakers till this day for his experimentations with ink, paper, and reworking prints. Monotype is the simple configuration of ink, a non porous surface (such as plexiglass), and miscellaneous tools. Artists can work positively or negatively or even both. Given its nature, the prime concept of monotype is the idea of only having one. Although artists can still have the freedom to challenge this. With these basic concepts, there are no rules or “traditions” with monotype. One is able to take control and manipulate their surface however they desire and how much they desire. There are no limitations yet more so a challenge of the artist's ability to utilize the flexibility of monotype. With Seghers as an example monotype is creatively flexible with Techniques, Tools, and styles.
“Mountain Valley with Fenced Fields” - Hercules Segers https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/artists/hercules-segers/objects#/RP-P-OB-840,5
Techniques: Additive, Subtractive, and use of light
As stated above, one can create a monotype using Additive or Subtractive. Additive is where ink is added to a surface (such as plexiglass) to create the positive space of the image. Pablo Picasso’s print above is an example of additive monotype where he “painted” the surface to create this figure. Subtractive is where one coats a surface with ink and an image is created by whipping away at the negative space to create a positive space. Depending on how heavily the ink is whipped away, it can interact with the surface to create different tones as shown below. Picasso's piece above also has subtle subtractive techniques such as the thin white lines on the left of the image being scratched away with a small toothpick-like instrument.
Artists manipulate this technique to make light a main component. The use of light in monotype can create life like shapes and depth onto a 2D surface. Although extravagant sources of light can be generated with both techniques, I have seen through online examples that the subtractive method is much more successful.
"Three Ballet Dancer (Trois danseuses)" - Edgar Degas http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1285633/a-brief-history-of-monoprints-and-monotypes-from-edgar-degas
Monochromatic VS Multicolored
With the subtractive approach it seems that you are somewhat limited to one color (unless the surface is inked with multiple colors). On the other hand with additive, it is much less complicated and multiple colors can be added onto the surface or even layered.
“Mountain Study 3” - Cathrine Tuttle
Style: Tools, Ink, Paper, and Textures
Any sort of tools can be used to create various textures, characteristics, and features. Tools can vary anywhere from cheese cloth, brushes, toothpicks, Q-tips, Rags, or even liquid solutions. Images can also vary from the ink used (water or oil based) and the paper (Smooth or textured). Every tool will interact with the surface differently. The image shown above is a comparison of contrasting techniques.
From what I have seen and read, monotype is all about experimenting. What works with what? How do the tools, paper, ink, and the painterly strokes create one complete unique image? Experimenting with these can open up endless possibilities that are waiting to be discovered.