4.1.1; Mark-Making (2)

My experimentation led me to conclude that this reductive method of producing monotypes has two distinct possibilities:

  1. hard edged, sharp lines that contrast strongly with the background.
  2. subtle, smudgy marks that produce more tonal variation.

This assessment was corroborated by my research. I found Matisse’s monotypes fitted the first category, (See here). These contain┬ávery energetic, sharp edged, bold marks that stand out against their grounds. Matisse’s drawing expertise appears, as it would on paper, only the colour is reversed- white line on black ground.

Experimenting with Hard line

I used images from my sketchbook to inspire the prints above. When you emulate a master of bold line, like Matisse, you instantly appreciate that no matter how simple an image might appear it takes a lot of skill and confidence to produce. Instead of long elegant lines, I produced scratchy wobbly ones- it was really difficult to be as decisive on the plate as I was on paper. This is probably psychological, the people watching sketches were part of a series, literally scribbled onto copy paper in 30 second bursts. As soon as I tried to reproduce them, I already felt I had more invested in the image because of the process. From this I learned that you can’t fake spontaneity, you can’t copy it you really have to commit to it.

I decide to work from the sketches below, being looser and more abstract to begin with, I thought they would be an ‘easier’ source inspiration.


I produced a stack of similar prints to those below, as I explored different tools for mark making. This also provided the opportunity to learn about the thickness of the paint, how long I could work it for and how the ghost prints differed from the first pull. Since I was no longer as concerned about the image itself but in discovering the process the marks became freer. Finding that I could lift a dry image by applying another layer on top resulted in the print far right. The inclusion of colour has had a huge impact, lessening the contrast but introducing a greater variety of marks.


It was much easier to find examples of my second categorisation: subtle smudgy marks. Degas prints in particular have a dark, atmospheric quality that suits the intimacy of his images. The looseness of tone helps suggest movement and fluidity. I had no idea that he used monotypes to provide a framework on top of which to work with pastels or gouache. Learning this gave me a much better appreciation both of his works and this process.

Experimenting with Rubbing

I liked the softer marks that I was able to achieve using sponges, felt and rags but felt I didn’t really understand them until I actually used them to produce an image. The sphere (that I have highlighted in the photograph below) opened my eyes to the possibilities of this type of mark making.

I set up a ‘still-life’: a dramatically lit glass, because my experience trying to copy my own drawings in the previous samples taught me this made me too precious. My observations of Degas prints informed my choice of cocktail glass above others because it suggested a smoky glamour that fitted the atmospheric style of the process.

It is necessary, to an extent, to ignore the poor quality of the actual ‘drawing’ and focus on the effects achieved. It is good to find a method that allows the drawing of the highlights, utilising the colour of the paper beneath. I recently used correction fluid for the same purpose. I was impressed by the amount of tonal variation that I was able to achieve just by disturbing the surface of the paint.

The second print had dried on the plate and was picked up using white acrylic. The consistency of the white paint is very different to the other colours, it seems somewhat slippery. This has created a distortion in the image that is actually quite appealing (Illustrating the importance of imperfection again!)

Far from perfect, the third print has energetic and bold marks that are supported by the inclusion of cheery yellow. I reworked the image, adding white highlights to the ghost image on the plate. This was done loosely, with a brush to begin with and then my fingers. This is more like the additive process to be addressed in 4.1.2. it gave me a glimpse of the possibilities of this more painterly approach.


I had expected to prefer the hard edged marks, attracted by their elegant simplicity. I actually enjoyed the tactility of manipulating paint with soft tools and my fingers. This created a broader variation of tone. I can only imagine (at present) how wonderful it must be to wipe, pull and drag an ink across a plate. A solid plate, oil-based ink and solvent must be a very exciting combination.

Focussing on the resources I have at hand, I am going to

  • explore different surfaces for the prints: papers and fabric.
  • improve the quality of the solid grounds to provide more definition
  • try combining the marks I discovered in this post
  • work on top of reductive monotypes to exploit the looseness and fluidity this inspires