Paintings are produced in a way that precludes exact reproduction. Printmaking methods, such as etching, woodcut and linocut, allow for the reproduction of the same work, though the prints that constitute an edition always have minute variations that result from the physical handling of material. The process of making a series of multiples is known as editioning. These variations speak to the hand-made physicality of the editioned artefact, and are part of its allure. The editioning process requires a high level of skill and a refined sensibility. It involves a relentless discipline and control in the handling of material, but also an intuitive or embodied relationship with material. While I find the idea and complexities of making an edition of prints exciting, the type of printmaking that I am currently interested in incorporating into my painting studio is one that would enable me to focus on image making as a sketching process both practically, and conceptually: as a coding process which remains unfinished, and emergent.
Unique Prints and Multiples: On the left is “Untitled” (2015). It is an etching on a copper plate which employs Drypoint, Coloured Chine Collé, Sugarlift, and Aquatint. The matrices of etchings, which are surfaces of grooves on a flat plate, allow for the reproduction of images. On the right is “Untitled” (2013). It is a monotype made using a Perspex matrix. The matrices of monotypes, which remain unmarked, do not allow for the reproduction of images. The different working methods employed in etching, and in monotypes, make possible the different qualities in the final images.
Monotypes and monoprints are made by transferring ink from a matrix, such as a metal plate, to a surface, such as paper, by pressing the surfaces together using a printing press or a baren. The difference between a monotype and a monoprint is in terms of the matrix, rather than the inking of the matrix. The matrix of a monotype has no permanent features that will transfer to another surface through a printing process. The only imagery that prints on a surface in a monotype is the result of the way ink is manipulated on its matrix. Since there are no permanent features on the matrices of monotypes, they always result in unique works. This is because most of the ink is removed from the plate during the first print. In both monotypes and monoprints, however, the artist applies ink to the matrix and can manipulate it with various tools such as brushes, rags and rollers. Even monoprints, therefore, have variations between prints because of the way the plate is inked up and manipulated. If a second print is made using the matrix without reapplying ink, this reprinting produces what is known as a ghost print. This second print has considerable differences to the print made in the first run. Monotypes and monoprints are versatile methods that can be extended using a mixed-media approach. It is possible, for instance, to continue working on monotypes and monoprints after they have been pulled using watercolours, pencils, pastels and solvents.
The methods employed in the creation of monotypes and monoprints allow for a spontaneity and freedom in the approach to image making. I think about the process of applying the ink to the matrix as moving between the linear and the painterly, and I consider it a sketching process that results in a monotype-drawing-painting. My objective of incorporating printmaking as a sketching process in the painting studio, therefore, can be well achieved using monotypes and monoprints.