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Spontaneous Color Blends with Monotypes

Spontaneous Color Blends with Monotypes: a 3-color Registration Process Demonstrated by Patricia Sennott

Completed artwork

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STEP 1 - A simple line drawing
Whether my inspiration is alive and in front of me at the printing room or in one of my photos, I begin each 3-color monotype with a simple line drawing on newsprint. This drawing is sized according to the sheet of plexiglas I will use as the printing plate. The line drawing becomes a template to indicate forms, edges and color changes for each of the three inkings

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STEP 2 - Yellow
With a 4-inch Russell mixing knife, I dip some Daniel Smith Process Yellow etching ink onto a heavy glass palette and then pour on a small amount of Daniel Smith burnt plate oil. I mix the ink and oil to a smooth consistency with a 11/2 inch straight edge Russell ink knife. I then place the plexiglas over the newsprint drawing and, using a soft rubber brayer, begin coating the entire sheet with a thin layer of ink. I roll the brayer in different directions so it is smoothly and evenly covered. The black line drawing will be visible through the layer of yellow ink.

I then wipe out my image, working subtractively, with quarter sheets of soft paper towels and cotton swabs. Other tools to remove ink and produce texture include chopsticks, old socks, and dry rubber brayers, particularly a 1-1/2 inch brayer. When wiping out the first color, I keep in mind where I will want any yellow as a component of black, orange, green and even dark red. When satisfied with the yellow image, I wipe the edges of the plate with a clean towel and place the plate on the bed of an etching press.

The next step is to pass a sheet of Rives BFK paper through a trough of water, press it briefly between stacks of blotter paper, and lay the blank paper carefully on top of the inked plate. Thick felt blankets are placed on top, and the pressure is properly adjusted before cranking the whole bundle through the press. After one or two passes through the press, I lift an edge of the paper to decide if enough ink has been transferred to the paper. The felts are lifted and the paper with its yellow image is set aside to dry.

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Using a very small amount of odorless solvent on a rag, yellow ink is cleaned off the plate. Safflower oil and rags, followed with a bit of dish soap, can be used if solvent is unacceptable.


STEP 3 - Magenta
Then I prepare the second color, Process Magenta, and ink the plate as before, again placing it on top of the line drawing. This time when wiping, I need to keep in mind every color that might use pink as a component, such as red, black, purple and brown. When satisfied with my pink image, I place the printing plate on top of the paper, inked side down, trying to match or register the images together. At this stage, I take care not to jostle or adjust the plate after it has touched down or the ink will be very blurry and uneven. Then I follow the same steps, running it through the press, and put the print aside to dry.

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STEP 4 - Blue
Even though the monotype is planned in advance with the line drawing, there is room for spontaneity in the wiping process. I never know how it will look until the blue layer is printed, so it's always a surprise! I mix Process Blue (cyan) ink with burnt plate oil on a glass palette and evenly coat the plexiglas, which is again placed over the line drawing.

When wiping out the blue image I consider, besides blue, all the colors which use blue as a component: green, purple, gray, brown and black. Then this final color is printed onto the pink and yellow image, being careful to register, and using the press as before.

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What about black?
One of my goals in monotyping is to produce rich, saturated color as well as a broad value range. Traditionally artists have used black ink as a fourth layer to deepen the contrast in values but I do not.


Ghost Printing
An option at each of the stages so far, is to run the inked plate through the press a second time, with the pressure increased, using a second sheet of damp Rives BFK to produce a "ghost print," provided there is enough ink on the plate after the first printing. Ghost prints can consist of all three colors, which will produce a much paler image than the first print [Step 5]. Sometimes the ghost print has a dramatically different feeling. A ghost print can also be made using only one color of ink. I often make a ghost with only blue ink and then use watercolor on top for a unique piece.

Materials List

  • Rives BFK White Paper
  • Daniel Smith Etching Inks
  • Process Yellow
  • Process Magenta
  • Process Blue (Cyan)
  • Sheet of Plexiglas
  • 1-1/2" Soft Rubber Brayer
  • 4" Soft Rubber Brayer
  • Newsprint
  • Soft Paper Towels
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Daniel Smith Burnt Plate Oil (Light Oil 00)
  • 4" Russell Mixing Knife
  • 1-1/2" Straight Edge Russell Ink Knife
  • Rags
  • Odorless Solvent
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Etching Press