Preparation: Monotype, monoprint and other transfer experiments

During part 4 I experimented with some surrealistic automatic techniques like Decalcomania. Decalcomania is a kind of monoprint, a monotype – one of a kind. I used it successfully in project ‘Linear Perspective‘. The rationale for applying a random pattern of paint was to trigger emotional responses of the viewer with association of mental stages of mind (vertigo, claustrophobia). The starting point was my personal encounter with the location of the basement and a taken photograph as a memory image.

In relation to mental images and memory I further worked on painted step separation sequences based on photographs in my project ‘Squaring Up‘. My tutor felt these paintings as quite successful related to the sequence and showing step separation (similar to interim stage print proofs) and the possibility to work more with photographs.

The idea was discussed how to elaborate this more with painting and to look into techniques with printed backgrounds.

Technique research:

A monotype is an image printed from a painted or drawn onto plate. Typically one uses printing ink, but also oil and watercolor paint can work. Monotypes can be differentiated between positive monotype ie. starting with a blank plate and adding areas in ink and negative monotype i.e. inking the entire surface before removing areas.

One advantage for me in the context of my project and considering some step separation exercises (see Project ‘Squaring Up‘) would be a sequential and combined approach with painting with some consistency in underlying images.

My earlier paintings and experiments:

I looked up some information on techniques

How to make a monoprint? Available from: 

I found here quite helpful information on: Collage mono prints, Chine Colle’, frottage and combinations of techniques.

Combination of techniques 
The monotype is a technique used by many artists only as a transition for other work, e.g  Edgar Degas used to do it. He first printed a monotype, then developed the image by drawing and painting over it with pastels, pencils, oil paint, watercolors or printing ink. When an image printed too heavily, Degas made a second impression of that same print by placing a new sheet of dampened paper over the just printed monotype. This would take away some of the color and a second lighter impression was the result which was also used to work on with inks, pastels or oils.

Artists who used monotype techniques

  • Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) worked independently developing his own unique technique called trace monotype. His method consisted of inking a sheet of paper, laying another sheet over it, and drawing on the back of fresh paper thus transferring the ink creating an image in a linear manner. – Available from:
  • Paul Klee (1879-1940) experimented and mastered this method a few years later in his inventive drawings. Prints and transfer techniques. Available from:
  • Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) There is a wonderful video on Edgar Degas’ monotype printing technique ‘Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty‘ Available from: (MoMA)
    => Lightfield (blank plate and ink added with a brush or a rag) and Darkfield (black ink on plate and removed marks with a dauber) technique, mulitple impressions to create ghost images. Degas use oil paint instead of printer’s ink, and using at times pastels to enhance and define the image, very experimental.”It was the process that was important, there was never a final picture. It was about endlessness. Always a possibility of another image to be made

For my purposes I can envision the use of trace monotype technique as well as the ghost monoprint technique with oil paint. As I am also interested in using photographs I was wondering how possibly to transfer photographs to a painting surface. The trace monotype is one option. More information is available from: ‘Three Things; Treasury – Mono Printing Photos‘ –

Another option described is the frontage or acetone print: Available from:  ‘Three Things; Treasury – Acetone Prints How To‘ –


Exploration and project experiments:

I experimented first with technique, papers, gelli plates and paints. With some understanding of monotype process I continued with embracing my subject matter and to work with etching ink and trace monotype:

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #2

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #2

I found those results and especially the positive and negative effect of the monotype fascinating that I could possibly use further. The positive print is the trace monotype and negative is the printed plate after taking the positive. Encouraged by the results and enthusiastic I wanted to explore a more painting approach and painted in oil a rough sketch of the deteriorating building. I thought about process and took several prints, each with some paint added or removed from the plate.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #3

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #3

In a next step I wanted to combined effects and color and made a positive printing plate in several steps (black and then yellow inked). Another run was with a negative monotype and I removed some areas with a wooden stick.

I tried also to use Akua intaglio paint and incidentally while pushing pressure on the paper the paint blotted a large area of the paper. This marks remind of the black marks I made by hand in my painting ‘Squaring Up’ –click here.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #4

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #4

=> This series of print experiments would possibly look good in book format – for its variety of marks and visual images. I think they do make more sense all together and less when seen as individual images. I am not sure whether I would like to tackled this at the moment and would rather keep focus and keep this for later.

My trace monotypes with a rough sketch of the deteriorating building and its positive and negative prints brought me the experimental work by Edgar Degas, who was interested in photography as a medium. I came along the article by George Baker (2016) ‘The Black Mirror’  in the journal October where he is investigating the works by Paul Sietsema (b. 1968) an American artist working in film, drawing and painting. Baker places Sietsema works in context of Degas photographic work and his juxtaposition of positive and negative images.

Negative images as truly intrinsic to analogue photography. I felt intrigued by Sietsema’s approach of creating a film based on drawings that he made  after photographs. A kind of multimedia and sequential approach from still photo over tactile drawings to time based images in film. The notion of negative images as more than inverted images but rather a shift in visual perception of shapes and forms is fascinating.

Examples: Edgar Degas. ‘Posed Ballerina. Two versions. C.‘, 1895 and Sietsema ‘Black and White Box’, 2003. The latter an folded two images work side by side, the left image consists of all tonalities from middle gray to white from one interior scene and the right side all tonalities from middle gray to black from the same picture. The produced image fragments join together into two images with both positive and negative areas in each, but inversely, in a “dance now of literal image involution—the folding of one image into the other—and reversal“.

I continued with deeper exploration of my favourite approach of trace monotype. From my photograph of the door I went ahead to trace if own multiple times. Working with black linoprint paint.


Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #5

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #5


I continued with using yellow Akua intaglio paint and combined with the black linoprint paint. Using a styrene plate as this would allow me to make non inked ‘white’ marks.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #6

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #6

=> I like how the series developed. From rather dull, blurred image (house), through focusing on a few sharper details (door) and blending later with layers of colors.

At the end of the experimental series I looked at the styrene plate what I liked very much. It shows the signs of wear and use, of multiple prints. Markings embedded in the image. I took the photo with my protection paper – giving relationship and shape perception, quite architectural .

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - assignment 5 - monotype experiments #7

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – assignment 5 – monotype experiments #7


Conclusions & learnings:

  • My experiments were not supposed to be studies or final paintings. Nevertheless I got a good impression on potentials for monotypes beyond the ‘decalcomania’ approach with thick paint. Monotypes or monoprints do create a thin layer of paint onto a surface that can be further overpainted or overdrawn.
  • I was surprised and fascinated by the visual effect of mono prints, Quite unique and with dense or fragile visual depth. Amazing to see the fading ghost images like fading memories.
  • Monoprinting is a rapid technique and generates substantial amount of printed papers. I could envision to use this in book format, time based memories. Like a family album looking at children growing up or neighbourhoods changing faces.
  • One can create repetitive images, ghost images and/or partly modulated images.
  • Monotypes can be used to create positive and negative images with the same plate (trace monotype)
  • Monotype could be an alternative to overpainted photograph. Using photographs to trace them onto another surface. This would give truly another visual effect and appearance, and conceptually associated with memories another notion.
  • I am struggling with the notion of printing as painting and need to overcome my barrier to consider printing as painting irrelevant. Wondering whether the painted plate prior printing could be sufficient or a after painted should be required. I guess the image will tell me at the right time.
  • My last series of printing, a combination with positive and negative marks, trace monotype and use of two colors, turned out as intriguing set of images – a process based narrative. I think I am coming closer towards process as painting in a more slow down approach (compared to my parallel exploration of process painting with texture and deterioration – click here )


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