John S. Miller/ Thoughts and Ideas / Monoprints and Monotypes

Monoprints can be defined simply as single prints. They are sometimes further qualified as single prints hand inked and printed from an altered surface like an etching plate or wood block. Monotypes on the other hand are single prints pulled from an unaltered surface such as a smooth plate or sheet of glass. In the case of the monotype the artist draws freely and paints upon the smooth surface without the structure supplied by a predetermined composition defined by the cut block or the etched surface.

The monotype is a drawing or painting transformed to become a print by being transferred from the painted surface to paper. The pigment is applied to the glass or metal plate and then forced into the paper with pressure.

Although my techniques do not alter the printing surface, they do help to control the ink shapes that I print much as a cut block or etched surface might. I have often labeled these images as monoprints rather than monotypes making a distinction between the free form painterly process of the monotype and the more controlled process I have developed. Technically these prints are indeed monotypes however.

In making my prints, I draw an image of a scene. This drawing is placed under a sheet of glass and I trace the major outlines on the glass using erasable marking pens. This pane of glass is flipped over so that the drawing appears backwards and the traced drawing is on the underside. I then place the glass in a jig. This jig has clamps used to hold a piece of paper. The clamps allow me to repeatedly lift and drop the paper upon the glass surface as I work so that any pigment mark made on the glass will transfer to the appropriate spot on the paper. The ink on the glass is pushed into the paper by my rubbing the back of the paper with a spoon after each application of pigment to the glass surface. I "paint within the lines" using brush and brayer. Each color is printed separately. I use rags, squeegees, brushes and wax paper stencils to control and guide the transfer of ink. The final structure that clarifies and pulls the entire image together is created with a painted line. (Examples)

Why bother? The process seems so indirect. The first reason is that prints have a distinctive look and ink can be applied very thinly and evenly. Light can easily bounce through the ink off the paper beneath and when it comes back through the thin ink layer, there is a vibrant glow that can't be easily achieved using other more direct methods. Gestures can be preserved as large spontaneous "movements" but then edited before printing. So for example, I can make a bold brush stroke from left to right and use a rag to make another spontaneous gesture removing a section of the first bold shape from right to left. When I print this color form, two spontaneous hand movements are simultaneously coexisting in one colored form and each moving opposite to the other.