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Revisiting monoprinting

I haven't made monoprints for a very long time - not since my first year at uni, at least. There are so many things that I have wanted to do and just 'haven't gotten around to', but now is a good time to revisit all those things that are on the creative list, and monoprinting is one of those things.

There are several techniques one can choose from when approaching monoprint, but I decided to go for one that utilises stencils as part of the matrix. Part of the reason for this is that when I make multiple pages using the same stencils, there will be a repetition of pattern or design that will make the work cohesive. The other reason is that it's just fun. One of the things I love about playing with stencils is that you can build an unexpected world or a narrative with a few interesting shapes and textures - the same way you would build a collage, except you can reuse the stencils!

I thought I might get my feet wet with relief ink again - it has also been a very long time since I've used relief ink. I had printed most of the copper plates I made onto heavier Kozo paper, and I thought I might try to add colour to these by printing pastel colours on the reverse side of the paper. With Japanese papers, there is a smooth side and a rough side. The smooth side is generally the 'right' side, used for painting and drawing, and the rough side is the 'wrong' side, and - after monoprinting on this side - I can see why!

The rough side is made of loose fibres, and because the ink is a bit sticky, it was lifting the fibres out of the paper slightly. This could be because some of the sizing was removed when the paper was wet during the first printing, but it could also be because I'm just printing on the wrong side of the paper! I didn't let this bug me too much, because I thought about using these prints for paper-cutting as well, and it shouldn't impact the final result too much. If worse comes to worst, I could omit these pages completely if I want.

Here is a bit of the process. Of course, first thing's first, roll up some ink.

And roll it out onto a perspex sheet (after setting your press, mind you).

Because this is a first background layer, I'm not using any stencils. I have wondered whether or not I will use any stencils for these pages anyway as I plan to cut designs around the creatures, but I might experiment a little with them. So as not to darken the etchings too much, though, I'll ensure that I'll avoid monoprinting dark colours on the line-work.

As always, before printing, it's best to use a sheet of newsprint to protect your blankets:

I used the same ink roll-up as the previous one, but intensified it with a bit more colour.

And here it is rolled out on the perspex:

And here they are ready to dry - you may be able to see from the photos the flecks of fibres puffing out!

When these pages are cut into, I want to remain mindful of the pages that come before and after to ensure the colours contrast well enough with each other that the designs are discernible.

Here's an example of how they look on the 'good' side:

And how they might look if I decide to add some articulated arms reaching out (this is definitely an idea I'd like to follow through on).

As for the stencils, I have been spending a fair bit of time making these - certainly a lot more time making them than printing them! I will definitely need to get around to that soon, but here is what I'm playing around with at the moment:

I'm using some old mats that I had used for a project ages ago. I also bought a few punches from Daiso. They work rather well wit this material!

I'm playing around with composition here - the little red birds are old stencils cut out from Yupo, which is another material I'll be using to make monoprints.

After cutting out what I thought were more than enough placemat stencils, I decided to have a play with the Yupo. I want to create shapes that are organic and 'buildable' - not too large and complex that they would become superfluous too quickly.

Often, I'll draw directly on the Yupo before cutting, and many of the ideas I get for these forms are often random, although I will sometimes draw on what I find from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

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