Approach to monotype

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The monotype as defined in the Dictionary of Drawing and Engraving is "Estampa which is transferred by contact painted or drawn image on a rigid support when the pigment is still fresh. From the point of view not only art but also of language, the monotype is halfway between painting, drawing and graphic art, which coincides with the fact that the final product is a pattern, the medium containing the final image is different from that in which the artist has intervened. However, unlike the artwork in the most genuine specific and peculiar characteristics: the multiplicity of the product. Indeed, not being permanently fixed mark on the stand and, therefore, not be inked during printing - the pigment itself is used by the artist that creates the image transferred, it is impossible to obtain more than one picture for this method. The most common pigment used for painting is oil. Although known since the seventeenth century, were the artists of the twentieth century who have felt really attracted to the monotype due to the originality of their textures. "(Blas, J., Plum, A., Barrena, C. Dictionary of Drawing and Estampa: Vocabulary and thesaurus ... Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, National Engraving, Madrid, 1996). Monotype the word comes from the Greek "monos", single and "types", model, hence the monotype were significant in the field of monoimpresión is that of either single model, only one recorded. Its invention is attributed to Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1665 Genoa).

This technique works the artist painted directly on the plate smooth, nonporous primarily with oil, but also supports other aqueous inks or pigments such as intaglio and lithographic inks; as support for printing can be used a copper plate, zinc, glass, acrylic, linoleum or polycarbonate. It requires a certain speed in their execution as the passes through the press, if mechanical means are used for printing, it must be done before the ink dries, it can also manually affixed, in which case the paper used should be smooth and light weight. Print this mode has a unique idiosyncrasies that unlike any other, besides having a quality that is innate and that makes it very attractive, which is some unpredictability in the result, not this exactly identical to that painted on the plate. The type of procedure gives rise to its fresh, something improvised, since the rapid drying of the inks can not make a thorough job.

The monotype also allows the use of a variety of materials that create authentic collages on the plates, which show surprising results, and retouching later once imprinted with any procedure pictorial (pastel, oil, pencils ,...). Being a single copy, because its characteristics do not allow the execution of more identical copies, this is a very popular technique, mainly by collectors, however it is possible to print any more copies but the results are becoming poorer and attic. This technique also enables a large capacity in terms of freedom of lines, colors and size, so many important artists have approached it throughout history, artists such as Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec, Pissarro and especially Edgar Degas ( 1834-1917), who starred in major advances in this field arrives at the not inconsiderable figure of 321 monotypes.

Depending on how you make can distinguish different types or procedures,


This is next to subtractive, the closest to painting. By the very act of "painting" directly, with the tools that we consider most appropriate, on the flat surface that will support to create the image the results are, as we say, very painterly. This is undoubtedly the most important value of monotype by addition, and in this method more clearly reflects the personal nature of monotype.

The process itself is to apply the ink on a smooth support, such as copper, zinc acetate, glass, etc. using any tool that allows the creation of images with the finish we want to proceed later common way to printing, manual screw press or on paper. Whenever this basis we will be talking about monotypes in one way or another, so it is very simple or complicated in practice according to our needs or requirements. On this account many factors come into play that can make the process complicated.

As can be seen along this short explanation of the implementation of monotypes is a graphical technique so free that would be unproductive to try to determine a procedure to follow. To point out a general way the basis on which underpin the process is sufficient if we want to be partisan or stifle the possibilities of the medium. Similarly the most common materials for one person may be difficult or inappropriate in search of another. As part would be absurd to suggest some specific tools for their practice. We believe that the work of each artist in each case determine, based on your needs, what are the most suitable materials.

If we work, as in some paintings, allowing the material used to dry before a new layer, it is no longer transferred to the medium in which it is intended to print the image. It is clear that when we work painting the image must be fresh, because its physical qualities of adhesion will allow the further step of printing. In the painting is often used to work the image on a layer of dry material for a specific tonal overlay. This is not possible in the monotype and is one of the reasons that give freshness. Unable to work an image for a long time we are forced to deal with more carefree creating, modifying our approach to work and how to achieve the goals that we considered.

The intaglio ink or oil used, which is usually normal, will allow us to delete and start the whole image or parts that interest us, because the slow-drying oil-based paint keep it in a long time to facilitate the process . This means we can work more easily tone and lengthen their numbers considerably, and with less effort if we add a little linseed oil or similar to ink. While for those areas being reserved for blacks should be a more dense ink or paint, so we find it easier to achieve the appropriate tone. However you can use any type of item you dye your paper with certain guarantees. Once the image on the medium chosen is appropriate to be stamped by the usual processes, either through a small press or a wooden spoon or baren that allows the print manual. Although the practice manual printing uniformity decreases, and that is not done the same way by all the paper through the small press.

The negative and positive aspects of this technique revolve around the same point, the difficulty of undertaking their practice from a result-without this being a matter of chance. It is undoubtedly one of the fundamental steps in creating monotypes and that only experience and skill in calculating the quantities of ink can tell you the dose of the same we'll have to use to obtain an image. It will be more complicated than those in clear tones and more nuanced reflection, and when blacks are strong and want to be transferred with all its intensity. Therefore making monotypes is sometimes exasperating and requires great technical ability in the assessment of all these aspects, since they can carry out to obtain good prints or lackluster results.

Able to assess the impact that will have the pressure in the transfer of matter deposited on the support is the key to success. On seeing a mixture of painting, with its qualities "matter so important, and printing, with its procedures so specific, it is difficult to converge on one point. And besides that satisfies us. The printing of a work conceived in pictorial terms can make your physical attributes do not conform to the pressure exerted on it, so that matter burst spoiling the desired result. If instead the ink or not enough pressure stamping reveal a blurred image, it will not pick up the paper the desired shade in every part of the image.

The monotype by adding results can give us very rich in terms of valuation and shadow volumes, because it allows more light to pass to pitch deeper with very adequate records of their qualities. This is determined by the unique and essential elements of the image, the ink. When you do not need more items to the time to take the assessment tonal intensity and power of attraction is much greater. The ink goes on paper, which is the light that is deposited on the final image clarity is crucial when assessing the tone of the image. The transparency of this is enhanced or diminished by the action of the paper.


If in the previous section we saw the art of creation that was more united to painting in a practical sense in which we are concerned we also see that pictorial character, especially compositional and procedural aspects. This is because the work of the most intense and pure tones to the brightest, so that the material remains help us to compose scenes in a more general. From an overall view on the work we will obtain the details.

Grilled apply a uniform layer of ink with a roller and work on this surface after lifting the ink in those areas in which they wish to have lights and leaving it in the darker areas. It's sort of way as it were black, so we can get an idea of the visual capabilities with these images. The creation of the image can be achieved by pursuing all sorts of drawing tools that we consider appropriate. The inking of the plate, it should be done with a roller so that the ink is distributed across the surface in a thin layer, but consistent, and to respect the deeper tones. To achieve certain effects, other resources can be interesting.

With small touches of light is enhanced further if possible the brightness of the clear contrast with the black around them. Whites seem to glow with a much larger force in opposition with the general tone of the fund. Its use is linked to the ratings for flat spots that offer the possibility of enhancing the image through its opposition to the light. Here the line, if desired, have a greater importance than in the monotype by addition, since it is in principle easier implementation. It is a very interesting exercise to learn to value work as a whole, without getting lost in the details.


The monotype drawing is known of those three and perhaps the most complicated to relate in principle to the technique. In the other two procedures are facing quite work from a pictorial practice, because they value the images through the stain rather than the line. This becomes more important in the composition in the whole tone, either from the spot itself or from the addition of lights in the background. There is no doubt that if we need them we can also use the line, but the best results are achieved in other directions, since the technique favors this. In line with the practicality of each technique the most common would be to proceed in this way.

The path we assess monotype images from an almost obligatory translation of forms in lines, so that its character is drawing. It thus produces a fundamental difference over the previous two methods, because now the line will be the hard part unavoidable. It is not usable, as would be more common in the idea of monotype is usually, but this method relies heavily on it, and since it articulates the procedural basis of the technique. As one would expect, the monotype defends track absolutely free to use the means available to each artist. Although at first glance its qualities are those, as we say, if necessary you can work in all directions.
The main drawback of using patches is that the pressure through which the impression is done the image is much more complicated and less satisfactory. However, when we draw lines register with simplicity the same size and with a remarkable quality of printing in the case of the spot is difficult to achieve without the help of a small press. In any event good or bad results obtained depend largely on what we know to adapt the technique to get more out.

It might be the printing faster and easier that can be carried out to achieve an image. Under pressure of the pen on the back of the paper it comes in contact with the inked surface to receive the ink is transferred by pressure.

It is not necessary to use any small press, so its use is available to anyone without the need for great technical means. The monotype drawn to limit the pressure applied to transfer ink to a minimum size, thereby saving efforts. This will draw a line in the paper for printing similar to that useful trace element or drawing used to create the image. They are usually more suitable for fine paper line definition and collect more likelihood the stroke. But on the basis of this technical explanation, as in previous cases, each artist may determine the appropriate alternatives to achieve particular outcomes.

Alberto Marcos Barbado.

To deepen on the issue see the thesis by Eustaquio Carrasco about monotype in the Complutense University of Madrid.



Figure 1: Edgar Degas (1834-1917). "La leçon de danse" ("The lesson of dance"). Monotype pastel touches, c. 1877. Dimensions: 58.4 x 72.7 cm.

Figure 2: Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903). "Vacherie le soir" ("Vaquería at sunset"), Monotype, c. 1890. Dimensions: 15.6 x 23.60 cm.


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