Before I begin a monotype, I try to get out into the woods or by the water, put some colors down, and get a sense of what I want to print. I use a wide variety of watercolors, charcoal, and some good Arches watercolor paper.
I take the watercolors back to my studio, and mix a selection of oil-based inks, using the colors from my paintings. I use flexible pallette knives to mix inks, and add a little Flash Oil or Magnesium Carbonate as I roll them out on the ink mixing glass, depending on how thick or thin I want the inks to be.
It’s good to have many sizes of printmaking rollers so you can vary the lines and width of background colors on the printing plate. I use plexiglass plates, and sand the edges and corners down at an angle, so the plate won’t cut through the printing paper when it is pushed through the press.
I roll up my background colors on the printing plate, also draw into it with pencil, and cut other designs from drafting mylar. I ink up the drafting mylar pieces with small rollers, and using tweezers, lay them carefully over the inked plate. Each print is completely different, but I do work in a series. As each monoprint is printed on the press, I remove the print, take the plate back to the inking table, remove the mylar pieces, re-ink the plate, and re-position the mylar. The series continues until I’m satisfied I have five or six good foundation monotypes to work with. Later, after the prints are dry, I will often repeat the process and put another layer of ink and painting on these first prints.
Be sure to tear your printmaking papers to size, at least 2″ margins wider than the printing plate, and soak your printmaking papers for about 10 minutes in a water bath. I use many kinds of printmaking papers, but BFK Rives is my favorite. I print over my monotypes, dampening them for reprinting, and BFK Rives stands up to the task beautifully, never tearing, and always drying nice and flat under sheets of glass. Place the plate, on clean newsprint, on the pressbed. It helps to mark the plate placement on the newsprint in advance, and also mark lightly where the paper will be placed.
Blot the papers with clean blotting papers, and holding the paper by the corners with paper tabs to keep the print clean, place the paper squarely over the printing plate on the pressbed. Cover with more newsprint, lay down the press blankets and smooth them out. Run the plate through the etching press with the proper pressure to give a nice embossing of the edges of the plate.
Pull back the blankets and pull up the corner of the monotype to check for adequate pressure. If the image is good, continue pulling the print up and away from the plate. After studying the image, I place it between newsprint and under large sheets of glass. Recycled storm window sections are just fine for this.
I continue in this method until I have enough of a series completed to feel satisfied, usually four to six prints.
Here are two prints from this series, and from here, I can add more layers of printing, or draw directly into the monotype once it’s dried for a few days.