Monoprint from life: Oil-based inks

Portrait of Mum

The first attempt of working from life using oil-based ink was a quick sketch of mum in oil inks. This was an impromptu exercise, so I didn’t really consider the composition. She was sat at the opposite end of the room and her feet were hidden behind the table, so they are cut off – which weakens the final print. That aside I quite liked the result – particularly the colours.
The paper I used for this was Fabriano Accademia 120gsm cartridge and I had burnished it with a soup spoon.

Still Life

When I got home I decided to have a go at a monochrome still life with the oil inks. I set up two objects on a table in my front room: a pair of glasses and a bird skull. After producing some quick thumbnails of the composition I decided the skull wasn’t working so then swapped that with an empty pill packet.

I quite liked the effect of the glasses shadow on the surface. I initially used the ink thinly in areas to create a range of tonal values, unfortunately these tonal changes didn’t transfer. I was very disappointed with the first print. I then mixed some greys and added thee for tonal variation. The print pulled better but not as clean as I had liked.
This was a different experience to being at mum’s as the print had transferred quite well there. I was using different paper so thought that was be the problem, which I would need to resolve next session.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI wanted to produce a monoprint of the bird skull and so decided to use a reductive technique. I rolled a thin layer of paint over the plate and used various implements: rag, brushes, and cotton buds; to remove the ink. This time I used a sheet of Fabriano Accademia 120gsm and burnished like mad with various implements: brayer, wooden spoon, bottom of a jam jar, and heavy glass candle holder. The result was pretty woolly and not as clean as I would have liked. The ghost didn’t come out at all.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe next print I used an additive process for a self portrait. This time I chose to print onto 80gsm Japanese Simili paper. Again the results were disappointing.

I could not understand why I was not able to replicate the results that I had achieved at Mum’s house. There were a number of factors that I needed to consider:

• Perhaps I used extender mixed with the ink.
• Perhaps the ink was applied more thickly.
• Her house isn’t as drafty as mine.
• I am set up sat down in the sitting room, whereas I was stood over her dining room table to burnish – perhaps this gave me extra force and pressure as I could lean down onto the paper.

Looking forward:
• I plan to set myself up with a higher work table in the spare room and this will give me the ability to lean into the burnishing, it is also less drafty in there.
• I also want to be more focussed and scientific in my approach – take note of how much ink I am using and what mediums I am mixing it with.
• On the facebook forum they mentioned that if I wanted a crisper print, it is a good idea to dampen the paper – this is something I hadn’t really considered through this whole process (other than when working with watercolour / gouache) so that is also something I need to try.
• Other people recommended trying thinner or proper Japanese papers for monoprinting by hand as they tend to absorb more ink. This is something I need to seriously consider.

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