The difference between monotypes and
monoprints frequently baffles art buyers and sellers alike!
Therefore, a description of that difference is useful at the
A monoprint is one of a series—therefore,
not wholly unique. A monoprint begins with an etched plate,
a serigraph, lithograph or collograph. This underlying image
remains the same and is common to each print in a given series.
Other means of adding pigment or design are then employed to
make each print in the series slightly different. The series
of monoprints has a limited number of prints and each is numbered.
A monotype is one of a kind, a
unique piece of artwork. It is the simplest form of printmaking,
requiring only pigments, a surface on which to apply them, paper
and some form of press. Frank Howell, the late Santa Fe artist
who became an expert with the medium of monotypes, most clearly
describes the process:
Monotypes are pulled impressions that were
drawn or painted on a metal or plexiglass plate. The images
are created through applications of ink that are rolled, brushed,
daubed or otherwise applied and manipulated and then, with
the material, usually paper, that is to accept an impression,
are "pulled" with the use of a press.
Monotypes are inherently unique because only
one or two impressions may be pulled before the ink is used
up. Although there may be a second impression, it is quite
different from the first in that most of the ink was lifted
from the plate in its first pass through the press. The second
impression, called a ghost or cognate, is much lighter or thinner
and is more of a suggestion of the first. Each pulled impression
may be considered a finished work or it may be further enhanced
by the application of additional drawing or color.
. . . recent experimentations in the use of
inks mixed with various viscosities of oil, applied in multiple
layers on the same plate prior to printing have produced complex
and exciting impressions. When technically well-executed, monotypes
created in this manner are distinctly monotypes in their incredible
fidelity to the artist's manipulations of ink, but have a remarkable
transparent and "layered" quality that is not otherwise
— from Frank Howell, Monotypes
In order to better understand the process of
making monotypes, we experienced an all-day session with master
printer Ricardo Ximenes at El Cerro Graphics in Los Lunas and
accomplished painter/novice monotypist Betty Sabo.
with palette knife
on the coated plate
For Betty Sabo's monotype, the plexiglass plate
was first coated with an oil-based ink. (The color chosen was
a blue which is loved and frequently used by Betty in her oil
paintings . . . it is now known as "Betty" blue at
El Cerro! For Betty, it was a friendly base from which to start.)
Over the smooth blue coat of ink, she began to create a Sabo
painting using specially formulated thick inks. While Betty applied
the inks with brushes and a palette knife, the monotype artist
can use any tool to transfer pigment to plate . . . sponges,
scrapers, fingers, cloth, toothbrushes, etc. As Ximenes encouraged
a fairly swift pace in applying the paints, Betty noted that
the monotype process can
be dangerous for an artist with a big ego.
"It could end
up as a piece of slop!" Since Betty Sabo is a "texturist" in
her oil paintings, there was a danger that she might apply too
much ink and create the "slop" she feared! The eloquence,
humor and exquisite craft of "Mister Master" Ximenes
help prevent just such disasters. But a good printer not only
guides around pitfalls, he also helps the artist take fullest
advantage of the possibilities of this versatile medium.
The speed with which the monotype artist must work
can be nerve-wracking for a meticulous perfectionist such as
Betty. It is, by its very nature, a spontaneous, unencumbering
process of creating an image on a plate. While an oil painting
of similar size could take Betty two weeks to complete, this
monotype, for good or ill, would be completed in about 2 hours.
adjusting pressure on
Betty Sabo's finished
The "spontaneity" of the monotype
process may be misleading, for discipline, knowledge and artistry
are prerequisites. As Ximenes reminds anyone who might be tempted
to dismiss monotypes as "quick and easy," the time
required to make a monotype is the combined years of experience
and knowledge of artist and printer . . . plus 2 hours.
All of the techniques and elements of making monotypes--the amount
of pressure from the press, types of inks and oils used, how
they are applied, etc—require not luck, but tremendous skill,
and make the result unique to this process.
As it turned out, Betty Sabo's skill as an
artist outweighed her inexperience as a monotypist. The monotype
was a success!
As a final note: collectors should be aware
of the relative intrinsic worth of the contemporary works on
paper loosely grouped as graphics: commercially produced posters
which are photographically or mechanically printed are lowest
in value; next in increasing value are the "original prints" such
as silk screens/serigraphs, lithographs, etchings, collographs;
next are the monoprints, each is part of a series but has unique
elements; and of highest value, because each is unique, is the
monotype. In terms of cost, the monotype fills the gap between
lower-priced multiple prints and higher-priced original paintings
on paper or canvas.
Special thanks to Betty Sabo, the late Frank Howell and Ricardo
By Pamela Michaelis, founder of The Collector's Guide and former host of “Gallery News” radio show on KHFM 95.5 , classical radio in Albuquerque.
Photographs courtesy of El Cerro Graphics, Los Lunas,
Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to the Albuquerque Metro
Area - Volume 5
RESOURCE LISTS UPDATED WHEN VIEWED | ARTICLE CONTENT
July 7, 2008