What is a Monotype?

Tropical Desires, Kathleen Thoma Art, 11x14 monotype

Tropical Desires,
Kathleen Thoma
11×14 inches

What is a Monotype? People often ask me this question, so it seemed to me be a good idea write about it. A monotype is a specific art technique. It doesn’t resemble other traditional printmaking methods such as engraved, relief carved, etching or lithographed prints which can produce exact, repeated copies. “Mono” means one, “Type” means print, so they are one-of-a-kind unique prints.

There is a long fine art tradition of monotype printing that most are unaware of, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, William Blake and Henri Matisse all created monotype prints. However, these monotype works were often less well known.

Technically, a monotype is a simple form of printmaking. It begins with applying ink or paint onto a metal, glass or plexi-glass plate, manipulated with brushes or other tools; then pressure is applied, through the artist’s hand or through the press.

Monotype is a technique, which often appeals to printmaking artists who are painters as well. Because it allows the direct physical application of ink or paint onto a plate with a brush, a painter often feels very comfortable with it. Monotype printing is simply a direct transfer of fresh paint, crayon, or ink. The printed surface is completely smooth, and the pressure does unexpected things to the image that create something different than how it was originally put onto the plate.

This unpredictability is what holds the appeal to the artist. For me, the lack of complete control is part of the fascination; however, and it can also drive you crazy if you don’t just have fun with it and explore the possibilities. The less you plan out the details, the better they come out. It is a great deal of fun.

K. Thoma

Source material is partly from: “The Painterly Print, Monotypes from the 17th to 20th Century”, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 1980

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