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Monoprints - Ancient Olive Trees in Puglia

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

What exactly is monoprinting? At its most basic, it's just printing or processing an image using a printing plate with paint or ink. I'm drawn to this medium with its richly pigmented colors, beautiful thick cotton paper and the wonderful magic that happens as the image appears.

I developed my approach to this medium as a way to transform travel photos into paintings. In this section, I'll be working with photos of 1,000-year old olive trees from a recent trip to Puglia, Italy. The prints can be stand alone works of art or, in this case, studies for larger works.

Let's start by discussing materials: I like to keep things easy, flexible and portable. Since I don't have access to a print studio or a printing press, I use soft, flexible Gelli Plates.

Gelli plates come in variety of shapes and sizes and can be easily found at your favorite art supply shop or online. Other necessary materials include variety paints, brayers (rollers) and brushes. My go-to paint is Golden Open since it comes in all the colors I like and it allows you a bit of time to work on your image without drying out too quickly.

In terms of paper, there are lots of choices. Pick a good quality printmaking paper (not watercolor paper) in a size slightly larger than your plate's dimensions.

Process Overview:

  1. Select an image/photo. Invert and print a copy to fit the size of your plate. It's an easy way to reference composition and color. Select images with strong graphic design elements and avoid images with too much detail.

  2. Select and mix your paint colors/palette.

  3. Printing can be done in layers or a single print. For this example. apply a thin layer of paint for the background field and sky areas.

  4. Dip your paper into water and blot dry.

  5. Align the paper with the plate. Press down gently or use a baren to make sure the surface contact is complete.

  6. Carefully lift up a corner and remove the print.

  7. Rinse off the Gelli plate under warm water and pat dry.

  8. For the next layer, place your printed photo under the Gelli plate for reference.

  9. Paint the tree, leaves, shadows etc. Again, try not to apply the paint too thick.

  10. After the background rpint has dried slightly, align and place the paper on the plate now painted with the tree image. Press to print the tree image layer. Remove the print and admire your work!

  11. Final touches can be carefully added while the paint is still wet. Once the print is dry, I may add another layer of details using a variety of media (e.g., ink, watercolor, etc.)

The magic happens as you peel back the paper to reveal the image - no two prints are alike. Once you have played around the with the paints, colors and layers, you'll be addicted to the process. Trail and error is really part of the fun.


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