The monotype is the simplest printing method, as it does not involve a complicated procedure or the need of a printing studio. The monotype was invented by the Italian artist Castiglione(1610 – 1665). A lot of famous artists created monotypes along their other work, as it is a printing method close to painting and open to experimentation.
In order to create a monotype a lean surface is needed. Usually the artists can use a metal, glass or plexiglas plate. Then he paints or draws his design on the plate with printing inks, acrylics, watercolours or oil colours. He has to paint his picture rather fast so the colours do not dry out. He then places a sheet on paper on top of the plate, preferably etching paper slightly damp as it is more absorbent and soft and transfers the colours better. He then runs the plate with the paper on top through an etching press. Afterwards he pulls the paper from the plate and the monotype is ready. It is called a monotype as only one impression can be taken from the plate, meaning there is only one print. Sometimes there is ink left on the plate and a second impression can be pulled from the plate, this print is called a ghost print, as it a rather faint image, and is sometimes also sold as a monotype. The artist can also create a monotype without the use of an etching press, by just applying pressure on the back of the paper with a heavy spoon or another heavy object, but the use of a printing press guarantees a more professional result.
Collectors of prints must know that a monotype has a higher price than other prints because it is a unique print and there are no copies. Other printing methods like lithography for instance can produce up to 700 copies.
Artists and galleries many times confuse monotypes with monoprints. Both methods produce only one print but with monoprints there is the possibility of a few more prints of a slightly different design.
What is a monoprint? Many times an artist decides to produce only one print from an etching plate, so this becomes a monoprint. The Drypoint method of printing produces only a few prints(maximum 7, the first being the best) and the artist many times colours each print by hand or adds details therefore each print is unique but shares a certain a pattern or part of an image with the others. These are also called a monoprints.
Art lovers who love printmaking should not hesitate to buy monotypes, as they will acquire a unique piece of art and also usually a work by the artists they love, demonstrating his more experimenting or spontaneous nature. In order to create a monotype spontaneity is needed. The artist has to work fast before his colours dry out and he can not ponder long on his design or engage in endless corrections.
The Monotype technique sounds simple but a lot of skill and experimentation is needed to create an aesthetic interesting and complicated picture. The artist uses a lot of marks on his plate which he creates by using several utensils (rags, pencils, brushes, rubbers etc) and his own hands and fingers. All these marks together with the use of colour create the finished picture, a monotype.
Edgar Degas, Jasper Johns, William Blake and Eric Fischl are some of the outstanding artists who experimented with the technique of the monotype in their work. Edgar Degas created more than 200 monotypes but did not exhibit then trough his lifetime as they were not considered finished works of art. His monotypes are pictures of the Parisian nightlife in the 19th century, drawn with spontaneity and realism. This kind of images Degas would not dream to paint in oils, as they would not be acceptable by the public and the art lovers of his time.
To see several monotypes please visit the following website address:
A very good book on the monotype technique is the following title:
"Monotype: Mediums and Methods of Painterly Printmaking" Julia Ayres