Friday, 14 August 2015

Tracey Emin Monoprints and Blankets

Tracey Emin is not an artist I have ever paid much attention to. I was aware she made textile pieces, but they always felt so far away from my own aesthetic that I paid little attention. While researching monoprints I was surprised to find these works by her
Terribly Wrong, 1997

Sad Shower in New York, 1995

From the Week of Hell '94, 1995

They are all depicting very personal events, such as an abortion that went wrong in 'Terribly Wrong'. She has used back drawing to create them and I cant help wondering why. What has the process of monprinting given her over simple drawing? I wonder if the process has somehow distanced her from the final product, by using a process where complete control of the finished product is taken away, such as monoprinting, she was able to express herself more freely.
I have been  doing lots of drawing recently, all of traditional still lifes using traditional techniques in preparation for a class. Perhaps some more expressive uses could be found for my newly refined skills, to include the next stage from the OCA Printmaking class on monoprinting which includes back drawing. Am I brave enough to depict my innermost thoughts and anxieties in monoprint? I'm not sure I like these images particularly, but they have certainly got me thinking. Would they make any sense without the titles? I'm not sure. They are generally displayed together and their effect is a collective one.

Emin's monoprints and drawings are reminiscent of quick sketches drawn from life, as if she was using back drawing as a medium for gestural drawing, brief, figurative sketches, caught quickly as the subject moves. My earlier post on monoprinting shows an image of moving traffic, with movement created with blurring of the ink, Both of these suggest moving subject matter, could these two ideas be explored together? 

However, these images are more likely to have been drawn from Emin's subconcious, would drawing, or back drawing images from my memory, describing my own emotions, be an area I should explore? I could never be as open or free in my art as Emin, very few people are, but this may be a good way of loosening up as an artist and generate some interesting ideas for more expressive work.

Hate and Power can be a Terrible Thing, 2004

Emin's blankets are an unusual use of the medium. They are not art quilts, no joining of quilt layers took place, they are constructed by hand applique onto a prepared background. She has created a big contrast between the soft comforting medium of a blanket and the strong words. The message here has personal connotations but also powerful political messages too. Some of these blankets were created around the time of Tony Blair and George Bush's war in Iraq, with anti war themes. This a theme I identify with hugely personally. All the artwork I create is developed from an aesthetic perspective, could I develop broader themes in my work? Maybe these ideas come later in the development of an artists skills, but still interesting none the less.

All images taken from the Tate website. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015


I've signed up to a class with the Open College of the Arts called Introduction to Printmaking.

I have wanted to take my creative ideas a bit further for a while so have chosen this course. I have used linocut before and really enjoyed the process. I hope to follow it with further courses in textiles. 

The first unit is on monoprints. The unit starts with painterly monotypes, created by painting an image onto a printing plate and taking a print from it, I found this process quite difficult, especially regarding judging the right thickness of ink to use and keeping it even.

Here is a fantastic example by Toni Martina, Cross Roads:

 I have looked at this image really closely and it looks like a really thin layer of ink has been used, the brush strokes are visible and the ink has been scraped away in places too. The smudging is really effective in creating movement. The bright colours are very effective. There is little detail in this image, its impact is all about the movement. There is very strong contrast in values, the centre of the image is made up of intense colours, bright whites and strong blacks. I think monoprint is an effective
medium to create this contrast because scraping away inks gives bright whites. The technique also lends itself to these large areas of flat colour, too much detail is not easy to achieve. This also gives strong contrast to the smudged moving vehicles.

The most popular use of monoprinting seems to be creating an image through removing ink from a plate rather than painting it on. This image by Degas is a beautiful example of this style:

Here the image also contains movement created by some smudging of the ink. The dancers are composed with great energy. Again, strong contrasts of value are use to great effect.
Degas produced many monoprints and also worked over some with pastel creating interesting textures. This is a good example where the strong value contrast of the monoprint is enhanced with mid tones in pastel:

I found it hard to get all the materials I needed to get started, as I live in Saudi Arabia and mail order is very slow. I started with poor quality ink that was of inconsistent thickness and very hard to work with.

In these prints I tried to create effects by removing ink as well as applying it in different thickness's

These earlier experiments with poor inks taught me that the thickness of the ink needs to be well controlled. I bought better inks from Amazon. These water soluble oil based inks are very thick and my first detailed image was much drier by the time I took the print in the image on the left, in the image on the right I got a better result by wetting the paper. In the print on the right I was painting a white ceramic jug, it was challenging to paint in white paint and still use the exposure of the paper effectively.

I continued wetting the paper for these prints and was able to take 2 prints from one image. My five year old daughter helped me here reminding me to add shadows, very observant, I see artists eyes developing in her! I was quite preoccupied with creating highlights by scraping away paint and despite her reminders did not quite get the shadows right here, but I am pleased with the highlights.

In this test print I practised painting and removing ink for the fish image I was planing from a coloured pencil drawing from my sketch book:

I wet the paper before taking the print. This could have been more subtle in the texture of the background

My original drawing

The above inks came in very small quantities. The following images are made with different water based inks. I found these inks wetter, easier to work with. The first print I ruined by wetting the paper and it smudged badly. This test was done to test the colours with dry paper

I made a sketch with white pastel pencil to practice drawing in the light values as done by many monoprint artists

This is the print. Some areas dried too quickly and did not print well distorting the value, the table should have been darker but overall fairly effective

While I am pleased with my progress with this technique I have found it challenging. I am not a painter so perhaps did not have the background skills other course participants may have started with. This course can be taken as part of a BA in painting.