Print 1. Project 1: Painted monoprint from life

For the still life section I looked at many items and arrangements, finally deciding on a replica Etruscan vase and a sun visor.  I took various photos of them, uploaded and reversed them to see how the final print would look.  Boy, the computer is a useful tool!!

Once I had the items sitting where I wanted I made a detailed drawing of the arrangement and features.

Still-life-1Obviously my print wasn’t going to look anything like this.  The point of the precise drawing was to get my hand moving, to focus my eye and to uncover the lines, angles and shadows in the set-up.

I have been successful in my application for a skills development grant which has enabled me to buy a student press.  I picked it up a few days ago and today has been the opportunity to try it out.  It has taken a while to get the pressure right and I’m still not sure if I have it correct yet.

PressStill-life-2The image was drawn onto the perspex plate and (above) the plate was placed onto the registration before going through the press.  Some detail was added with a skewer on the vase and I also attempted some of the patterning on the visor.

Still-life-3It looked fairly good (to me) on the print plate!

Still-life-4Wow, this is appalling.  I’ve made many, many mistakes.  I used 200gsm water-colour paper that has a medium texture surface.  I thought this would enhance the print by giving it a canvas-look surface.  Not so.  I also think I worked too slowly so the thin oil paints dried out a little on the plate surface and it didn’t all transfer. Time to have another go.

Still-life-5OK, a bit better.  I used 100gsm Pastel paper, still with a slightly grainy surface.  I know what some of the errors here are: The red, black and darker gray were thinned more than the other colours.  Whilst they looked good on the print plate they haven’t transferred as strongly.  The textured surface of the paper has obliterated my fine line pattern on the hat and I’ve got a horrid white edge between the background and objects.  However, on the positive side, the vase doesn’t look too desperately awful.  The shadowing on it has come out rather well and I’m encouraged by that.

But, importantly, I didn’t closely follow the 4 rules I have typed up and pinned to my workboard.


  • Rule 1: Is the design too complex in the detail on the hat?  Should this be done in stages and not as one print?
  • Rule 2: Was I too tentative in my painting?  That’s a yes on the first attempt, I’m sure.  I used a variety of brushes, I stippled the background and I added some scratching.  My feeling is that it started to dry out before printing.
  • Rule 3: Now here I’m happy.  I mixed up a decent range of colours and the balance of colour in the composition is good.
  • Rule 4: Leave some areas unpainted.  I thought I did that in the background but on the first print less paint transferred than should have.  Need to think more about this.


  • Move to lighter-weight smooth surface paper and gauge the results.
  • Paint faster.
  • Less colour detail in small areas with more textural detail instead.
  • Create interest by using different implements to form patterns and line work.

I’ll try to improve for the next exercise.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in Print 1: Assignment 1, Printmaking 1 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Print 1. Project 1: Painted monoprint from life

  1. Jane Bodnaruk says:

    its a great start

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks Jane, every kind word at the moment helps.
      I’m not doing great but I’m hugely encouraged that the items are at least recognisable and I’m starting to understand my mistakes.
      I might enlarge the visor and have another go at that on its own.

  2. Gail Sadleir says:

    Love the new press Claire. The results were not what you expected but they certainly have a lot of potential. The last piece does have a watercolour canvas look but yes the paint is too pale. What will the next piece show?

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