Print 1. Project 4: Research point – Part 2.

Exploring printmakers using texture.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Automobile Tire Print, 1953

Tire print 5Robert Rauschenberg attended the Black Mountain College, under the tutelage of Josef Albers who I researched when looking at Anni Albers during my last course.  Rauschenberg describes Albers as encouraging his students to develop their own way of seeing and interpreting, of exploring and innovating.  It was at this time that Rauschenberg met the composer John Cage and the two became friends and art collaborators.

Automobile Tire Print was created using 20 sheets of typewriter paper glued together as the base.


Black house-paint was then poured on the ground and John Cage drove his car through this and across the paper in as straight a line as possible.  Apparently, during the process, it began to rain and the glue became less adhesive and more fragile, however the piece was salvaged and dried out.

Tire-print-2-3Several things stand out with this print.  Firstly, it was produced by Rauschenberg before he got into printmaking and it shows that even with no experience, no practised printing technique, he was still able to produce a large-scale work from what would have been a very innovative idea at the time.

It also demonstrates textural effects in several ways.  The print is at least 20′ (610cm) long and the print mark remains strong along the entire length.  At the start point the tread is defined and stark but it softens as the paint quantity lessens.  I’m intrigued by one of the photos above where it seems like the paint has almost run out and been re-applied making a very dark print again.  How could this happen along a single continual print length?  I can only think that the rain affected the paint, in effect diluting it, thereby more was deposited on the paper part way through the run.

Both the crinkling of the paper and the glued joins have added to the uniqueness of the result.  Even though Cage preformed the role of both printer and press, using the weight of the car to transfer the image, breaks in the print can still clearly be seen along join lines.  One would think that the sheer weight of the car would have forced the paint into every crevice but that is not the case.

In the last photo, above, the indentation of a clean car tire can be seen.  Interesting.  A second run, alongside the first, must have been made with a clean wheel.  After all, how could two car tires, attached to a car chassis, have run along the paper absolutely next to each other at the same time?  So the non-printed indentation, effectively an embossed result, is equally as meaningful as the print itself.

Sandra Fisher (1947-1994)

Self Portrait (from Goethe) 1991 monotype, 10 x 12 inches Collection of Martin Summers

Self Portrait (from Goethe) 1991
monotype, 10 x 12 inches
Collection of Martin Summers

Self-Portrait as Hamlet, 1994, monotype, 30-1/4 x 22-1/4 inches Collection of Max Kitaj

Self-Portrait as Hamlet, 1994,
monotype, 30-1/4 x 22-1/4 inches
Collection of Max Kitaj

These monotypes portray immense detail, backdrawn with extreme attention to each element and with tonal variation bringing dimensionality and realism to the subject matter.  The artist creates texture and a sense of movement with her extremely fine line-work, building areas to form focal interest, whilst providing only minimal outlines in other sections.

In the first picture this technique guides the eye to the richness of the hair, the sense of thick wavy locks surrounding the face.  This is balanced by the heavy rimmed glasses that demand attention and bring the facial features to attention.  Minimal lines have been used, in a sketcherly manner, just to give an indication of shoulders and what clothing is being worn.  The viewer is left to fill in the blanks whilst being persuaded back towards the face and hair.

The second work follows a similar path.  However, here the focus is on the jacket followed by the face, hair, skull and finally the trousers.  To achieve this the artist has concentrated the majority of detail work and depth of tone in the jacket and our eye is drawn to this as the most dominant feature.  The texture of the jacket is evident and she has cleverly applied paint to form light and shadows.  I particularly like the front sections where paint has either been left off entirely or removed to almost nothing.  This gives the effect of light on the subject, not just a flat portrait.  Scribbling back into the paint across the jacket indicates fabric patterning and, again, adds much more interest to the image.  I’m sure that garment is velvet.

Reading about Sandra Fisher I discovered that the majority of her works are small-scale as she became quite fanatical about completing them in one sitting or studio period.

Lino Mannocci (1945-)
There is a very interesting video of Lino Mannocci speaking about his printmaking process here.  His website is very informative and many of his works, across a range of media, are showcased including several monoprints.


Lino Mannocci, Apollo and Daphne, 2005

The figures in the above print are very defined and may have been either precisely painted on to the plate and transferred or the ink may have been rolled and a mask used to define the characters – I even wonder if they are collages.  It appears that the black ink has been rolled across the entire print plate then rubbed back.  Some areas seem to have no paint at all whilst others show clear marks where something has been used to remove paint, perhaps a dry rag, crumpled newspaper or similar, as clear drag marks can be seen.  The small blue areas may be simple flicks of a loaded paintbrush.

Whilst the two figures are fairly small and light in colour, they draw attention because of the simple framing effect caused by the more dominant black surround. The whole piece feels grounded with the addition of the 3 pale blue strokes.

Ruth Weisberg

Ruth-WeisbergThe monotypes above appear to have been printed in many layers.  This is obvious when looking at the second image in particular.  The sunlight rippling through the water shows scratched-back line-work and within these areas colour from previous paint layers is clearly visible.  I believe both roller and brush work have been used, along with an implement to remove paint in specific places – possibly a cloth.  I’m still speculating whether a mask was put in place whilst the background was worked on, thereby keeping the area of the figure clear for the detailed painting to be worked up.  Amazingly detailed pieces.

I’ve learned a lot from this research and I previously had no idea that such detailed precise prints could be made in the form of a monotype print.  Some artists I looked at use the monotype transfer method for part of their artworks and then work back into the surface, directly onto the paper, to add detail, more colour depth and highlights.  It seems that monoprints don’t really have to stand alone and be the final outcome and can be used as a base to add more techniques at a later stage, enhancing the outcomes.


Robert Rauschenberg: – images.

Sandra Fisher:

Lino Mannocci:

Ruth Weisberg:



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.
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