Monoprinting from nature: progressive printing

This is not something I’ve done much of in the past as I lean more towards ‘manufactured’ shapes and abstract designs but as I’ve been saving and drying some plant material it seemed like a good opportunity to put them to use.

The paper sizes are the same as those for my Connectivity/Connections project and I’ve mainly used 250gsm BFK Reeves.

The idea is to roll ink onto acetate, place plant material on, put through the press and then continue inking and turning plant materials and adding layers to the monoplate (acetate) as you take a progressive set of prints.

Print 1 was the initial inking, and damp 250gsm Arches 88 paper was used.  BIG mistake as I hadn’t realised that number 88 in the Arches range is a watercolour paper and soaks up water like blotting paper.  Fine for my dry-paper monoprints but a disaster for this type of image transfer.

You can see how undefined and rough the images are but at least the plant fibres had good ink uptake, allowing me to turn them over and start looking at their image transfer on the following prints.

Print 2 & 3 show some layering with number 3 being a ghost print, but the damage was done to the imagery by using the wrong paper for image 3.  However, you can see below how well the plant fibres held onto the ink from print 1 and how much detail is possible from textural leaves and foliage.

Print 4 used the same materials but turned and moved around.

Print 5 shows some new and re-inked materials.  Essentially these first stages should be classed as ‘waste’ prints until more layering is achieved.

Print 6 is after several layers of inked material, trial printing (see above) and continual overlaying of plant material.  This creates some nice strong imagery with ghosting in the background, which is what I was aiming for.

Print 7, well I just had to do it again!

By dampening the printing paper (and using the correct paper to start with!) it’s possible to continually reuse the original acetate base without cleaning residual ink between prints.  You just need to continue to re-ink your components – in this case plant material – and place them in different positions before pulling a new print.  The imagery gradually becomes more complex as some areas fade whilst new layers come to the fore.

As an example, you can see in print 6 where the 3 leaves on a single stem were run through the press to pick up ink initially then turned over and printed on top of the residual image.  In print 7 they have been re-positioned again, creating a third image transfer while the previous layers lighten and merge into the background.

Having several inked acetate bases at the same time enables you to build up quite a decent resource of material to be interchanged and overlaid.

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 My Creative Pieces, My prints and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Monoprinting from nature: progressive printing

  1. fibresofbeing says:

    Prints 6 and 7 are particularly beautiful. I think both variety and repetition of some strong shapes help the eye, compared to the more linear prints.
    Checking my understanding – each print is a separate piece of paper? The layering is all achieved on the reused plate and plant material?
    With the initial prints which you term “waste”, could you use discarded prints from earlier projects as a base?

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks for commenting, Judy.
      In essence you should use several pieces of acetate. Keep re-inking a couple that you never use to make a final print as they are only run through the press to continually add ink to your plant material. And you might want to use proofing paper for these stages as it goes to waste. The plant material is used over and over again (after re-inking) onto a ‘design’ acetate sheet, which is where you build the image layers. This acetate is put the through the press multiple times changing and repositioning the plants. You will get positive or negative images depending on whether you have inked the foliage or not.
      So, in my case, prints 1-5 are not intended as final outcomes, they are the progressive waste prints from the inking plates. Prints 6 & 7 are from the dedicated design plate and are the full finished multi-layered images.

  2. Nola says:

    How interesting! I have seen this done with simple shapes as an online demo but it’s so effective with the leaves. I love the depth achieved in the final prints.

    I wonder to myself whether leaves that have no particular “wrong” or “right” side might work better that those with a distinct front and back? That really fine foliage has worked wonderfully well and really gives the sense of depth where they’re close to one another.

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks for the comment, Nola.
      All the plant material was dried and the gum leaves were skeletonised, so no right or wrong side to them. The three bigger leaves on the single stem had better vein detail on the underside, for sure, giving a very detailed print.
      However, no matter that you print a very sharply outlined image on an early waste print, as soon as you overprint new layers these ones will flatten out, definition will be lost and the ink will blur into a fairly solid shape.

      For example, print 5 is from a new fully inked piece of acetate with all the foliage still in place, so creating a resist. Most remains white as they haven’t been previously inked. Once the items have been removed, turned over so the ink side is up and repositioned with new pieces added (to the same acetate) print 6 was taken. Now you can see the residual ink remaining on the acetate from the impression of the 3 main leaves + the leaves turned over and repositioned on top.

      Print 7 is exactly the same plate with the 3 main leaves moved and reprinted from the same acetate base. Now the sharp leaves from print 6 have lightened and become flattened with less definition. It’s simply the process of it going through the press and ‘squashing’ the ink remaining from earlier layers. Only the final layer of plant material sitting on the acetate will print sharply. This is what creates the depth and you can continue for quite a few layers before it all becomes too busy and indistinct.

      • Nola says:

        Ah, now I undestand! I wondered why some were really strong and others not so much. I thought maybe you were turning them over and reinking, which I’ve also seen done with this kind of technique. Love the effect!

        • Claire B says:

          It’s a lot freer and less planned than I usually do so it was a real change for me to work this way and just wait to see what came out. It was fun.

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