Back to masks: “Mother” monoprint

I’m almost there – almost have all the pieces I need to hand in for my assignment (phew). Looking closely at the requirements for submission, I noticed I was missing some pieces, including a second example of a print employing positive and negative masks. My first attempt with this, ages ago, was quite painful, particularly in getting the registration right. But after gaining practice through subsequent work, I found it much easier this time.

sketches for "Mother" monoprint

Sketches and planning

I decided to work with a shape I’d sketched last year. This actually started life as a doodled zentangle curve (in the top left of this photo), the shape of which reminded me of a nursing mother.

I developed this only a little to create some simple shapes that would work as masks, and decided on a three stage process. Past experience with registration meant that that this time I made things easier by including one edge of the figure that “bled” over the edge of the frame shape – this helped to position the masks.

Setting up

Once again I used my masking tape right-angle frame which is stuck directly on my fantastic glass table. This provides a corner on which I can register my printing paper each time, and I can simply use more masking tape as hinges on the top edge of the “frame” to position my masks. Each of the three major masks were attached at the start of the process so I could check their position up front.

1. The first print created the grey background, using a mask that masked out the “frame” of the image and the central figure. You’ll notice that the  print is facing the opposite way from my sketches. This was of course deliberate…. ok, no it wasn’t, but I didn’t noticed till I took the first print (sigh) and didn’t have time to reposition all the masks. I thought it might look good anyway so pressed on and took three more prints, re-inking the glass each time:

2. Next I added the dusky pink of the central figure using one mask that masked out everything but that central shape, and two smaller ones that created the shapes of the mother’s face and the baby, leaving them white.

For the shape of the mother, I had deliberately cut the mask to leave a white border between her head and the grey backround.

For the smaller masks, which sit isolated in the middle of the  image, I used the same technique I’d used in the poppy print – I attached the small masks directly to the previously-printed grey images using small pieces of low-tack masking tape.  (This was easier than trying to lay them directly onto the ink without smudging). At this point I lost two of my set of prints because of some remaining registration problems I hadn’t forseen – here are two that survived after some adjustments:

After the 1st (grey) and 2nd (pink) prints

The small white internal spaces are not quite white – this is becaused I used very thin tissue paper for these small areas, which let a tiny bit of speckly ink through. I looks kinda nice though.

3. The final print used a final mask to add a darker contour to the figure. Both prints came out well, and slightly different. I like this one best:

Mother monoprint - final 3rd stage - dark contour


This was good, I enjoyed it and found the whole process so much smoother now after all the practice I’ve had with previous experiments. Saying that though, I still made a few fairly basic mistakes, but by now I think I’ve understood this is part of the nature of printmaking and know that even the professionals will count on losing a percentage of an edition to various mishaps and errors. I  am pleased with the resulting prints too and that I got it all done within a few hours (hooray for water-based inks!).

This image was created to demonstrate the use of +ve and -ve masks together, so I’ll leave it at that, but if I have time I may take this a little further by adding some backdrawing or texture.


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