I recently had a holiday in my favourite place on the planet, Clachtoll in Assynt on the NW coast of Scotland. While I was there I made this sketch of “Seaside Cottage” through the window of our caravan:
I decided to use this for one of the Project 4 prints, which I wanted to be a painterly monoprint with some textures. I did a couple more sketches to simplify the image down to the main shapes: sky, sea, roof, foreground light green grass and midground darker green. I traced this then stuck the tracing to the underside of the glass table for a guide.
1. Painting and texturing
1. On with the painting and texturing. I painted the inks onto the glass then used a) a cotton bud to attempt some movement and clouds in the sky b) a crosshatched sponge to give texture to the slate roof, c) the end of a brush to scratch in rough grass in the darker green d) a dry brush to shape the lighter green foreground grass. The main problem with the painterly approach I always find is how quickly the water-based inks dry out once applied, and this was the case again especially as it was a hot day. Acrylic medium does help with this but too much just makes the ink too dilute. I could see the ink drying as I worked so had to do this all pretty fast. Lastly I applied some black marks to suggest fence posts and a seagull.
2. I used some little masks to create white areas a) between the two grassy bits and b) for the gable end of the house c) to separate sky and sea and d) to frame the print.
Here’s the result, the first print. Some of the textures came through better than others here, and as always some interesting and unexpected effects materialised as I pulled the print – the sea was suddenly rough for one thing. The fence posts were a bit of a mistake I think, too smudgy.
I took a ghost print but by then the ink was almost dry so it was very faint. On impulse I tried brushing some acrylic medium over the driest inked areas left on the glass to see what would happen – here’s the result:
Quite surprisingly, this worked quite well – you can see the masked white areas more clearly the textures are interesting, often because of the uneven way the ink transferred from glass to paper. (Luckily the smudgy fence posts didn’t pick up this time). On the down side the seagull had become a smudge, and the paper had buckled at the top because of the amount of liquid on the glass. But I thought this would make a good background, so pressed it once dry while I worked out some backdrawing..
I decided to add backdrawing to pick out the cottage and fence more clearly. I traced the first print to create a guide, then masked both of the prints so that only the cottage, fence areas and seagull areas were left free. Here’re the final results:
…I think I actually like the 2nd one best- I like how the sky and sea and grass all have such movement it looks quite stormy…maybe that explains why the cottage looks like it’s getting blown away… a bit of a registration problem there has left it a bit squint. I also like the irregular shape of the print, rather than it being square like the first one. The first one really suffered because of those fence posts I think.
The painterly approach is the technique I’m least comfortable with – so unpredictable – but I am reasonably happy with this work and enjoyed doing it all in a few hours.
Actually one thing I’m very happy with is that I seem to be much less self-critical than I used to be. I think the unpredictable nature of monoprinting has really helped me to stop striving for some kind of perfection, to appreciate the unexpected and to look for the positives and the possibilities when the print is pulled.