© Gainor E. Roberts 2014 All the works of art shown in the website are protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and may only be used by permission of the artist.


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One day I was in New York, at the National Academy of Design, walking through their bookstore. I was somewhat in a hurry so I had not planned to browse, but I suddenly stopped and this book jumped into my hands. It was a book by Mary Beth McKenzie. The chapter on Monotypes opened up and in that moment a new world opened up for me!

I never heard of a monotype before, sometimes called “The Painterly Print”. In a few seconds the book was mine and I read most of the book on the bus going home to Connecticut. I couldn’t wait to try it, so in the few days following I made a couple of monotypes that I thought were wonderful. Well, the prints weren’t so wonderful but the method was, and I was hooked, on both monotypes and Mary Beth, who I thought was a marvelous painter, and later I went to New York to study painting with her.

I always wanted to do printmaking, but was not too thrilled with etching chemicals and I could not afford a press. Printmaking studios were not close to where I lived at the time. But here was the lowly Monotype and I already had all the gear I needed to make them; a glass or plastic sheet for the plate, oil paint, brushes, printmaking paper, and a silver serving spoon from my mother’s supply.

Mono means “one” and type means “print” and that’s what you get with the Monotype process. One print (or sometimes two if you are using a printing press). Artists have used this process since the Renaissance to produce lovely and spontaneous works of art.

I made many Monotypes during those years from 1989 to 2001, until we moved to Florida. Then my studio shrunk, my time shrunk even more, and my life had significantly changed so that Monotypes took a back seat to my art repertoire. I did a few workshops and each workshop generated a batch of new monotypes, but I was no longer affiliated with the Monotype Guild of New England where I had served on their board of directors, and learned many great lessons and met many great people during those active years.

I still do Monotypes, and I still love the look of them but I still have time problems, and people are not as anxious to acquire a Monotype here in Florida. So, unfortunately my business self, overtakes my art self, and I spend my limited time on work that is more likely to appeal to a buyer.

My Monotypes are very simple to make. I use a sheet of acrylic plastic for the plate. Sometimes it is cut to the size of the print I want, which gives me “plate marks” at the edges and I press very hard on my spoon to try to emboss the paper. Otherwise I just take any old sheet of Acrylic or Lexan and start to paint, using oils thinned with poppy seed oil to retard drying.

Making Monotypes is good for me, as I enjoy very tedious, fussy work, and you can’t be that fussy with a Monotype as the paint must stay wet to get a good print on the paper. Details are often insignificant, and as the rate of drying of the paint progresses I find myself editing out those parts that would take the most time to render.

My favorite paper is wet Rives BFK and I have used all their colors, but white or cream are the most satisfactory.

All my prints are made with a spoon, Palm Press or barren. When I was making lots of prints I could spread the work over two days. I try not to add paint to the finished print, unless there is a glaring white spot in the middle of an otherwise good print.  

There is a real satisfaction to making Monotypes that appeals to me, as most of my paintings take many hours, days, or sometimes years, to complete. Doing an art work in a day works for me!