One of the subjects which I thought would suit monoprint was a murmuration of starlings when they all fly in huge balloon gatherings before roosting. As a child, I used to see this over Birmingham city centre in the evening, and it was thrilling to watch it last year on a visit to Glastonbury.
My idea here was to develop a monoprint background for the sky using rollers and wiped with tissue for clouds. I then planned to print overlapping balloon shapes through stencils. These would have to be printed very lightly because I did not want to produce solid shapes. As a third stage I planned to back draw an element of landscape in the foreground, for context. This would be very sketchy because I was the birds to be the focus of attention, and I thought backdrawing would be very suitable for that.
I printed about 10 backgrounds to have room for error.These were printed on the press with damp paper.
My initial attempts were horrid, with my colours becoming muddied. I preferred the ghost prints, on the whole. I thought that my background would have to be quite light for my stencils to work. I was concerned though, that my paper would be too thick for back drawing to work well.
When these had had a few days to dry under pressure, I cut two loopy shapes out of paper and used these as stencils over a very lightly inked plate. Registration wasn’t an critical here apart from overlapping the shapes. In fact, in some cases I moved the stencils around to try and create a greater sense of movement. Initially, I used a stiff brush to press through the paper and the stencils to get a speckled effect, then wiping selectively with a finger to get denser areas. This worked quite well. I practiced on plain paper and then on my poorer backgrounds. Actually these were significantly improved with the second image, although they were to strong, in my judgement.
On some of the prints I then added a sketchy, back drawn foreground. This was a greater challenge of registration and I masked the bottom on the printing area with a strip of paper. I don’t think this works so well through the thicker paper and I didn’t always get this aligned exactly with the edge of the print.
The prints on the lighter and ghost backgrounds worked best, making the swirls a more obvious focal point.
I think the concept has worked well generally, although I am less happy with the foreground. I am not a great fan of the back drawing, but I think this was an effective use of it.
I am pleased with:
- the general concept
- the combination of the three techniques
- the stencil shapes
- selection of techniques
- tonal balance of some of the prints
I would have liked to have done better on:
- back drawn foreground
- clarity of colours in the backgrounds
- I picked up ink from the edge of the stencils giving fine lines in some areas
- consistently balanced tone
Next time, I would:
- print the background as a graduated roll
- print the background in two layers to keep colour clean
- refine my registration technique further.