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OCA Printmaking 1: Research


Monoprints of Edgar Degas


Degas was a member of the Impressionist group of painters who rejected the formality of the Salon and the painting establishment of the day, preferring instead to create work in the open air, with the emphasis on representing light as it is experienced in the open air. The handling of paint was often loose, with obvious brush-strokes. Frequently, complementary colours were used to depict areas of shadow. This approach sought to represent light as it is actually experienced in the landscape. Unlike may of his fellow-impressionists, Degas often drew indoor subjects such as bathers, ballet dancers and ordinary people socialising.

His compositions mirrored his interest in Japanese prints and the ever-developing discipline of photography, with elongated portrait views, and subjects often cut off at the edge of the picture plane as in photography. An example of this elongation is in the painting Mary Cassat in the paintings Gallery of the Louvre.
(Harris, Constance:Portraiture in Prints, Macfarland & company inc, Publisher. Jefferson,North Carolina and London).

However, he is also known for his pastels of racehorses. A literature search of the Bridgeman Library identified using the search terms Edgar Degas and then Monoprint identified a number of works in which a painting has been completed over a monotype. There were very few pure monotypes represented on the site.
The monoprint I have selected to review is of a landscape. A link to the site is set out below. The work is entitled Moonrise, c.1880 (monotype on laid paper) by Degas, Edgar (1834-1917) It is a monotype laid on paper on laid paper. It is small in scale, measuring 15.4×24.6 cms.

Moonrise, c.1880 (monotype on laid paper), Degas, Edgar (1834-1917) / Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA / Bridgeman Images



The format of the monotype is landscape, with the horizon dividing the painting roughly into thirds, with the upper third representing the sky.

The brushwork is very loose, creating a windswept feel to the work. On close inspection the print appears quite textured, with short brush strokes placed vertically depicting the dune grasses, and long, sweeping strokes used to paint the sand in the foreground.
The monotype seems to have been prepared using a paintbrush and wiping cloth.
The brushstrokes are an important feature of the print, adding atmosphere to the scene. The artist may have wiped the surface of the work to remove paint to allow for distinction between the light foreground and the beach grasses in the mid ground.
The moon is placed off centre to the left of the picture plane. It appears to have been created by the removal of paint from this area.


Project 4 :Variations using masks and multi-colours

Further experimentation adding colour and using masks to develop prints: 

I used the additional prints carried out earlier as the base for printing successive layers using a variety of techniques, including: impressed texture, backdrawing and masking. Using a small sketch of the view from the studio window, I attempted to recreate the image using print.

I used tracing paper, I created a number of masks to add additional colour to emphasise the house gable end and the trees. I dropped water on the printing plate to vary the texture in the foreground, which added interest by was difficult for me to control.

I then covered all areas except the sky to allow me to balance the colour composition of the prints as some areas were too pale.

On some prints, I used backdrawing and imprinting with corrugated cardboard to build up the form of the houses.

Landscapes produced from layered colour ask and impressed techniques 


I really enjoyed using these techniques. However I did find it difficult to create fine detail. However, the effects created by the printing process really added to the visual interest of the prints. For this reason, it was even more important to thoroughly plan the pieces as well as possible before starting printing.

Wome of the prints are quite well registered, but the addition of masks seemed to make this more difficult to achieve due to slippage of the sides of the masks. I tried taping these down with masking tape but ther was still some dragging across the print.

Masked monoprints with texture


For this print I wanted to explore the potential for using dendritic monoprinting combined with masking to create a landscape inspired by the Chinese landscape painter Fu Baoshi, in particular, the painting Mountains in Sichuan, in which successive mountain ridges receded high above the flat terrain in the foreground. I attempted to recreate this scene initially using torn paper and then moved on to creating masks.



I printed the lightest base colour initially and gradually added several masked layers using both positive and negative masking to create the mountain range.

I found that moving the mask to create a small ridge of white from the paper worked well and explored a number of different ways of working with the masks. The final print involved creating the dendritic forms using a glass and a plastic plate which were inked up and pulled gently apart. These were then printed into the lower part of the plate.
I mixed a brown gray using blue and orange and added some purple remaking from the masking process.

The biggest challenge was controlling the amount of spread of the printing ink on the paper to avoid covering features of the print which I wanted to keep.

I took several prints from the plate and really liked the variations created by the process.

overall I was pleased with the results but struggled to keep the paper clean throughout the printing process.

Positive and negative masked monoprints

Shere Khan 1
Shere Khan 1: Positive print using negative mask
Shere Khan 2
Shere Khan 2: Positive print using negative mask


Shere Khan:Ghost print

Positive prints made with negative mask using one colour:

I prepared a mask from the sketches I had made of Shere Khan  at the recent OCA Study Day visit to the exhibition Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors.

My original drawing was enlarged to fit the printing plate. Initially I found the mask difficult to handle as I was attempting to place it on the plate. It was difficult to keep the detail of the tiger’s face intact in the mask and I found that it tended to stretch on the plate and was prone to tearing.

My first attempt at taking a print led to a very pale print and it was clear that I had not used enough printing ink. I reinked the plate, increasing the amount of ink used and obtained a much better result. Finally a ghost print was taken following removal of the mask. This produced a strong image despite some loss of detail.