Scraped paint swirls on a spoon

Paint that oozed off the printing plate.

Even the cleanup can be beautiful and surprising.

July 30, 2018

Monoprinting and Monotypes : A World of Surprises

What Inspired Me to Do Monotypes

Many years ago, I became fascinated by the work of Andy Goldsworthy,, British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist, who produces site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings. What intrigued me beyond the sheer beauty of his work was the impermanence of some of his pieces. Often, he creates pieces that will be blown away by the wind, overtaken and washed out to sea, float down a creek, or melt from the rays of the sun.


Monotypes carry the same kind of appeal for me. For in it is a sense of impermanence as well. No, the paper won’t disintegrate any time soon. Rather, each print is one-and-done; it cannot be recreated in the exact way ever again, for once the paper is pressed to the plate and then the image is lifted, the exact paint color pattern can never be replicated in the exact same way.


My Practice of Letting Go

Life is a strange combination of grasping and holding tight, and releasing and letting go. Over the years, I have come to understand that grasping can be easier than letting go. Yet, with each passing year and the unfolding of Iife, I have thought more about how it is so important to be able to “let go.”


Thus, as a way to address this reality of life, I have taken on two spiritual practices, which have helped me learn how to more readily let go.

The first practice is centering prayer:  twice a day I sit down and silently try to clear my mind. When thoughts, ideas and feelings arise, I return to my “sacred word.”


The second practice is monoprinting. There, I make a print (one of a kind) and let it go into the hands of another, who might let it go into the hands of yet another. There are days when the image made is so wonderful that I desire to hold onto it, and not let it go. Then, I catch myself and realize once again, “Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing there’s a future.” (Daphne Rose Kingman)


History of Monoprinting and Monotypes

Monoprinting has been around at least since the 1500’s.


Plates of glass and metal were given ink or paint, applied with either a brush or a roller. Paper was placed on the plate over the ink or paint, and pressed down. The paper was removed from the plate, leaving a wonderful design now adhered to the paper.


Time has passed, and the methods and materials used have changed, including the use of plates made of gelatin developed by printmaker Francis S. Merritt of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle Maine. Gelatin printing is a form of monoprinting; in which a gelatin slab is used as a printing plate in conjunction with ink or paint to create images. The process is well suited for professional or novice printmakers, as well as craft enthusiasts. The challenge with gelatin plates is having a plate ready when the mood strikes; because gelatin plates need to be cooked and refrigerated, and have only a limited number of times they can be used before another gelatin plate needs to be made.


Today, you do not have to go through making your own gelatin plates. Rather, you can buy what are called “Gelli” plates. Joan Bess and Lou Ann Gleason, combining their expertise in printmaking and marketing and launching new products, have made “The Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate.” The Gelli plate looks and feels like gelatin, but is durable, reusable, non-perishable, stores at room temperature, is non-toxic, and easy to clean. Gelli plates brought out the inner artist in Lou Ann Gleason, who makes monotypes in her spare time using the product she helped invent. For more information about “Gelli" printing products, check out: