Monoprint or Monotype?

Before I start looking at my work for the first section of Printmaking 1, I would like to look at the term used as a title for the section – ‘Introducing Monoprints’. The reason for this digression is that I understood that what is asked for in this section are actually monotypes.

I am aware that Wikipedia is not peer reviewed and so should not be used as a source in academic circles. However, the entry on Monotypes sums up the differences as I understand them:

“Historically, the terms Monotype and Monoprint were often used interchangeably. More recently, however, these are now used to refer to very similar types of printmaking which are somewhat different. Both involve the transfer of ink from a plate to the paper, canvas, or other surface that will ultimately hold the work of art. In the case of monotypes, the plate is a featureless plate. It contains no features that will impart any definition to successive prints. The most common feature would be the etched or engraved line on a metal plate. In the absence of any permanent features on the surface of the plate, all articulation of imagery is dependent on one unique inking, resulting in one unique print.

“Monoprints, on the other hand, now refers to the results of plates that have permanent features on them. Monoprints can be thought of as variations on a theme, with the theme resulting from some permanent features being found on the plate—lines, textures—that persist from print to print. Variations are confined to those resulting from how the plate is inked prior to each print. The variations are endless, but certain permanent features on the plate will tend to persist from one print to the next.”

In May of last year, I visited an exhibition in Akureyri in northern Iceland. (The Management tolerates the fact that when we are on holiday I have to have my art fix!) Among other works, the artist Dagrun Matthiasdottier had ten monoprints on show. They were printed from the same collagraph plate, but each had been inked in different ways and with different colours. Some were upside down, but still clearly from the same plate. Here are the complete displays and then some of the individual monoprints: AIMG_1206 AIMG_1207 AIMG_1198 AIMG_1197 AIMG_1196 AIMG_1195 Having said all that, I intend using the given term ‘monoprint’ for the first section of the course even though we all know I really mean monotype!


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I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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2 Responses to Monoprint or Monotype?

  1. Jennifer says:

    I got similarly bemused over this – and it’s made worse by the fact that usage and definitions have obviously changed over time!

    • I’m probably just being a pedant, and I know that for the vast majority the terms are interchangeable i.e. they are all monoprints, but there is a difference which needs pointing out. Just don’t get me on the difference between prints and reproductions (such as giclee ‘prints’)!

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