Thursday, May 6, 2021

Brayer Paintings-trace monotypes and drawings


"And Just Like that It was over. "

I have a folder of work that I've been creating, off-and-on, for a half-dozen years. These odd, mostly abstract or vaguely recognizable images I've been calling brayer paintings but they are more correctly referred to as transfer monotypes and/or ink drawings, created by drawing or painting directly onto the paper with a brayer, or indirectly by the transfer of ink off a glass plate by rubbing or marking a sheet of paper from the back, while it is face-down on a inked glass slab.  

 While I mostly work with water-based pigments and the Japanese method of woodblock prints,  I make traditional western prints too--drypoints and etchings and also occasional works incorporating letterpress text, all of which are printed using oil-based relief inks, usually rolled onto a slab or glass plate, and then transferred to the plate or mobile type. After the day's work is over, clean-up means getting the excess ink off the plate,  first by scraping it off with a piece of scrap cardstock or by placing newsprint on the plate and rubbing that to get the ink off before using vegetable oil and soap and water to wash the plate and brayer. 



Untitled, (Failing Memory)

But as I noticed that I sort of liked the newsprint or paper towels that I lifted off the glass, the ink transferred to the face down surface, it was an easy thing to start making them on purpose,  using clean pieces of bond paper--acid free printing (xerox) paper--and deliberately working to pull off ink in a semi-guided way. I could lay the clean paper face down on the inked slab, and then rub it with my fingers or fingernails, the back handle of a paintbrush or any simple implement.On others, I worked directly with the brayer, using it to draw on the paper directly and layering thin and thick layers of ink.


"Sleep and Death" (two doors).


I liked the results, but realized that I should try to use good paper rather than copy paper.  However using paper of better quality made it much harder to work freely. With good Japanese paper,  there is always a hesitation and fear of "wasting" an expensive piece of handmade paper by making a mistake or ruining a promising start, and that hindered the spontaneity and directness that made these simple works interesting.  

I solved that by (for the most part) by cutting down whole sheets into A4 size and having a folder--at hand--and reserved for just this purpose. With a folder full of paper, it's been a little easier to work without worrying too much about making a mistake.  So at the end of my occasional oil-based projects, I usually find time to make 1 or 2 pieces using the leftover ink and the wet brayer. 

I consider these part drawing, part painting, and part printmaking. They start off as abstract markings, but gradually they start to get pushed into a direction guided by the evolving image.  Like passing clouds that take on the likeness of animals or figures, my ink-slab drawings start to suggest subjects and titles. 

"Passing Storm" 2020  


Well see how far these can go.  I'd like to work a little bigger--try with a bigger brayer and a full sheet of paper--or go even bigger but with both bigger and smaller brayers or ink rollers....the key is to keep making them, without thinking too much. 


  1. I see a lot of serendipity in these... lovely work!

  2. Thank you Dennis. Yes, there is a lot of "accident" in these works, but also a little bit of controlled chaos...there are some givens: using a brayer means there will be an overlap at the edges and at the end of the roll, each of these things become tools. Similarly, using areas of thick ink poorly rolled out on the slab or with little bits of dust or lino, means there are halos and islands that start out as random marks, but then can be repeated or re-used to make them deliberate. The trick is to make it look and feel "effortless", rather than forced.....But if I make enough of them, a couple should be worth keeping.....

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