Sketching Boats with a Figure 8

I often practice sketching items from photos that I have to be able to pop into plein air paintings quickly. This includes figures, boats, bicycles, cars, trees, rocks, etc. One rainy day, I decided to do some boat sketching. I first searched YouTube for any new tips on sketching boats, and came across this interesting video on how to make boats from a figure 8.

I pulled out my S&B Zeta Hardbound sketchbook and selected this page spread, which I'd monoprinted in several layers across the spread. (You can click here to go to the post where I explained how I did this.)

I started the page spread by experimenting with the figure 8 boats in the video, facing them in different directions. I tried them slightly larger and slightly smaller, varying the sizes and widths of the loops to find what would work best. What I found was that the figure 8 boat sketches are fun and kind of interesting. But it wasn't long before I saw that it only gave me a certain amount of perspective variation and boat angles, and applies to very few cases of actual boats I'd be painting. However, it did give me a feel for roundness and overall shape that I found useful. Once I'd gained what I found to be helpful from the video, I did some larger boat sketches from photos that encompassed other angles and drawing approaches. I'll probably add a few more to this page spread the next time I want to practice sketching boats.


Monoprinting in a Sketchbook Part 2 --- Plein Air Monotypes

11x14" Monotype print across the two page spread
of an 8.5x11" Stillman & Birn Zeta hardbound sketchbook

After spending some time doing the prepared backgrounds in my sketchbook with the Gelli Printing Plate, which I showed in Part I, it was time to explore more painterly monotype prints. After a few rainy days, a gorgeous day finally arrived, and I was too exhausted to head out to paint on location somewhere. I wanted to stay home. I brought all my gear out to the patio for an afternoon of plein air monoprinting. I was excited about trying this across the two page spread of my sketchbook, like I'd done the backgrounds. As you can see, it worked out fabulously well and printed right up to the gutter on both sides. As I stated in Part I of this monoprinting series, it would be ever so much better if they would make the plate size 11x17, rather than 12x14!

I set out a folding table and covered our patio table, and prepared for an afternoon of relaxed image-making. 

One of the tricky things about monotype prints is that when you paint on the plate, you need to create your image in reverse. The image will flip when you press your print. (This is especially important if you are creating text!) This was all so new to me, and I had a hard enough time wrapping my head around the whole technique of getting the paint onto the plate in a way that would transfer well. I decided not to worry about the reverse images for now, and allowed my landscape to reverse itself when I pressed the prints.

For these monotypes where I painted with brushes on the plate, I used Golden Open Acrylics. I had tried it the day before with the traditional Fluid acrylics and found that even though the fluids worked well for me when doing the textured backgrounds, they didn't give me enough working time for painting with brushes. Monotype printing is a somewhat subtractive process, so you need to not only be able to put paint down, but also to lift it off to reveal the white of the paper when the print is made. You need to think like a watercolor painter in getting lights down and working transparently, and like an oil painter in layering and removing color. It certainly keeps you thinking!

Later in the day, I moved over to the other side of the patio so I could take advantage of the view off the other side. I didn't like this one as much as the other, but I learned a tremendous amount from both of them, and look forward to further exploration of the monotype process. Generally speaking, it would be hard to do this plein air when traveling to locations, but definitely not impossible if you use a smaller Gelli plate and work in a smaller size. (You can see the wheels in my brain turning, can't you?)

Are you intrigued? Well, then definitely give these Gelli Printing Plates a try! They're inexpensive and a lot of fun. They give interesting effects and force you to think outside of the box --- always a good thing! If you have Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, you can take full advantage of their ability to open flat so you can print across the spread. Creating a sketchbook of monoprints is an exciting endeavor!


Monoprinting in a Sketchbook Part I

There's been a lot of buzz out there lately about the new Gelli Printing Plates, which enable artists to use traditional acrylics to create monoprints inexpensively, and without a press. I had to get on board that train! I ordered the largest size available, which is 12x14". As soon as it arrived, I dove in. My goals were to create textured backgrounds for artwork using monoprinting techniques, as well as traditional painting on the plate to directly monoprint a work of art.

I spent a couple of days creating all sorts of effects and exploring techniques. I used brayers, squeegees, textured surfaces of all kinds, stiff and soft paintbrushes, fingers, paper towels, Q tips, color shapers, put on paint and pulled out paint. I worked multiple layers on many different types of papers, and well as single-layer, brush-painted monoprints on good printing paper. I used fluid acrylics, Golden Open acrylics, and assorted mediums. I tried some interference paints, iridescent paints, and sprayers. Here are some of my more interesting results. (Believe me, with all that experimentation, there was a lot that wasn't worth sharing!)

I've always loved sketching on a prepared ground. I often pre-toned my sketchbook pages, or layered on textures using assorted tools. I've seen many YouTube videos where artists monoprinted the full sheets of paper, then  made sketchbooks out of it to get the prepared grounds. Other videos and blog posts showed printing in a hardbound book, using one side of a page at a time. The problem with either of those methods is that the left and right sides are from different prints, so they don't match. I almost always work across the spread in my hardbound sketchbooks, so that approach was not going to work for me.

Stillman and Birn to the rescue! Because their hardbound sketchbooks are designed to open flat, I thought they might enable me to print right across the spread. I opened up the book and pressed it flat down against the printing plate. And guess what. It works! Furthermore, since I was printing the background and not painting it, I didn't have problems of paint running into the gutter of the book and discoloring other pages.

Above is an 11x17" page spread of an 8.5x11" Stillman and Birn hardbound Zeta book. (It's about four layers of prints.) These new smooth surface books with heavyweight paper are ideal for monoprinting. Who knew! These will be fabulous backgrounds to paint and sketch on now.

The Gelli plate yields a great ghost image too, so it's worthwhile to have paper ready to take the second image. I decided to see if the lighter weight Epsilon books would also print well. I broke one in to be sure the spreads would lie flat enough, and started alternating between the books. That way I could get the most from my colors and textures. Below is the Epsilon spread with the second printings of some of the colors. (I don't know why it's showing sideways, but if you click the image it will right itself and enlarge.)

Below is one of my personal favorites. It was done as two printings --- the first with diluted Cerulean Blue, and then a layer of Transparent Red Oxide mixed with a little Iridescent Copper. It has a very subtle sheen, which is not visible in the digital image.

This one also has iridescent paint, and a few layers:

I'm looking forward to working on these prepared pages soon!

Why the Gelli Printing Plates are made in sizes 6x6", 8x10" and 12x14", I'll probably never know. Paper is sized 8.5x11, 8.5x17, and 11x17, or in the fine art full size sheets of 22x30 (which quarters to 11x15, and 1/8 would be 7.5x11). Therefore, the Gelli Plate sizes do not allow full use of plate nor paper. This is why there are side stripes on some of these page spreads that I printed. I tried to make the best of it. I kind of like them, and I can use them for writing text. For some of the page spreads I printed all the way to one edge, allowing the print to overlap the gutter and leave me with about 3" of unprinted space on the opposite side. Then I could either print that space separately and use it as another graphic block, or I could use it for text to accompany whatever artwork I ended up doing across the spread. I didn't take photos of those yet, so I suppose those will make their debut once the artwork is done over the top of the backgrounds and they become finished pages. However, I wish I had the option of printing across the full two sketchbook pages, and I also wish the plate would accommodate the standard 1/4 sheet size of 11x15 when I use rag paper. The awkward 12x14 plate size misses the mark on both.

Click here to go to Part 2.