Simply put, a monotype is produced by painting on a smooth surface (plexiglass, copper…), and then transferred to paper by means of an etching press. However, there are two big differences between monotypes and paintings on canvas.
First, working on a very smooth hard surface encourages spontaneity and fluidity. An artist that starts doing monotypes will notice immediately how loosened up they have become. For this reason, monotypes for me have often been the leading edge of my work.
The second difference is that the final resolution is achieved only after the plate has been run through the press. So the final image is one where inks have combined through the power of the press in accordance with their viscosity. An alchemical process you might say. Certainly one that is out of the artists hand, except the determination of how much pressure at which to set the press. Also, there’s the fact that the inks print in reverse. Not only left to right, but the layers as well. That is, what the artist is looking at on the plate will end up as the bottom layer on the paper. These factors, which may sound disorienting, actually push the artist to work more intuitively, which is a good thing.
Another interesting aspect of monotypes is that of opening up and expanding the serial process. Where a painting is created in a linear, serial way and ending up as one painting, the monotype allows each part of the creation to be elaborated on and brought to it’s own resolution. I view art making as a metaphor for what nature does, by those standards monotypes personify nature even more. We can see each moment as perfection, and each step of the way as a work of art. Of these things the monotype can help to remind us.