Reeds  , Fishers Island, NY

Reeds, Fishers Island, NY

About Monotypes

Monotypes are unique works of art, hence the term monotype.

Traditional printmaking techniques involve creating a permanent matrix, for example by etching a plate. This surface can then be repeatedly inked and printed, creating multiples, an edition. Monotypes are created by transferring fresh ink or paint from a plate to paper, allowing for great freedom and experimentation. They may be created with colored pigments or with black, which gives an appearance of black and white. But monotype does not mean monochrome.


"I have a passion for nature, a passion for life, a passion to know, a passion to be open, to learn and share." February 2003

In the late nineteenth century printed drawings was a term applied to the monotypes of Edgar Degas. Today a variation on that term printed paintings can best describe the unique monotypes Charlotte Nairn has been creating since the late 1980s. Nairn's striking black and white and color prints with their rich surfaces and vibrant subjects are taking to new expressive heights the idea of monotypes as painterly prints. This idea gained currency with the important historical survey of monotypes held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston in 1980-81 entitled The Painterly Print - and it has served to influence developments in the field of contemporary printmaking over the last two decades.

I dove straight in. It was like a door opening, Nairn remarks about her introduction to monotype. It is a medium she took to immediately, and that she approaches as she does painting. Like in her paintings, her monotypes speak to core themes revolving about nature and all of life. She finds that in monotype it is possible to say even more than it is in painting on canvas. Whether 2 by 1 or 30 by 22 inches, the monotypes engage deeply and fully. Nairn's distinctive images of natural forms and specific spots disclose perceptions and feelings about place, space, and the meaning of creation through particularly entrancing light, vivid colors and use of black and white contrasts. Made with joy and love, and a total embracing of the creative freedom the process offers, monotypes by Charlotte Nairn embody the essential magic of art - rapture.

- Ronny Cohen, 2003

As to my long focus on the monotype I feel that I am a painter who has found a unique niche in this medium as the process allows me the spontaneity of painting with the freshness and brightness of printing on paper. I am a painter/printer. Not a printmaker per se as I do not create multiples. I do not create a matrix that can be used to print repeatedly the same image as an artist does who makes screen prints, etchings, engravings, blockprints, linocuts, etc. These in turn are different from reproductions, such as giclees which do not use an art process, but a photographic/digital process to reproduce an original work. All monotypes are originals in themselves, one of a kind, unique, like a painting. I paint on a piece of plexiglass with oil paints and oil based inks, working on the image until I think it is complete. Then I pass the piece of plexi through a press with the sheet of paper so that the paints and inks of the image are transferred onto the paper by the pressure of the press. I find it is like a high wire act as there are so many variables that need to be taken into consideration. How much paint on the plate? How much pressure applied by the press? If there are layers in the paint will they blend harmoniously when pressed together? Will the paint be squeezed out in a way not anticipated? As with any skill, experience is a great teacher. But this is one of the things that appeal to me about the process. The need for ease and freedom of movement balanced with control. The balance of opposites. And as the subject matter of my work is always about the beauty of nature, whether it be a flower, a person, a mountain range, a seed pod, there is always the search for harmony and balance, a sense of scale, whether it be large or small. Harmony. Serenity. Majesty. Delicacy. Power. Beauty. These are some of the things that call to me