BIG HORN — Beginning with Italian trailblazer Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, printmakers have included William Blake, Edgar Degas, several mid-20th century American southwestern artists and Jim Jereb, who created his first monotype in 1991. Jereb is an eccentric artist — passionate about his craft and sharing the versatile art form of printmaking with others.
Since 1650, monotype has been on a rollercoaster of historical significance, terminology and technique, Jereb said. It is currently defined as a combination of drawing, painting and printmaking, resulting in one finished work of art. Jereb said prints can be adjusted, corrected or made into an entirely new work of art after a first printing by adding different mediums on top of the ink.
Twenty-four eager participants joined the long line of printmakers with two workshops at The Brinton Museum during its free admission day Nov. 29 — one focused on monotype and the other on card-making with a letter press. Participants included families who came together for Thanksgiving, artists with their sketch books in-hand and museum visitors.
During the first workshop, Jereb said an artist can experiment freely with monotype without a lot of waste. It’s an accessible art form for beginners because monotype doesn’t require a lot of technical experience or complicated equipment. Some other printmaking styles can be intimidating for newcomers.
Simple wooden rollers called brayers, ink, a sheet of plexiglass, thick paper and a press are the basic tools used to make monotype prints. The ink Jereb used at his workshop was made with the same plant-based formula that has been used in printmaking for hundreds of years, he said.
The resulting prints are as versatile as each artist, depending on aesthetic preferences for color, light, shadow, sharp or soft edges, abstraction or realism, he said. Each piece begins with a solid block of color rolled onto clear plexiglass. Artists remove the ink using Q-Tips and paper towels to reveal their chosen image — manipulating the ink as it is removed and allowing each “eraser” to become the paintbrush, Jereb said.
Mistakes are easily corrected by adding a new coat of ink to the plexiglass. Ink depth dictates the opacity of color.
“If it sounds like you’re deep frying mushrooms,” there’s too much ink, Jereb said.
After running the ink-coated plexiglass layered with paper through a press, the resulting image will be backwards from the original design. It is these types of nuances that make the art form challenging for many and enjoyable for Jereb. After an initial printing, a secondary “ghost print” captures the silvery remnants of an image — a technique often used by Degas for the backgrounds of his pastel works, Jereb said.
Jereb said printmaking allows for spontaneity, it’s low-tech with materials easily accessed at a hardware store and he can easily create a variety of sizes of work. Monotype is suited for all experience levels and provides a creative space for novelty, allowing mistakes to happen along the way, he said.
Jereb started general printmaking classes in 1981 because it suited his schedule.
“It sort of found me after that,” Jereb said. “I haven’t looked back since.”
The press Jereb brought to the workshop was purchased in the 1980s and works as well today as the day he bought it. The press is expensive and heavy but built to last, he said. There are some more time-consuming methods of pressing that don’t require large equipment, like palms of hands, spoons and rolling pins.
With any piece of art that doesn’t come out as intended, Jereb takes a secondary approach to it — adding color, adjusting shapes, defining some edges or softening others.
“With monotypes, I rarely get it right the first time,” Jereb said. “A lot of times, with any art image that I have in mind, I have something in mind and until it comes out on paper like I want it I’ll keep tinkering with it, which includes throwing it out and starting over if I have to.”