Selected Monoprints and Monotypes
Genevieve Irwin is a fine artist and illustrator based in Manhattan. She received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 2012, majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Visual Arts. This past spring, she received her MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts.
Before discovering monotypes, Genevieve worked mostly in watercolor and ink. She was searching for a medium that could maintain its expressive and loose quality when moving from a sketch to a finished piece. After watching a demonstration by monotype artist Bruce Waldman at the School of Visual Arts, she was captivated. She now uses the medium to make portraits (of animals and people) and illustrations for children’s books.
When she is not making monotypes in the studio, Genevieve can be found drawing on location. She lets the nature of the scene at hand determine the style and medium that she works in, primarily using sumi-ink and watercolor. In 2015, she was an Artist in Residence for an organization called the UNI Project, which installs pop-up drawing stations around New York City. Her role was to work both on her own observational drawings and to encourage and instruct members of the public. She was recently commissioned to make live illustrations at a wedding reception.
I create the monotypes on Plexiglas, using oil-based etching ink. I primarily work with brayers and use a brush (and a little linseed oil) sparingly. My favorite tools to scrape away the ink are broken popsicle sticks, q-tips, and chopsticks. Once I have pulled the print, I often work back on top with the etching ink and brayers if I feel that the piece needs more dimensionality in certain areas.
This past year, I have been working on a children’s book illustrated entirely in monotypes. The story is centered on the life of Zolushka, an Amur tiger from the Russian Far East. Amur tigers are one of the most endangered species in the world, with less than six hundred remaining in the wild. In the winter of 2012, two deer hunters found Zolushka half-frozen in the snow. She was only four months old at the time, and they assumed that poachers had killed her mother. She was raised by a local wildlife organization, returned to the wild, and ended up having cubs of her own. I first heard about Zolushka at a talk hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society last spring.
I find the monotype medium particularly conducive to depicting animals, as it lends itself to gesture and texture. I also find that it allows me to work from references without the final result looking overly planned or photographic. Since the book that I am working on is based on a true story, references are very important to me. I work from screen-shots of nature documentaries and rely heavily on photographs of Zolushka. I sketch out the compositions with ink and watercolor to give myself a sense of the general mood of the final piece. When I work on the monotypes, I place a piece of paper underneath the glass with a pencil sketch of the final composition underneath it (taking the eventual reversing of the image into account). I have my photo references in front of me, but I make sure never to work from just one photograph. Since I need to ensure that the images flow together smoothly as a series, I always work with the same basic color palette, but I mix the colors in different ways each time.