Jeff Perrott's paintings inspired all kinds of wonderful dialog during our July/August 2015 show. But the number one question we got was, "So what is a watercolor monotype anyway?" We've always found printing processes fascinating so we thought we would check in with James Stroud of Center Street Studio in MA, Jeff's printer, and let him tell us just what the heck a watercolor monotype is!
WC: How did you get into printing/how long have you been doing this?
As an artist, I have always been interested in printmaking but saw it as just another medium, outside of painting, to explore my ideas. After graduating from Yale in 1984 with an MFA in painting and printmaking, I had the opportunity to buy an entire printmaking workshop in Gloucester, MA. I established Center Street Studio as a business to help support myself as a painter. Over the years, however, it grew into a professional shop where I publish prints with other artists, emerging and established.
WC: In your words, can you tell us what a monotype is?
A monotype is a unique print, pulled from a plate that has no matrix or image etched into it. Once the image is pulled from the plate via the press, there remains only a ghost image that can be used as a springboard to a subsequent related image. Monotypes are usually done in series.
WC: Can you tell us about watercolor monotypes?
Watercolor monotypes are just like other monotypes inasmuch as they produce single, unique images. However, the inks used are water based, not oil based. Super-saturated watercolors are painted onto vellum plates that are treated to accept water based media. As the vellum is like plastic, the wet inks sit on top of the plate and stay wet for some time. The artist can manipulate the wet inks, let them dry, wipe them away etc during the drawing process. When done, the artist allows the image to completely dry and brings the plates to me. Plates and damp paper are placed on press where they are printed under great pressure. The dampness of the paper and high pressure, reconstitute the watercolor and transfers the image from plate to paper.
WC: How did you start working with Jeff?
We were both showing with Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston and I really admired his work. We published our first projects together in 1997.
WC: Who suggested it or how did you come up with watercolor monotypes for Jeff’s work?
After seeing his Random Walk paintings, the gears in my head started turning, trying to come up with a printmaking technique that could address similar issues in another medium. The fluidity of watercolor monotype made the most sense to me and I tweaked the medium a bit to suite Jeff’s needs.
WC: What about printing inspires you to get out of bed every morning? Or What do you find most fascinating about your work?
My wife’s really good lattes most inspire me to get out of bed every morning. Other than that, it is knowing that I work with some great artists, serving as a catalyst to help bring about work that would otherwise never happen. When you find a direction, or strategy, that best translates their ideas into print in a way they might not have come up with themselves, that is a real rush.
WC: What is the one thing you are asked all the time or the one thing that you would want people to know about printing?
“So are these originals?” If I had a dime for every time people ask me that question (even at art fairs?) I would be a wealthy man indeed. But I know, as an artist, master printer, publisher, dealer and teacher, it is part of my job to inform and enlighten. So I don’t lose sleep over it.
These are original works of art, conceived within a medium outside the artists’ primary medium, sometimes printed in editions of identical impressions, sometimes in a series of related images. But they are all original.