Decalcomania for all…

Dulltown, Europe:
Today’s beans are the tinned ones.

This is a reprint of an earlier bog from last June.

Dear General reader.
You may wish to skip this page, unless you really want to know the ins and outs of an obscure form of print making.

Untitled Decalcomania.

Untitled Decalcomania.

Here are a couple of examples of my recent ‘decalcomania’ mono-prints. I thought I would write a short piece on ‘how to do it’ for those of you who might be interested.
Decalcomania has been around a long time, but it was introduced as a kind of ‘automatism’ by the surrealist Oscar Dominguez in the 1930s. Max Ernst had a go too. It went nicely with his preoccupation with ‘frottage’.
When I do decalcomania (what a lovely and mysterious word that is!) I combine it with the printing techniques of the monotype or mono-print. In fact decalcomania is a form of monotype.
These processes are very simple and easy, but give a lot of scope for the randomness of ‘nature’ to wield a heavy, but subtle hand.

What you will need...
Some nice, reasonably thick, drawing paper, some acrylic paint, (I  invariably use black, but it’s up to you) a couple of pieces of glass, (a smooth kitchen glass chopping-board is ideal for one of them) a sponge and a cloth. (it could get very messy!)

This is what you do…
Put your piece of glass flat on a table. Using a brush, palette knife, or your finger, slop a reasonably think blob of paint onto the glass. Swirl it around a bit – scrape some interesting lines into it with your finger, or a tool, or stick, etc. Be quick, casual, and carefree about it – sing as you do it… Come on Veronica, sing as you go! Now comes the best bit… Get another piece of glass, perhaps an old small mirror or any smooth surfaced thing, plastic maybe, and press it down lightly on top of the paint, then quickly pull it off again vertically. Now if you look down at your glass, you will see little points of paint sticking up, like a tiny mountain range.
Then, fairly quickly before the paint dries, lay your piece of paper over the paint. Hey, look! your hands are still covered in paint, do be careful Veronica! – ‘Sorry Mr Whatt…’  Press down lightly and stroke across with the palm of your hand, so that the paper is in contact with the paint.
Now… peel the paper off again! – (this is the ‘decalc’ part of the process, the ‘mania’ is the use of the hand to do it) and have a peep at what has appeared on the other side. With a bit of luck, you should have a beautiful, crisp, contrasty, delicately intricate print with a high degree of random lines and ‘leaf’ patterns in it. Lay it down and let it dry somewhere.
Clean the bits of glass (and your filthy fingers Veronica!) and do another! In fact, do lots! Don’t hesitate to throw the boring ones away – it’s all very quick and cheap.
Strangely, I’m often disappointed with the freshly done prints, however the next day, when I look at them afresh, they seem wonderful, and I think how could I have thought they were so bad the day before?
When your prints have dried, you can add pencil, ink, more paint, what ever you like – there are no rules folks – this is whatever you want to make it… That’s how I do it. Hey, I don’t want all yours turning out looking like mine!
If you want to control the shape of your final image, do it on the glass when you apply the paint. Mind you, nature and randomness never let it look like you think it’s going to... This is the great joy of decalcomania!
If you want straight lines on your print, put masking tape on the glass before you apply the paint and peel it off just before you lay on the paper. (See my first image above.)
Decalcomania is highly addictive and may stop you from watching television…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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18 Responses to Decalcomania for all…

  1. Pingback: Decalcomania in your eye… | Dave Whatt

  2. Pingback: Automatism Texture | surrealtraining

  3. parkartist says:

    A Lovely description of the process. I have been enjoying monoprinting with all its random tendencies this year.

  4. twallisstone says:

    Thanks for the art lesson!



  5. SeptemberArt says:

    Thank you for sharing your technique. I look forward to try it out!

  6. Jason says:

    I love your expressions and impressions of the world. Thanks for sharing yourself.
    Out of curiosity, what specific paper did you use for these two works?

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Well, I generally use ‘watercolour’ or ‘drawing’ paper sketch pads of A4 or A3 size for my decalcs – it easy to just quickly rip the sheets out for printing on, but really I suppose any kind of paper would do.
      Thank you Jason.

  7. I think I might have a go at this. (I just popped over from Richard Guest’s blog.) ☺

  8. Pingback: Decalcomania, at last | Stuff and Nonsense

  9. Susan Ragan says:

    Ah yes, I found the process in one of your earlier posts. Thank you. 🙂

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