Monday, September 27, 2010


Recently I’ve received several queries asking what exactly is a clay drawing and how are they done. I will try to describe the process in this post.

First, a description of the process of clay printing, as developed by my friend, Mitch Lyons.

A slab of stoneware clay 3/4 to 1 inch thick is pressed into a firm framed base mounted on a solid support table or bench. The surface is smoothed and leveled with the edges of the frame and is allowed to dry overnight to a “leather hard” consistency. There is no “correct” size: it can be small and portable or permanently situated in the studio. This clay base will act as the “plate” in the creation of the mono type. My current clay plate is 30x40” and is 8 years old. By keeping it covered with wet paper and plastic drapes it will last indefinitely.
Liquid clay, known as slip, is produced by mixing water and kaolin powder in a blender to a light pancake batter consistency and several coats are then brushed onto the clay slab. This slip also becomes the “paint” by the addition of pure pigments, dry or liquid, and is used to create the image by its application to the clay slab. The final result is a flat slab of clay in which the image is embedded.
A moistened support, fabric or paper, is placed on top of the clay and pressure is applied using a roller or brayer. The support becomes impregnated with a thin layer of the clay resulting in a transfer of the image.
The resulting one of kind images have characteristics unlike those produced by any other method. The variety of techniques that can be used in this process is limited only by the imagination and curiosity of the artist.
All the materials used in this process are archival and the pigments share the same light fastness as other tradition pigments. The finished print can be framed under glass, or given a protective coat of varnish and stretched over a canvas stretcher.

My clay "plate" is about 3/4" thick and measures 32x40" In the lower left corner is a series of 3 colors I applied to create one of my drawings. Below is a close up of the same.

The next step is to print this on one of variety of supports. For the series of drawings from Italy I have been using Reemay, a non-woven fabric, as well as Pellon, and other interfacing materials available at the fabric store. This next photo shows a number of such prints.

Now all that remains is the drawing. For this I've been using a variety of pens and markers, primarily Faber-Castell, Prismacolor premier, Micron, and Pilot...all using water resistant, lightfast ink.

For dramatic highlights I may add one or more touches of acrylic to the drawing, as in the umbrellas in this piece.

1 comment:

Aine Scannell said...

Hello there William

I am so intrigued with this clay monotype process - is it possible to scribe into the surface of the clay plate
( even to make very gentle marks that will come out as a white mark ---when you place the dampened/ blotted printmaking paper onto it, when the image is ready to take a proof ??

Perhaps one might then be able to roll the clay with a rolling pin or whatever to smooth out the surface ?
Of course It might just be wishful thinking

Please do let me know............