Monica Macdonald Ralph is a British contemporary printmaker and artist who discovered joy in etching after a long period of experimentation with ceramics, batik and painting. Her work is inspired by rhythms, textures and patterns of the South Downs – plough-lines twisting round the slopes, chalky paths over sheep-grazed hills, wind-gnarled scrub, bleached cliffs and damp, mossy woods. She aims to capture the energy created not just by nature, but also our activities. She likes to combine a variety of techniques – etched lines, aquatint tones, open bite shapes and soft ground impressions. Sometimes she will create an image only using one single plate and other times two or three to build up layers and texture in an image. She uses steel, zinc and copper plates each having their own effect on the final image. Monica works from sketches and photographs using them as guides to work on the plates in the open, and then completing them in her Brighton studio.
Background & Technique
After her studies at Sussex University in Brighton, Monica spent time as a volunteer in Botswana where the colours and shape in the landscape inspired her to paint. Monica found excitement with the etching printmaking technique through her training in printmaking at Brighton University. She states that she found a match between what she wanted to communicate; her ideas and the techniques available. All etching processes involve making marks on a metal plate by exposing some areas of the metal to acid, while protecting other areas. The bitten areas continue to hold ink after the surface ink is removed and this ink is transferred to damp paper when pressure is applied by a rolling press. Monica enjoys this technique in particular because it encourages experimentation and there are so many ways to make marks on a metal plate.
Monica’s work has been exhibited in various venues along the south coast, in London (including the British library) in the Lake District, Glasgow and the Shetland Isles.
Some of her etchings appear as illustrations in these two books:
–Engraved on Steel: The History of Picture Production using Steel Plates
Basil Hunnisett, Ashgate Publishing, 1998
–Printmaking: Traditional and Contemporary Techniques
Ann d’Arcy Hughes and Hebe Vernon-Morris Rotovision, 2008