Visual research: Emma Stibbon (b.1962) – monochromatic work

My tutor suggested to me to look at some works of  Emma Stibbon (British b.1962) for her stark monochromatic works.

Stibbon worked in the past intensively with white chalk on with ink blackened paper. Also she experimented with graphite and gesso, with watercolour and partly even with pigment. Later she worked more and more in pure ink on paper. She works with reference photographs and on location taken sketches for her more elaborated studio works. Her latest works (2013-4) are bringing her back again to the antarctica (Campbell, 2015) with bold black and white intaglio prints. She is attracted to places not in a topographic sense but rather as a place that reflects her main subject of time and constant changes (Teltow, 2009). At times her work reminds me of Vija Celmins, but I think Stibbon is more into vibration of the place in space as such.

Examples through Stibbon’s portfolio:


  • Stibbon combines dry (chalk, graphite) and wet media (ink, watercolor), besides her prints, for bold contrasting monochromatic works.
  • I am curious how it is to work with pigment (graphite or charcoal powder) alongside above media – something I will experiment with.
  • Working rather monochromatic gives rather a meditative appeal to her works (serenity).

My work in context:

Experimentation with graphite powder on white paper along with water and chalk. Finer details I added with graphite pen. I ‘washed’ away the graphite powder with a bit of water and my finger.

Stefan513593 -context drawing in graphite and chalk

Stefan513593 -context drawing in graphite and chalk

The next I experimented with is white chalk on top of ink blackened support:

Stefan513593 - context drawing in ink and chalk

Stefan513593 – context drawing in ink and chalk


  • Both methods produce interesting visual effects. A ink blackened support gives really dark blacks. Working with graphite powder is something to manage properly.
  • The purest white only be achieved through leaving the paper white shining through. Drawing with white chalk either on graphite surface or ink surface didn’t make very white (see head in drawing 2). Like Stibbon’s work ‘Hansa apartments’, 2009′ and ‘Night bergs’, 2014.
  • I found that graphite powder ‘washes’ leave a rather non-glossy surface. I like that much better than the silver glossy surface made with graphite pens.
  • It is quite tough to work with white chalk on top of the graphite surface.

Next time:
– As those drawings were rather done ad hoc on not the best paper I have, I will experiment further with better supports and a rougher tooth (e.g. Pastel mat, ColorFix)


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