A first attempt at Mezzotint part 2

(continued from: https://nancyfarmer.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/a-first-attempt-at-mezzotint/ )

…so, yesterday was the moment of truth, or at least, one moment of truth. The image on the little copper plate on which I’ve been working may look very nice, but the important thing is what will it look like as a print?

As I explained, the image is created by starting with a roughened surface and burnishing areas of it smooth, or partially smooth, with steel tools. What will be the lighter areas (in the final print) are shiny areas on the copper plate against the matt areas of the background. Now it’s time to ink up the plate and see what the print is like.

Mezzotint plated inked-up and ready to print
Mezzotint plated inked-up and ready to print

The ink is very thick and goey and goes on when the plate is warmed up on a hotplate (which makes the ink more runny). The whole surface of the plate is covered with ink  and then the plate is removed from the hotplate and as it cools, much of the ink must be wiped off again. there is an art to this: wipe it too hot, or too much, and too much ink will come off and the print will be too pale and have bits missing; wipe it too cold or not enough, and not enough ink will come off, and the print will be too dark. And of course if I mix up the ink very thick, or more runny, that will make a difference too. So many variables!

The picture above is the plate wiped and ready to print. The ink has wiped more-or-less clean off the areas that I previously smoothed with the burnishing tool, while the areas that still have a heavy texture have held onto the ink. The ink, incidentally, is wiped away with scrim (the gauzy material that you set in plaster to make a plaster cast) and finished off with wiping with tissue paper.

To print the plate, it is laid on the flat steel bed of the printing press, the paper laid on top of it, followed by three layers of rather special blankets, and then a steel roler goes oveer the top of everything, squashing the paper onto the plate. And here’s the result:

The mezzotint print refealed: first proof
The mezzotint print revealed: first proof

Ta Da! Actually, this was not a bad start, but the print reveals that I do need to do some more burnishing, as it is all rather dark:

Mezzotint print of 'The head of Medusa' - needing a little more work...
Mezzotint print of ‘The head of Medusa’ – needing a little more work…

…rather pleased with the snakes, though. And the advantage of the print being too dark is that I can always burnish the plate lighter, but I can’t go the other way. Back to the workbench then…

Meanwhile, here’s a second plate I’m working on:

Work in progress: mezzotint plate 2
Work in progress: mezzotint plate 2

This is another scetion taken from one of my paintings, this time from a painting called ‘Better the Last Smile than the First Laughter’ . This photo is taken when I was half way through burnishing, I also printed this one, it also needs more work… ‘A first Attempt at Mezzotint part 3’  coming up next time.

On a competely differet note, I just thought I’d show you the latest in my series of ‘Spelling Animals’ – a birthday card for one of my nieces, Georgia:

Spelling Animals: Georgia in cats
Spelling Animals: Georgia in cats

I’m thinking that I might offer the Spelling Animals as commissions: your name / grandchild’s name / nieces name etc. etc. as an original drawing. My sister has started having these framed and they look rather sweet. Any name in Cats or Lizards (other animals considered) email me for more details!


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