Mixing Metaphors

And on to the next month in my 2014 Medusa Calendar! I thought I would tackle January with the help of the Romans…

The month of January is of course named after the Roman god Janus. Janus is the god of beginnings, transitions, and – aparently – doorways… which probably count as transitions in any case. He is generally shown with two faces – onle looking to the future and one to the past.

This seemed to be a more substantial idea than Medusa in the snow or something, a nice bit of metaphor and symbolism to start the year with. There is always something mysterious about the start of a year. So, I sketched Medusa as the figure of Janus. For the passing of the old year I had her eyes closed in sleep, but for the beginning of the new year her eyes are open:

Etching in progress: close-up detail
Etching in progress: close-up detail of the surface. The metal is aluminium and the stopping-out solotion is acrylic gold size, for no other reason than that it works.

(I have decided for the purpose of this drawing that it is ok unless Medusa is looking directly at you. Some people have said I make up the rules as I go along!)

And here is where the metaphors got mixed. I thought (because I am inclined to think in such directions), that she could be holding two glasses of wine: one mostly empty for the passing of the year, and one full for the new year. And I also thought that she could be holding a spent and a lit candle, lighting the way into the new year, the old one being extinguished. The snakes could likewise be in repose on the one side and lively on the other. So, having already given her two faces, four arms did not seem to present too much of an issue, and compositionally, I thought the four arms filled the space nicely.

And that’s when she started to look a bit like Shiva, but well, I already have a total mixture, so why not? It’s my symbolism, I can make up the rules 🙂

And there you have it. Today I almost finished the etching work. This is the plate, after successive layers of stopping-out, and successive dips in the etching solution:

Etching in progress: Medusa as Janus
Etching in progress: Medusa as Janus

And a close-up of the plate so far:

Etching in progress: close-up detail
Etching in progress: close-up detail

The grey is bare, etched aluminium – the sparkly surface is because the etching process shows up the grain structure of the metal. The yellow parts are where I have painted on successive layers of a stopping-out fluid onto the surface, starting with the stripes on the snakes, top left, which will be the details that print lightest in the end. You can’t really see a lot of the detail here. Next week, I shall clean off all the stopping-out stuff and we shall see if I have created an interesting picture or not! On a technical note, the stopping out solution I am using is acrylic gold size, formulated for sticking gold leaf onto paper, and not for this purpose at all. It works.

Etching on Aluminium can be something of a crude process, but it is in these very qualities that it has its own charm. Unfortunately the drawback is that I have no good idea of how well I will have succeeded until I get a chance to print next week…


  1. I love her. The ultimate multi-tasking woman!

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