“is she or isn’t she?…”

I have a sketch for the December picture for my Medusa Calendar! She is on her own all through the year (so far… I still have some months to fill in and i was wondering about a valentine’s theme for February), but December needed something jolly, I thought.

So, here is Medusa at the Christmas Party:

Sketch: 'is she or isn't she?' ...Medusa at the Christmas party
Sketch: ‘is she or isn’t she?’ …Medusa at the Christmas party

It’s a kind of Masked Ball affair. She would probably have preferred fancy dress, then she might come as herself – with hair like that Medusa can only come as herself. But then again, Medusa enjoys the occasional opportunity to be noticed – she so rarely gets the chance to socialize.

So she has donned a pair of dark shades, for fear of turning all the other guests to stone, and has let them all believe that she considers a pair of shades and a ‘remarkable headdress’ is suitable attire for a masked ball, at a pinch. They wonder, though. The snakes look just a little too real: ‘Is she or isn’t she?’

I’m hoping those of a certain age might recognize the quote. ‘Is she or isn’t she’ was the tag line of the Harmony Hairspray ad, circa 1980.  If you google the quote, you can still see the ad, first on the list that google returns (at least my google does… but then my google has also taken to showing all the tabs and everything in Arabic, for no reason that I can fathom. I mean it, really!) Anyway, if you are curious: http://www.tellyads.com/show_movie_vintage.php?filename=VA0113. It’s not amazing viewing but the tag line does seem rather appropriate to my picture, given that the original add has a succession of passers-by all stopping to stare at the girl’s suspiciously bouncy (and unashamedly late 70s) hair.

So, on to the plate. This is an experiment: I wanted on this occasion to try to retain some aspects of the original line drawing. I etched the line drawing onto the plate, and whereas usually I would then put a lot of tone on the plate, largely obliterating the original lines, all I have done afterwards is to paint the etching solution onto the plate, in an attempt to etch in a little tone that will show up when printed, a bit like a line drawing with a thin wash of ink on it. This might not work – I may find when I print it that I have only got a line drawing and minimal smudgy bits, but it has kind of worked in the past, the only other time I tried to create an etching like this. The etchant is a solution of copper sulphate and table salt – works much, much faster on aluminium than the traditional nitric acid on a copper plate. Lots of fizzing, and a lot safer than nitric acid to use, so brushing it onto the surface of the plate has some effect, though it’s slight.

Anyway, here is the plate so far – the dark colour is actually a residue of copper from the etching process and not a very reliable indication of how it will print, but it does at least show up where I have tried to add tone:

Aluminium etching plate for the medusa sketch. Possibly needs a lot more work, but impossible to tell until I print from it.
Aluminium etching plate for the medusa sketch. Possibly needs a lot more work, but impossible to tell until I print from it.
Medusa at the Christmas Party: sketch and etched plate.
Medusa at the Christmas Party: sketch and etched plate.

This etching was created in the same way, so there is some hope for the process:

Etching: Two Angels and a Seagull
Etching: Two Angels and a Seagull

I have to admit that I wasn’t very happy with this one when I did it, and never until now have attempted this particular variant of the process again. The tone was faint and did not stand up to too many prints, so I printed only seven, and left it at that. And then several people bought editions of this print in quick succession, so that changed my mind about the whole image and I liked it instead. I am so fickle 🙂

Next week I shall find out what this current plate looks like as a print. Etching is all about living in hope… and sometimes it is also about battling adversity and spending all day mucking about with chemicals when it would have been quicker just to do a painting… but mostly, it is about hope and optimism!


  1. Love your work Nancy !!

  2. Mgon ♥

    I love it more! Heh-heh. J/K. Really though!!! 😉

    1. Thank you Mgon 🙂
      …J/K? ……….*blank look*

      1. Mgon ♥

        [J/K = Just Kidding]

        1. Ah… I be not understanding this new-fangled modern speak 😀

  3. Harmony was able to control hair, but live snakes …. BTW I love etching. I can watch people falling out with their plates for hours before returning to my screen bed.

    1. Ah, you need the extra-firm-hold for snakes!
      We have no screen-printers to be smug about things where I print :-D. It’s all etching: at least we are together in adversity!

      1. Mgon ♥

        Heh-heh @ “extra-firm-hold for snakes!”

  4. Reblogged this on Cymraes's Corner and commented:
    I LOVE Nancy Farmer’s art work, especially her Medusa series 🙂 There’s something about this particular Greek Goddess having such bad press – who wouldn’t want a halo of snakes as hair? No hiding those babes under a wimple or a hat for that matter… as hair has always been used to bewitch why hide it? Oh, hum, yes, maybe because hair has always been used to bewitch and en-glamour the opposite sex…
    So All Hail Medusa, especially where Nancy’s concerned! 😉

    1. Thank you Cymraes! 🙂 I always thought Medusa was cool… bewitching hair, yes, interesting point, I’d never quite though of it like that. Some say that Medusa’s turning people to stone is a miss-translation of Medusa’s power to ‘stun’ …with her beauty. Never quite clear on whether that was supposed to be before AND after the snake incident but it’s an interesting version.

    2. Mgon ♥

      Hear! Hear! *air punch*

  5. So good I just had to re-blog it – hope you don’t mind? 🙂

    1. Delighted! thank you again 🙂

  6. […] « Previous / Next » By Nancy Farmer / January 23, 2013 / Uncategorized / Leave a comment […]

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