Medusa comes out of the shadows!

I was quite pleased with my first experiment in drypoint…

If you haven’t seen the previous post, I had an etching plate that just wasn’t… exciting, but in which I was trying to retain a large extent of the line drawing aspect of it, and was unwilling to etch more tone onto it. So I took it home and attacked it with a pointy tool instead… all over, but especially in the background.

Here is one of the first prints taken from it before pointy tool attack: Medusa, at a sort of masquerade / cocktail party affair, and they are all wondering ‘Is She Or Isn’t She?’…

First print from 'Is she or isn't she' - Medusa at a drinks party
First print from ‘Is she or isn’t she’ – Medusa at a drinks party

I thought it was lacking a certain weight, tone, liveliness… and I didn’t much like it.

Here is the second print I took after having scratched A LOT of drypoint into it:

Medusa at a cocktail party in etching and drypoint
Medusa at a cocktail party in etching and drypoint

That is much more exciting 🙂 I may have even found a new way of working! Of course, here is the downside: Drypoint holds ink because, in scratching into the metal, the pointy tool raises a ‘burr’ – a little ridge either side of the trough that is the scratched line. And because this is just a little pokey-up ridge of metal, and especially as this metal is only aluminium in the first place, it soon flattens. This one below is about the 8th print I made after the drypoint work:

About the 8the print from the plate - the drypoint is wearing out
About the 8th print from the plate – the drypoint is wearing out

It’s badly loosing its detail and the weight of the background. This print could probably be made a little more exciting by judicial use of a rubber on the highlights, after the ink is dry, but basically the drypoint has had it. Here are the two side-by-side:

Side-by-side: fresh and worn-out drypoint on a print
Side-by-side: fresh and worn-out drypoint on a print

All the same, I have 5 or 6 good prints, and another couple of kind of ok ones, and there is something nice about printing the entire edition in one day and then being able to declare the plate worn out, end-of-story, not going back and trying to make more and so on. I imagine this would last a lot better on copper, but aluminium is rather cheaper, and I am getting through a lot of plates rapidly, for this calendar.

So, there is December for my 2014 calendar, rescued!


  1. Mgon ♥

    I love this. And, wow, what a difference before and after. I still find this so fascinating. A person not familiar with this art really doesn’t have a clue… unless they follow you, thus, SEE what is going on, and why you only get so many good prints (a limited run) based on the material being used. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks Mgon, yes, this is a very limited run of prints! A lot more limited even than the aluminium etching that I usually do, where I reckon I can get 25 off a good plate with no problem, 12 of a plate that I didn’t do very well…All the same, I’m not sure it’s that important, it makes them rarer, and I don’t sell loads all the time – sometimes i’d rather there weren’t so many prints hanging around in the plan chest!

  2. I know you can have copper drypoint plates electroplated with steel – it might be possible to do that with aluminium too. It also works with mezzotint and allows you to make a much larger edition. It certainly makes a huge difference to the print – so much more depth.

    1. Interesting, Rosie – haven’t seen them. But to be honest I think that copper alone would last as long as i want to be doing the same print run! I had some Mezzotint copper plates (pre-rocked – I don’t have a rocker and I don’t think my wrist would stand it), and they lasted as long as I wanted them to… If I had a plate I particularly wanted lots off maybe I could work over with the drypoint again – it might build up some interesting texture. Numbering them would be interesting, mind!

      1. I guess they might be a separate edition……

        1. I guess so… I have an artist-friend who numbers with Roman numerals when there is deliberate variance from print to print, and normal numbers when not, and she says this is traditional, but nobody else seems aware of this – have you ever heard of this practice? Sounds like an invention of upmarket galleries wot do not want the likes of my pictures!…

  3. […] the detail of the corn and Medusa in the field entirely in drypoint. I first had a go at drypoint a couple of weeks ago, so I will make no predictions about how this one will come out, it might all be a mess! In this […]

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