Drypoint and imaginary drawing… (more Views of the Tor)

I am in the process of creating the plate for another print for my 2015 calendar, “12 Views of the Tor”. This is another one that I have decided to complete entirely in drypoint, so I thought I would take a break and show you some of the fun problems with drypoint…

First the sketch:

Sketch for an image from '12 views of the Tor' - calendar for 2015
Sketch for an image from ’12 views of the Tor’ – calendar for 2015

Harvest time, but the blackberries are proving hard to steal… the hapless fairy looks like she will loose her stocking, if not her dress and half her haul! When I roughly shaded the Tor and its tower in dark behind the main subject it was simply as a guide to help me visualize how I might translate this drawing into a print. At first I thought I would etch a dark tone for the background and leave the foreground in light, then put in the detail with drypoint. But on a plate I printed this week (apologies I haven’t posted that one yet) I used not only my pointy tool to draw single lines, but some coarse and medium coarse bits of sandpaper to scratch in some of the darker background areas. I liked the effect a lot. It’s a bit like scribbling, but unlike scribbling, you have actually no idea of the effect you are having until it comes to printing time, by which time you have completed, or mostly completed, the whole picture!

So this is why I called this ‘imaginary drawing’ – it is real drawing actually, by scratching into metal, but it is imaginary because I have to simply try to imagine the effect I am having until I am finished. In fact in this case the imagination was needed even more than usual: with my trusty sandpaper I scratched some dark areas for the Tor behind the fairy, but sandpaper is an inaccurate thing, and it made a lot more sense to sandpaper across the whole area and then remove the scratches where I didn’t want them, hoping to give the effect of a nice continuous background behind the fairy. So I ‘rubbed’ the scratches out with a burnisher. This is one of the advantages of working on aluminium – it is soft andΒ  so fairly easy to burnish smooth again. Below is the coarse sandpaper and my trusty burnisher, and my work-in-progress:

aluminium plate with burnisher and sandpaper
aluminium plate with burnisher and sandpaper

(if you try this you need to use oil with the burnisher, or the softness of the aluminium means it drags and coats the burnisher and generally makes a mess…)

But now, this is the really fun bit – the burnished areas are now really shiny. At some angles in the light they will look bright, and in fact these are areas where the print will be light, but it will also be light in other non-burnished areas too. The colour difference when printing, between highly polished aluminium and dull but smooth aluminium is pretty negligible, and gets more negligible the more prints you take as the surface of the aluminium is so soft the inking process takes the shine off again very rapidly. But the burnished areas really stand out:

drypoint on aluminium plate
drypoint on aluminium plate

Admittedly the light and dark in this photo do go some way to being in the right place compared to the plan of the image in my head, but change the light angle and you get this instead – below – which makes no sense at all:

drypoint on aluminium with the light at a different angle
drypoint on aluminium with the light at a different angle

And so, I am engaged in imaginary drawing, it’s guesswork all the way…. I do my best, but there will always be some surprises when I print.
[Plate now printed and images of the print appear in this post here: https://nancyfarmer.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/the-blackberry-harvest/]

This photo below is a close up – if you want to see the actual texture of the metal surface click it bigger and there’s quite a lot of detail there.

even more close-up of the aluminium plate
even more close-up of the aluminium plate



  1. This is totally fascinating and wonderful – thank you Nancy!

    1. Thanks Christian! πŸ™‚

  2. Marvellous. I love seeing the development

    1. Thanks Rosie. Hope the final print will be something to look at – it’s all a lot less certain than painting as I’m sure you already know πŸ˜€

      1. oh yes, that first proof is a fearful thing πŸ™‚

        1. LOL! isn’t it just?

  3. […] plate was made in the same way as the blackberry-picking fairy of my post on ‘imaginary drawing’ – it is entirely in drypoint, with some use of sandpaper in the background first – […]

  4. […] this one was printed from the plate I featured in my post on ‘imaginary drawing’: https://nancyfarmer.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/drypoint-and-imaginary-drawing-more-views-of-the-tor/. That post shows me in the middle of creating the image on the aluminium plate, with sandpaper, […]

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