I had a search going on Ebay for a Mezzotint Rocker. The search has probably been running for a couple of years and I think only once or twice did it turn up this rather obscure printmaking tool and at full price, which is not cheap. So when one appeared at half price last week, I could not resist…
This post is mainly a series of photos of my experiments with mezzotint on a piece of aluminium (copper being the traditional material for this printing technique). If you would like to know more about how mezzotint – a slightly obscure branch of printmaking – actually works, I posted some of my first attempts on ready-prepared copper plates with more explanation here:
When I have a more complete set of photos and a final image that I am happy with, I might do a ‘how to do mezzotint’ post, but for the moment I am very much learning, and playing with a new toy, so these are mostly pictures…
I decided to try out mezzotint on a piece of aluminium, because I have lots of old aluminium printing plates. This one of the drypoint coasters that I printed last year. Because the plate was worn, and no-longer printing a decent image, I had never bothered cleaning it, so there is a lot of ink left on it. I set about attacking it with the mezzotint rocker:
I have already run over the plate with the rocker a few times, to get the feel of it – with a rocking action you roll it across the face of the plate, a bit like one of those herb-choppers, only instead of cutting, it leaves a series of indentations and burrs:
The idea is to build up an even surface of these pock-marks and raised bits, which will eventually hold ink for printing. To get an even covering traditionally the rocker is rocked over the plate in eight different directions as I’ve shown below with the red and white arrows.
Below is the finished texture on the plate (not expertly done, but this was my first attempt!).
The idea is that now the plate is throughly covered in a heavy, even texture, which will print black, and then the light areas of the image are put in by burnishing the plate to make areas of it smooth again. The interesting thing was that the image on the plate was still visible, so, having no better plan, I burnished the existing image back in again (for more of this process, see the previous posts I listed above), Here is my finished plate – the bright bits are where the plate has been burnished:
On goes the ink:
Off comes the ink:
And finally, the print – my first attempt at mezzotint on aluminium – this was one of the good ones:
It is, however, very easy to over-wipe a mezzotint plate (or at least I have found this to be the case) Here is a selection of prints that were variously successful:
And a close-up of the left-hand one, very much over-wiped:
And that’s my first aluminium mezzotint! Actually only a test plate to prove the concept – the burnishing is clumsy and I am not going to attempt to improve this image, I shall start again next term with something new. Until then, the print studio is closed and I have some weeks to come up with an image…