I had another play with the mezzotint rocker yesterday, with a proper sketch first and everything. I took some photos as I went along, but I’m not going to explain the ‘rocking’ process in much detail as you can see that on this post of a few weeks ago.
A cross-over has occurred between my two blogs – the drawing that this mezzotint is based on is one of my cat-of-the-day sketches. The printing plate is aluminium and is cut to the same size as the prints I have made into coasters. For a while I have thought that the drawings of Percy in his beanbag would make a good set of images for my ‘Art Under Your Coffee’ coasters, but then, there is nothing to stop them being framed prints instead…
One thing I have not shown in any posts on mezzotints before, is drawing on the un-rocked plate first of all with a pen. This is because the first mezzotint plates I used were bought ‘pre-rocked’ that is, with the rough texture all over them first. The mezzotint rocker (see this post) is what puts the texture on the plate and I only aquired one recently, so up to now I had to struggle to get a tracing to show up on this roughened surface.
Now, I do like a nice fine outline to work to, so imagine my delight when I discovered the first time I used the rocker that pen lines are not obliterated by the texturing process! Above is the drawing sketched in pencil and then the final outlines picked out in fine liner pen – I imagine any sort of permanent ink would do so long as it doesn’t readily come off with water or oil.
Below I have started ‘rocking’ the plate – putting the texture on it that is the starting point for a mezzotint print.
Here – below – I have finished the texturing process and as you can see the pen line is almost as sharp as it ever was.
Close-up of the surface of the plate – the whole surface is covered with pock-marks which will hold ink when this plate is printed.
The next stage is to burnish the design in – I only took one photo of this as the light was fading, but the burnishing smooths out the pock-marks again, so that these smooth areas will print a lighter colour where I want them to (see this post for a bit more detail on burnishing). For burnishing on aluminium you need oil as a lubricant, but even this didn’t shift the pen lines.
After that, the plate is inked-up, and the surface ink wiped off again (a process that requires some practice to get it right), and it is put through the press with a piece of paper that has been soaked in water to make it soft, then surface-dried.
The photo below shows, on the left, the aluminium printing plate, on the right, the print. At this point I admit that in my enthusiasm for trying out a new toy I forgot that the print would come out backwards, but hey, Percy looks quite similar from either side 😉
I should say that the one weak point of the mezzotint process is the inability to create very fine white lines, so I wasn’t sure how well the original drawing would translate without the fine hairs and whiskers, but I think Percy has come out quite satisfactorily 🙂