Mezzotint done improperly

Printing ‘The Spiky Cat’…

I promised this post was coming! While I was making the printing plate in the previous post it occurred to me that the mezzotint rocker – the tool that is used to put the texture on the plate first, produces a rather interesting line which might be reminiscent of the spiky hairiness of cats just on its own. The individual lines made by this tool aren’t usually seen in the final print – the idea is to ‘rock’ all over the plate in 8 different directions until you have an even texture of burrs and pock-marks, which are then worked into to create the image with a burnisher (see this post)

So, the print below is not how mezzotint should be done. In fact I’m not sure that I should even call this print a mezzotint print: the word means ‘half-tone’ and refers to the fact that a mezzotint print is all tone and no line, as opposed to engraving, which is all lines.Ā  This print is all spiky line: IĀ  ‘drew’ a cat with the mezzotint rocker, which is not really what you’re supposed to do. A little experiment…

First here is the quick sketch I did to work from – straight onto the aluminium plate:

A quick sketch to work from
A quick sketch to work from

The ‘Rocker’ makes lines like this (below) – very cat-like, if they can be controlled into a sort of image:

Beginning to draw with the rocker
Beginning to draw with the rocker

The photo below shows the mezzotint rocker itself – it is so-called because you rock the toothed blade from side-to-side to produce the marks in the metal. The way it moves is very much like one of those herb choppers, but with teeth:

The mezzotint rocker
The mezzotint rocker

Carrying on with my cat-hairiness:

More rocking
More rocking

And at this point (below) I wanted to see what I I had achieved so far. I do intend to work into the plate with a burnisher (adding lighter tones in what will be the black areas) but I needed to see what I had already done. So here I stopped and printed from the plate:

The plate ready to be printed
The plate ready to be printed

Preparing the plate for printing – the surface is covered in ink, and the excess ink wiped off, just the right amount to leave ink in all the little recessed pock-marks I have made with the rocker:

Inking up the plate
Inking up the plate

The moment of truth – what does the print actually look like?

The moment of truth - peeling the print off the plate
The moment of truth – peeling the print off the plate

And my finished print:

The print so far
The print so far

I hadn’t actually intended that this would be finished at all, but I rather liked this spiky little creature, so I took a few prints of him how he is at the moment. I shall work into the plate some more, but once I make changes to it there’s no going back, so I have a few prints now in hand.

Below I also tried painting the eyes in. I am in two minds as to how well this works, since the eyes are actually brighter left white. So, until a fortnight’s time (no etching next week – it’s half term), this is my experiment so far…

And one more print...
And one more print…
Another one with painted-in eyes
Another one with painted-in eyes

3 Comments

  1. Wow. This is bonkers! In the nicest possible way of course šŸ˜€

    1. LOL, I take that as a compliment in the nicest way possible, Rosie šŸ˜‰

  2. […] went back to the plate in my post ‘Mezzotint done improperly‘, and burnished a few features into my Spiky Cat. Now he looks like […]

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