Friday, January 29, 2010

copper plates for printing

Here is the progress so far on my first mezzotint plate:
I had to prop the plate on the scanner using the pen so that the reflected light would show the contrast between the all-over texture from the mezzotint rocker in the background (which will print black) and the parts I scraped away for my image. This needs lots of work before I pull a proof. After I print it a few times, I plan on cutting the main cellular form out with a jeweler's saw and printing it that way, perhaps with a few other shapes. I like the idea that each print in a series can have the same forms and remain unique. We'll see.

Here is a detail scan of a drypoint plate I'm working on simultaneously:
I'm really eager to get these plates done so I can get into Pickwick and print my brains out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I recently joined the printmaking cooperative Pickwick Independent Press, run by Lisa Pixley, co-owner of the The Artist Studio here in Portland. I am one of the core memebers of the press and I can't wait to get back into printmaking. I haven't really done any printmaking recently, but I did learn the basics of monotype,woodcut, and different intaglio techniques at MassArt. I think printmaking is a natural progression for any draughtsperson, so I am excited.

This is probably the last etching I printed at MassArt, way back in 2000:
Traditional printmaking using copper plates actually requires a lot of metalsmithing tools and skills that I have. All of my scribing, burnishing, and scraping tools I have for metalsmithing will work on plates for printing. The methods for resisting and etching copper plates with acid is the same for printmaking and metalsmithing. I've recently been reading about mezzotint printing, a process which produces the blackest blacks and a range of tones comparable to black and white photography. Similar effects are achievable with aquatint or by using a roulette, but such a deep black and gradual range of tones is only achievable in a mezzotint. The book I got from the library to learn how to do this is called The Mezzotint: History and Technique by Carol Wax.
In order to prepare the plate, I use a mezzotint rocker on the copper to kick up little burs which will hold ink later. The mezzotint rocker has 65 teeth per inch which disrupt the surface of the copper. I had to rock this copper for 3-4 hours to get an even texture, and I still need to touch up the edges a little.
The mezzotint rocker is made by the EC Lyons Company

Here's what the copper looks like at 30X magnification:
And a stack of animals for good luck: