Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mezzotint Roulettes

I spent some more of my Art Money today on some mezzotint roulettes.

Mezzotint is a dry-point technique, in which the ink is held in thousands and thousands of tiny burrs and divots which are scraped and burnished back to create tonal variations. Where the plate is burnished smooth, it holds no ink at all; where it is completely covered, it renders a deep, velvety black.

Roulettes like these are one of the ways in which the metal plate is covered with those tiny burrs. They're basically just a steel drum, knurled with a pattern of some kind, which is pressed and rolled across the surface of the plate, leaving a pattern of divots behind. These divots can be layered and layered until the whole surface of the plate is just a fractal mess, or they can be laid down gently and carefully to create specific half-tone patterns.

(The black-handled one is actually a checkering graver, not a roulette, but never mind that).

Anyway, these little roulettes are usually pretty expensive, and a set like this would cost several hundred dollars. Fortunately for me, these ones have been hanging around in the stock of The Drawing Room pretty much forever, and I grabbed them for twenty bucks each.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mezzotint — Headman

I've finished organising all my old plates, and now I'm getting started on making some new ones.

This is a little mezzotint on copper, about 90 x 65 mm. I like mezzotint a lot for its deep, velvety blacks and smooth tonal transitions. It was, at one time, used for very detailed images — I'm nowhere near there.

I prefer copper to zinc for this process; it scrapes and burnishes much more easily, and doesn't have zinc's tendency to stick to the steel burnishing tools. However, it is a bit more difficult to see exactly how far your burnishing and what-not has gone because of the metal's colour.

I can see that after such a long plate-making break, I'm going to need quite a bit of practice to get back to where I was. Still, I'm not wholly dissatisfied with this one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reference Prints

I've been organising my old intaglio plates, and part of that process is taking reference prints from each of them so that I can see what's what when the plates are wrapped up in acid-free tissue against corrosion.

I'm not agonising over them at all, since all they have to do is show me what the plate does. Some of them would do with some much more careful wiping out if I was doing prints that I actually cared about.

Something I need to arrange is somewhere where I can work safely and smoothly with acid, taking into account fume extraction as well as splashes and spills. I have some smallish photographic developing trays which will do to do the etching in, and I can create an acid-proof work area easily enough with plastic sheeting, but fumes are something a bit trickier to deal with.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Monoprint out of the Mists of Time

I found this when I was searching through some old work-books from back in 2006.

It's a monoprint, done with watercolours on a sheet of perspex, and then heightened with pastel and indian ink.

It's not terribly successful, but I do like some of the textural effects.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

First etchings off my own press

Having come into a modest amount of money recently, I decided to spend some of it on something I've wanted for years and years but have never had the discretionary cash to spend. It's a small intaglio press, for printing etchings, dry-points, mezzotints and the like.

It's made by an Italian company called RGM, and I got it via Amazon. It's very small compared with the presses I used at polytech, but it works well enough for my purposes. The bed is 270mm wide by about 450mm long, so realistically I couldn't print anything much bigger than A4, but that's no great problem as all my intaglio work to date has been quite small. The bed is just a piece of 3mm steel, so getting a longer one if need be wouldn't be any problem, though I'd need a new felt to fit, and that would probably cost a lot more than the steel.

What I am going to have to do in pretty short order is organise a dedicated workspace for it. It really needs to be clamped down to the workbench, as there's not enough weight in the press itself to keep it from moving around under the back-pressure of the crank.

Here's my first trials, using a couple of old plates, and printed on some offcuts of 360gsm Fabriano I nabbed out of the waste-paper bin at school.

I'm pretty happy with them, and with the press.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Uncanny Attractiveness

Winter Weekend doodle. Ball-point pen and coloured pencils.