Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Stork Dream"

A small etching + aquatint I worked on two weeks ago. This began as a direct sketch - no preliminary drawing or transfer - onto the hard ground. The first etch came out a little light at 15 minutes for some reason. I went back over the lines and dropped it back in the tank for another 25 minutes and was much happier with the deeper line. For the next project (which will have much more preliminary design work), the outer lines are going to go in for about 40 minutes to get a nice, stronger black line to contrast with the rest of the drawing.

5"x7". Probably the final state for this little dude before I pull a few prints on Rives BFK cream w/ umber ink.

First mezzotint!

I'm really happy with the way this is going. Mezzotints are a subtractive process; you start out with a piece of copper that's been evenly textured or "rocked" by a weighted, toothed comb. This can be done either by hand or by mechanical means. The textured area prints a gorgeous, velvety black that can't be achieved by any other means in etching or aquatint. You build the mezzo image by flattening the copper texture down again with exacto knives; burnishers; knitting needles - anything that works. The lightest areas (whites) are returned to shiny, mirror-burnished metal. The lovely thing about it is that it creates a tonal range and texture very similar to drawing with graphite, my first love in art.

For my first attempt, I bought a very small (2 1/4" x 3 3/4"), pre-rocked plate from Graphic Chemical. ($28. and that was before copper took a big hike in price per pound this year!) Well worth it though; I discovered I love the medium and it'll now be worth the time to hand-rock my own plates. (My knitting pals knit obsessively while chatting and watching TV; I guess I'll be the weirdo with a wrist brace and a 100 l/s rocker with my little copper plate at Starbucks or something. Anyway...)

I have a beautiful, large acorn dropped from an enormous white oak on my Lake Erie property. I stuck it with a needle and mounted it on a piece of cork and proceeded to draw directly onto the copper with a knife, after first laying down some basic lines in white Prismacolor. The lettering had to be hand-drawn from a reversed laserprint; there's really no way to accurately trace anything onto the burr and have it be visible enough to be accurate. So my text, "sleep" is a little wonky.

I've posted state #3 — where the image is just starting to emerge and I'm just beginning to get a feel for the tools. And the last is state #6, pulled last Friday. I'll be ready for another state this Friday morning and have burnished extensively since the last. Proofing the states at regular intervals is essential; it's never as light as I think it is and it's much harder to screw up a value than I thought. In fact, it's a LOT like a pencil drawing. And a great advantage of a mezzo is: no chemicals; no rosin! No sprays; no solvents. Just you, the copper and some tools. Direct, clean transfer of mind to metal. Very cool!