Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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!