And sometimes things change


Halfway through the Derrybawn project and I’ve come up with a few new wrinkles. I definitely got in a bit too deep with this project, especially considering that all of my summer travel has been included in it, making it difficult to get a good run at anything.

So I’ve reconstructed the project a bit. Prints are still the focus, experimenting with various printmaking techniques. And I’ve kept the fairy theme. Sometimes you have to appeal to your favorite fans. And it continues to be fun.

I’ve done the linoleum block plate for the Boobrie. Very nice. I have a sketch for the Arkay Sonney. Also very nice. Working up a drypoint for that one. I also have a preliminary sketch for Bloddeuwedd which I will continue to refine.

But the other Celtic fairies will probably have to wait for another time. While on vacation I had a hard time focusing on the rich research and symbol laden development of the other fairies I had picked, and I hadn’t made decisions on all of them. However, being on the road, and looking for some light-hearted sketching, I’ve come up with some other, less serious fairies.

I had used some of my photographs of butterflies to develop some fairy art last year, and I had also worked with designs of dragonfly wings. So, in a moment or two of whimsy, I added them to some sketches of horses and when I did some sketching and photography of wild blackberries this year, I had my brambleponies almost draw themselves.

In testing some acrylic plates for drypoint printmaking, I have found that the acrylic does not hold the burr of the stylus and the lines will not have the characteristic softness of drypoint. However, engraving tools do not leave the side burr, so I will experiment with engraving the brambleponies on acrylic.

I also have some excellent new photographs of butterflies from my most recent trip, as well as some studies of herbs and leaves from my garden. Also, inspired by my dip into fairy art, I have included prints of butterflies and flowers in my shop on Etsy. I had been very focused on Celtic art for so long, I hadn’t thought to include my non-Celtic photography in my print sales. It has been a change of view as well as a change of style.

So there have been some things moving along, moving forward, moving moving moving…
My plan for prints to sell at Christmas seems to be a workable thing.

My work to resurrect the Derrybawn printing press is a bit slow off the mark, but it will be a long term thing. At least the studio cleaning thing is progressing.



Some printmaking terms

Just a few notes, so we all understand what I am talking about. This is a very quick overview, with little detail. Be sure to ask if you have any questions.

BLOCK PRINTING: This is a technique in which the spaces are cut away and show up as white or the color of the printing paper. The raised areas are inked. Plates are carved from just about anything that will take the carving. Stone, linoleum, rubber, wood, potatoes, etc.
….Woodblock: a block printing plate carved from wood
….linocut: a block printing plate carved from linoleum

INTAGLIO PRINTING: This is a general term for the techniques which require gouging into the surface that will hold the ink. Ink is pressed into the grooves and gouges, and wiped off the raised areas. Dark areas are created with fine crosshatching, or closely spaced dots which print black if done properly.

….Drypoint: A stylus of steel or one tipped with diamond, is used to draw directly on an untreated plate. A burr of metal is thrown to the side of the line drawn, and the burr also holds ink, giving drypoint a characteristic fuzziness that is eventually lost as the plate is reprinted. Copper and zinc are popular plates, but laminated cardboard and acrylic sheets are also used. The burr makes this style of printing very limited in the number of plates that can be run. Drypoint can also be used to fix small details in printing plates of any kind.
….Engraving: A sharp, specialized tool called a ‘burin’ is the primary tool for engraving. The excess metal is not thrown to the side as in drypoint; it curls up ahead of the burin, and then is cut off with a sharp scraper to leave lines for the ink that are sharp and clear. Lines in engraving are usually thicker than in drypoint, though some engraving tools can produce very fine lines if used lightly.
….Etching: Etching is the use of acids to bite into the plate and create the lines which hold the ink. A plate is covered with an acid-resistant coating such as wax or roisin. Then lines are drawn with a sharp tool through the coating to expose the plate. The plate is then set in a bath of acid, and the exposed lines are eaten out. Varnish can be applied to cover up marked areas when only a light line is required, and the plate can be set in the bath multiple times to create varying depths of line.
….Solar Etching: Solar etching plates have a specialized coating. A transparency with the drawing rendered in opaque ink is placed on the coated plate. The plate is exposed to direct sunlight, which goes through the transparent areas of the drawing and hardens those areas of the plate. Protected, opaque areas of the drawing keep the plate soft, and the soft areas are rinsed away with water. The entire plate is then exposed to sunlight to harden everything. Either block printing or intaglio techniques can be achieved on a solar plate.
….Aquatint: This is a technique of dusting a plate with fine particles of rosin, and heating the plate to melt it in place. When the plate is set in the acid bath, a fine speckling is created instead of crosshatched lines to create shifts in tone. By altering the time in the bath for the plate, subtle shifts in tone can be created with soft edges.
….Mezzotint: This is a very grueling technique in which the entire printing plate is covered with fine pits that hold ink, to create what would be an overall printing of black. Then, with burnishers and scrapers, the highlights are smoothed back out to be wiped clean of ink when the plate is printed. The plates are ‘rocked’ with a ‘mezzotint ‘rocker’, which has the look of a flat chisel with a curved edge blade. Sharp points along its edge create the marks in the plate. It is rocked back and forth across the plate, over and over again, until the plate is covered with pits that hold ink. There is a great deal of control over the tones in a mezzotint plate, and the dark areas are rich and velvety.

And there ya go. Lots of things can be used to make prints. Sculpting clay can be baked into hardened plates after the design is created. Objects can be fixed to a base plate and inked, creating a raised design, or Collagraph. Leaves and seeds can be inked and pressed to paper, and so can fish.

My cats have so far refused to take part in any experiments of cat-printing, however…



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