All of my prints begin as a drawing - sometimes even just a quick, scribbly sketch.Once I am happy with my design I re-draw the image (in reverse) onto my chosen plate and start working into it with my printmakers’ tools.
My prints are typically ‘limited edition’ originals, which means that together they form a select number of prints taken from one finished plate - usually copper, zinc, perspex or even cardboard - that I have manipulated with specialist tools.
I usually use intaglio methods such as mezzotint, drypoint, collagraph or etching; in these a design has been cut, engraved or carved below the surface. Printmaking is not a process that can be rushed - and each print in an edition takes time to make as the plate is carefully inked up by hand again to be rolled through the press.
When my plate is ready to be printed I 'ink up': ink is pushed into the lines and burrs created during the engraving process. Then the white parts of the image are wiped clean and polished with tissue paper.
Don't let the speed of the video here fool you... it is a slow, meditative and considered process!
When ready, I pop the plate onto the etching press bed and place pre-dampened printmaking paper over it; this is then rolled between the heavy rollers of the printing press to push the ink held in the lines/dots/burrs onto the paper above.
The plate is then re-inked, wiped and printed for each subsequent copy - never a speedy process, but always a labour of love!
The Mezzotint Process
Mezzotint is known as the ‘dark to light method'. The surface of a copper plate is first roughened using a mezzotint ‘rocker’ which is a tool that when rocked back and forth systematically over the entire plate (many times, in many directions!) pricks the surface with its tiny teeth making thousands of holes and burrs that will hold ink when printed. If inked up at this stage the whole plate would print in a uniform tone.
To make an image the white parts of the design are smoothed out with scrapers and burnishers that remove the burrs and pits on the surface so that they will no longer hold ink.
It’s a very time consuming process and can take days or more often weeks but it is also very rewarding - there is no tone like it!