Monday, 16 June 2014

The Narcissist

For a little while now I have been meaning to post about the mezzotint you see pictured here. This past winter I spent my Tuesdays taking the train back and forth across Scotland so I could spend some time at Glasgow Print Studios learning about this lovely, tonal printmaking process. The print is quite small, only 10 x 14 cm, so many of these faces you see here are probably about the size of your littlest fingernail.

Mezzotint is a little less common than other printmaking techniques, but basically how it works is that the surface of a metal plate is roughened by passing over it many, many times with a tool called a 'rocker' which is covered with tiny, steel teeth. Rocking a plate is a very long process. For a small plate like this it will take hours and hours, and for a large plate it could even take months. Once the rocking is finished, the plate, if printed, would produce a rich, velvety black tone. Any lightening of this black tone is achieved by scraping away at the rough plate to make it smoother, so it holds less ink when it is printed. If you like you, can watch a video of this process here.

I really fell in love with this type of printing. Even as I was attracted by the rich tones of mezzotint, I worried that it would be almost impossible to make small, precise images. Happily this was not the case, and there seem to be endless possibilities with this medium. So, even if the plate preparation is rather long, I am really looking forward to making many more mezzotints in the future.


  1. WOW! that is amazing, and gorgeous, and a little bit creepy... i love the tones and shadows. is the rocking meditative at all?

  2. Beautiful beautiful work, Jodi!

    I remember doing a mezzotint on a section of a large etched plate many many years ago - what a lot of work - and physical pain - a one and only time. So, I admire your patience and hard work and the great results.

  3. Zoe,

    Thanks! And I know, it is a bit creepy... even I have to admit it this time... The rocking is rather meditative I suppose. A good alternative to counting grains of rice I would think.


    Thank you! I am going to try to work with a little jig on the next plate that I rock. I think that will be a help as far as the arm strain is concerned. I felt like the actual scraping went a lot faster than I expected. Though maybe that's just because I'd had to rock the plate first! Wishing you lots of lovely days in your garden and lots of new prints!