When two processes collide!

Originally posted on 24th October 2015.


As I enthused in my last blog post, I had discovered the intaglio illustration process of etching and drypoint, aided by a five-evening introductory course at the SpikePrint open studio at Bristol Harbourside.  Whereas I have enjoyed trying my hand at the popular linocut and woodcut relief processes, neither really came naturally to me.  Etching and drypoint processes allowed me to easily scribe detailed imagery onto a plate, and then created moody shading effects by selectively rubbing the Ink off the plate prior to printing on an etching press.  The process of drypoint, in particular appealed to me, with its velvety etching lines and the fact that, unlike etching, no nasty chemicals or plate preparation are required.  Drypoint can easily be created even on Perspex sheets as well as zinc or copper plate.

So armed with this new technique, I was keen to employ this process when creating a book, but then the issues started!  Letterpress, along with natural partner relief printing techniques such as linocut, woodcut and wood engraving, facilitate easy repetition of the printed work, expecially in the hands of an experienced printer armed with an Arab or similar treadle press. Intaglio processes however, by their very nature are very different, each individual print requiring the time-consuming careful rubbing of the image plate and the dampening of individual paper sheets before the two are united in the etching press.  Even using my basic galley press, I can create up to 30 single colour letterpress prints in one hour, but just four good intaglio prints in the same amount of time.


Another issue to contend with, relating specifically to the creation of drypoint prints, is the fact that the useful life of each plate is very short, especially if Perspex sheets are used.  This is due to the fact that the characteristic burr, thrown-up by the etching needle, holds much of the ink that makes up the print.  This burr is fragile, and after as little as three passes (using Perspex) through the etching press under high pressure, breaks-down, and the image quality noticeably degrades.  The use of more resilient copper plate improves matters but only slightly, permitting around ten prints to be taken before breaking-down.

In the end, I decided to add the drypoint images into my latest book ‘A Little Boke of Iford’ by resorting to scanning and inkjet printing the original drypoint prints, and using letterpress for the rest.  Whereas this overcame this problem, I could not help but feel that the value and magic of creating a handmade book, had now become somewhat compromised by an unwelcome modern-day printing process, more associated with day-to-day quick prints of documents and family snapshots, than something as special as a handmade book.  Despite having now printed a small book that I am generally pleased with, I feel that my next project to include intaglio content, must include original original prints instead, despite the increased time and effort involved (even for a very small edition), either by using drypoint or acid etch processes.  After all, had time to create a book been an issue at all (which it is not), then even letterpress would have been the wrong solution, and the whole lot could have been churned out on a laser printer in seconds, a brief but totally soul-less activity!

Long Time - no Blog!

Originally posted on 5th August 2015. 

Right, I’ve just managed to locate my WordPress password and log back onto my much-neglected blog site after an absence of just over one year. Quite a lot has happened over the last 12 months, not least my continuing to explore my intaglio printmaking side following an excellent short drypoint and etching course run by Jo Hounsome at Bristol’s SpikePrint studio early last year. These mediums have allowed me to create prints inspired by great printmakers such as Janes McNeill Whistler and Ernest David Roth who recorded the beautiful architecture of Venice in etchings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Hard ground etching of Venetian windows

Hard ground etching of Venetian windows

The last 12 months has also seen the start of my involvement in BSpoke16, a local Art Fair held just north of Bristol, set up by local printmaker Kathryn Williams. These fairs, as well as giving the obvious benefit of selling my work, are a great opportunity to meet up with other sellers and gain a valuable insite into what items of my work, clicks with buyers.

My stand at the BSpoke16 event

My stand at the BSpoke16 event

Also, in recent weeks, I have been concentrating on my second book, made up of letterpress type (Bodoni of course!) and printed scans of my early drypoint prints. A small Boke of Iford, is my own small tribute to Harold A. Peto, who in the early 20th century, created an Italianate Garden masterpiece in the grounds of the newly acquired Iford Manor, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. Recently, I managed to unearth a collection of photographs taken at the Peto Gardens, during a visit ten years before. I have always wanted to created something inspired by this visit, and my engagement with the process of drypoint has given me the opportunity to do this in a book.

Peto Garden drypoint

Peto Garden drypoint

I am hoping to complete this project in the coming couple of months, so will provide an update as soon as all pages and covers are printed and bound.