What is a Mezzotint?
The mezzotint was first developed in the 17th century and until the 20th century was used as a way of reproducing paintings for the mass market rather than as a technique in its own right. However, it has undergone a bit of a revival and there are now a number of printmakers working in the medium.
It is a very labour intensive process. The artist works on a copper plate which has been 'rocked' using a Mezzotint Rocker which is a chisel shaped tool with a curved, toothed blade. The teeth indent the plate and throw up burrs. To achieve a consistent texture the rocker has to move across the plate in all directions. This must be done in a methodical fashion otherwise the surface will not be uniform. Rocking the plate takes quite some time. A very large plate will take days to prepare. A small one, the size of the images I produce, might take 4 hours or more. This may be the origin of the expression 'to go off one's rocker'!
The rocked plate would print a deep, intense black. The mezzotint artist essentially works from dark to light. To achieve the tonal range that characterises the mezzotint the burr must be gently scraped and smoothed using a scraper and burnisher to create the image. These areas will hold varying degrees of ink depending on how much of the burr has been removed and burnished. A mezzotint print is often, but not always, printed in black ink as this allows the subtle tones and velvety blacks to be shown to their full advantage.
Mezzotint plates are rather fragile and the huge pressure exerted by the press means that the burr is eventually flattened and the image degenerates. My editions are therefore quite small.
All my mezzotints are original, hand pulled prints with the edition number, title and signature underneath the image. They are usually printed on an off white Hahnemuhle or Somerset etching paper.
Visit my Mezzotint Gallery.
Prices range from £45 - £135.