I have been attracted to the
variety and versatility of printmaking for many
years. During that time I have experimented with many
techniques, some quite bizarre, like sandblasting
resist treated plate glass, using caustic soda on
wood and linoleum and even an oxy-acetylene torch on
However, the rich velvety black one can
achieve with the mezzotint rocker has become my
preferred method of printmaking. It requires no
chemicals- just "elbow grease." While I
still sometimes rock over the entire surface of the
copper plate and then scrape and burnish in the
traditional way, I have, for several years, used the
rocker as a tool to create the image. At first it
seemed a clumsy approach but gradually I became adept
in manipulating it with precision. This has added a
whole new dimension to my work.
With this technique I created the
mezzotint " Silent Witness". After making a
few prints it occurred to me that I could develop the
image further by additional rocking, burnishing, dry
point and masking into different, though related
images. In this manner a series of prints was created
as each new idea was realised and proofed.
I make 5 or 6 prints before moving
on to further evolve an idea. " Silent
Witness," is number eleven of a series of
twelve. Sometimes a series is numerically larger. But
often after only a few metamorphoses I've fully
explored the primary image and 'retire' the plate. I
find this an exciting process and work on the plate
can be resumed after lengthy intervals when and if
After reading about Jean Christophe LeBlon's
attempts circa 1719 to create 3 plate colour
mezzotints I visited the print departments of the
Victoria and Albert Museum, the
British Museum and the National Gallery of Art in
Washington D.C. to see his work. I was shown some
large and rather disappointing portraits.
Nevertheless, I decided to try the technique.
It has been an ongoing challenge. I
usually create a master mezzotint plate, which I
offset onto two or more other plates of the same
size. Then I decide where and how to put the other
colours. Some of them must overlap others to produce
secondary hues. I use the rocker selectively and with
differing density to vary the intensity of the
colours. Registration is a problem especially with
the larger plates. "The Dragon Flies' was rocked
Colour mezzotints are very labour
intensive and seductive but, after doing nearly 50 of
them, I still prefer black and white.
A. David Crown, M.D. I.M.S.
4005 N.W 69th St.
Gainesville Florida, 32606
David is the founder of the International