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No Chemicals - Just Elbow Grease.

By David Crown, M.D. I.M.S.

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 zinc.

Silent WitnessHowever, 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 newly inspired!

The Dragon FliesAfter 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 and dry-pointed.

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 Mezzotint Society

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