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Artist's description:

This print was exhibited at the 2011 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I loved working on the illustrations for 'The Game Cook' drawing feathers and fur was a change from my normal scales and fins! I am still drawn to scales and the Armadillo seemed a perfect combination of fur and scales. Many of my ideas stem from childhood memories and the Armadillo is no exception. My mother had a china jelly mould in the shape of an Armadillo, which had an extraordinary amount of detail and it now strikes me as an very odd animal to portray in jelly! This little fellow was drawn from a specimen at the Natural History Museum in London. I managed to find somewhere quiet to work and was sitting alone drawing the Armadillo when a chap walked in, glanced with surprise at the Armadillo and muttered as he left 'you never know what you are going to find in this place, someone in the Mollusc Library drawing an Armadillo!'"

Mezzotints are produced on copper plates. The entire surface of the plate is roughed 'rocked' with a tool known as a Mezzotint Rocker, which is shaped like a wide chisel with a curved and serrated edge. This is traditionally held in the hand at an angle of 45 degrees, I use a 'Rocking Pole' which at one end has a clamp that holds the rocker at the desired angle, at the other end is a bearing which runs up and down an angle iron. This allows for more control and the simplification of the rocking process which is very labourious at the best of times! By rocking the toothed edge backwards and forwards over the plate, a rough burr is cast up which holds the ink. Once this is completed, a drawing can be transferred onto the plate, using carbon paper.When printed, the textured ground reads as a uniform dark; the areas to be lightened are scraped and burnished - therefore, working from dark to light - a reverse technique to etching and engraving. Little can compare the Mezzotint in the richness of its blacks; it is unique among the intaglio printmaking processes.The preparation of the plate can take 25 hours or more before the artist can start work on the design, but the beautiful, soft velvety finish is so unique to the mezzotint process that it more than justifies the skill and patience involved. In the 18th Century, small boys were employed to 'rock' the plates up and the extreme tediousness of the work, combined with the poor pay and working conditions, sent many of the poor things into mental decline, hence the term "off one's rocker".

The Armadillo print is supplied mounted in white acid free board, backed and wrapped in cellophane

Materials used:

Printed on to Somerset paper with etching ink.

Armadillo (Mezzotint) (2011)


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Debby Mason

United Kingdom

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