Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beth Kassay rocks our world with a three-plate mezzotint

Mezzotint: In this unique printmaking technique which is also called manière noire, or the black method, the plate is worked in reverse; from dark tones to light. The copper plate is first roughened with a mezzotint rocker so that, if inked, it would print a rich, solid black.

The areas that are not to print are then burnished and flattened to produce various grays and white. The outstanding quality of the mezzotint process is to produce the most subtle nuances of tone and value from rich, velvety blacks to glowing highlights. Although the origin of the mezzotint is not entirely known, in 18th- and 19th century England the process reached a zenith of technical perfection and popularity.

Tidbit: The term “off the rocker” derives from this process; often children were employed to rock plates and the mindless, repetitive process drove some of them crazy.

To achieve maximum amount of color, Beth Kassay created three mezzotint plates with each containing part of the image. The first will be printed in yellow, the second in red, and the third in blue. For her demonstration, she will ink each plate and print it in perfect registration. Here New Grounds director Regina Held introduces the very nervous and emotional artist to the packed audience.

Beth begins by laying out her three different color inks. At New Grounds, we use Akua Kolor water-based intaglio inks.

To completely cover the plates with ink, Beth rolls the ink on the printing surface with a brayer.

The plates are now ready to be wiped. The objective is to remove all the ink from the top layer of the plate and leave only the ink in the recessed areas behind. If she removes too much ink the image will be “over-wiped” and look grainy. If she does not remove enough ink the image will be too dark or “under-wiped.”

She finishes the plates by carefully wiping the edges.

Beth is now ready to print the first plate. Here she places the yellow plate on her registration sheet. The paper is then placed on top of the plate and she transfers the information on the plate to paper using the etching press. The etching press exerts between 500 and 2000 pounds of pressure and thus literally squeezes the ink into the dampened paper.

Now that Beth has printed the first color, she removes the printing blankets and “locks” the paper into position with a weight. This enables her to retain the exact position of the paper while she exchanges the yellow plate with the red plate.

Beth can now prints the red plate and finally the blue one (not shown) to pull the final print. Applause!!!!

If Beth wants to make a second impression, she will have to repeat all of the steps above, from inking and wiping the plates to putting them through the printing press. It is a labor of love.

This reception was a great success thanks to all of you who visited New Grounds, our fabulous volunteers who greet visitors and answer questions, our indispensable workshop and gallery assistant Tanya, and Anise and Cornelius who take care of the refreshments!

We hope to see you again in April!

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