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Included among the traditional intaglio printmaking methods is wood engraving.  It is a practice I've never tried as I don't have the right tools, or a suitable press to print the blocks - or a creative idea which might best suit its fiddly scale and high skill requirements!

 

Perhaps the most famous wood engraver of all was Thomas Bewick (1753 - 1828).  Bewick was also a notable naturalist and is best known for his A History of British Birds, which is admired to this day for the high quality, sharply observed and skilled wood engravings.  The book is considered the forerunner of all modern field guides.Perhaps the most famous wood engraver of all was Thomas Bewick (1753 - 1828). Bewick was also a notable naturalist and is best known for his A History of British Birds, which is admired to this day for the high quality, sharply observed and skilled wood engravings. The book is considered the forerunner of all modern field guides.

 

Wood engraving is usually done on the end grain of a block of boxwood, which is very hard, and so extremely fine detail is possible.  Wood engraving  became widely used in the nineteenth century as a method of reproducing pictures in books, newspapers and journals before the invention of photo-mechanical methods of reproduction, but was also occasionally used by artists as an original printmaking medium.

Intaglio Printmaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Engraving and decorating metalwork goes back to late antiquity with intaglio printmaking emerging in Europe in the late 1400s.  It seems to have been a development of the skills goldsmiths and metalworkers applied to decorate and embellish armour, musical instruments and religious objects.  The idea of making prints from engraved plates may well have originated with the practice of taking an impression on paper of an engraved design in order to keep a record of the work, or check the quality.

The traditional materials for intaglio printmaking contain quite a cocktail of acids and chemicals, the danger of which is unmatched in the creative arts.  The main dangers are in the etching solution, usually nitric acid, which when diluted even to its weakest level for etching a zinc or copper plate, is dangerous to the skin and eyes and the vapours are corrosive and harmful to breathe.

So, over recent years, the need for change in printmaking methods and materials has become compelling.  Many studios have converted completely to non-toxic printmaking methods - which is somethng I have been very keen to do after developing a serious skin condition a few years ago that was triggered by regular use of toxic solvents and acids. 

So, I have developed my own intaglio methods using easily available materials and water-based and soya-based inks, as well as using vegetable oil for cleaning up.  Techniques vary from print to print but involve a number of incising, scratching, sandpapering, glueing, and varnishing on clear polycarbonate sheets and mountboard offcuts.  I print them superimposed one on top of another, sometimes changing the order of printing.  The largest number of plates I have combined for one image is seven, but there are  problems with the time it takes to accurately register each plate in turn on the dampened paper before it dries and shrinks.

In due course, for the technically minded and fellow printmakers, I'll take photos and prepare a piece about the methods and materials used when I'm next working on an intaglio image.

 

 

Meanwhile, here's one I did earlier...........

Antarctic Commensalism.  Drypoint and carborundum 62cm x 38cm (edition of 8)