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Oh, I like this

Norman Ackroyd. I like his stuff.

He’s a printmaker who works mainly in mezzotint — a kind of etching where you essentially ‘rough up’ the plate to hold ink in shades of gray. I found him on YouTube when I was looking for techniques of inking plates. With intaglio, that’s the hard part — inking up the plate.

Surface prints, like wood or linoleum cuts, you run an inky roller over the surface for the black and the stuff you’ve cut away are the whites. Easy peasy. Kind of.

Intaglio, where lines are etched or engraved into a plate, you have to force the ink down into those lines for the darks, then wipe it off the surface for the lights. This is tricky as hell. Wipe too much, and you pull the link out of the lines. Don’t wipe enough and the print looks dirty.

You ink up, then you wipe and wipe and wipe, usually with wipery things that aren’t very absorbent. Inky rags, starched muslin, newsprint. It’s what gives intaglio that soft, dream-like quality sometimes. (Ackryod’s technique is the fastest I’ve ever seen, btw).

Properly done, every print is exactly like every other in the run. When the plate starts to deteriorate (because of all the wiping and pressing) and the last print doesn’t look like the first, you halt the series, ruin the plate (by gouging a line through it, for example) and pull a print with the ruined plate. It’s so hard to do a whole run to a proper standard, even seasoned printmakers usually hire a professional pressman.

That’s the tradition, and traditional traditionalists are super strict about it. I’m beginning to question how traditionalist I am.


Comment from Ric Fan
Time: June 12, 2018, 10:34 pm

I like when they use those leather mops to apply ink to plates. Also those fat suede pommels.

Comment from Weaseltablet3
Time: June 12, 2018, 10:45 pm

My next username will be Fat Suede Pommel.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: June 12, 2018, 11:19 pm

There’s an app to make your pet talk. Works pretty well:


Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: June 13, 2018, 12:20 am

Looks very Japanese, I really think so.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: June 13, 2018, 2:54 am

If you want REALLY tricky as hell, try deep bite etching. For those not familiar with the technique, it involves etching the plate to different depths for different colors. Inks of different viscosities are applied with rollers of varying softness. The softest goes deepest, the next goes to one level less deep, and so on up. With the different viscosities, the inks do not mix. All inks are applied before the print is pressed; all colors are transferred to the paper in one go.

I’m the lucky owner of a print by Frank Wright called The Skirmish that I bought as a teenager. It’s the best art purchase I’ve ever made.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: June 13, 2018, 3:02 pm

Destroy the plate! I’m speechless …
I really fell for this one: https://zillahbellgallery.co.uk/product/norman-ackroyd-ra-january-sunrise-ludlow-dinham-weir/

I wish I could afford one.

@UncleAl—I’m happy that you bought such a print when you were a teenager.

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: June 13, 2018, 4:53 pm

You artist types is weird people.

But youse do nice woik.
Be a shame if someone was to gouge a line in your plate, if you catch my meaning.

Seriously though, not just the art and skill in the ability to capture an image, real or imagined, but the thinking and science involved in bringing it all “to life” – especially in the deep bite etching Uncle Al discusses.

People really are amazing when we’re not busy bashing each other over the head with thighbones.

Comment from Drew458
Time: June 13, 2018, 9:00 pm

I dunno, as a retired software programmer I look at things differently. Both the intaglio and the deep bite inking method look like kludges – inconvenient work arounds – for improperly designed methods and people who are too stubborn to change to something better. Like precision paper alignment so you can print the blue, then the red, then the green etc colors without all that twitchy wiping and layering.

I watched about 2 minutes of that video and nearly fell asleep. I can’t get behind such a time consuming, OCD process like that. And that’s the fast method??? Which is why I’m not an artist I guess.

PS – for some odd reason, this comments window is always about 3 characters too narrow. I can never see the left edge of what I’m typing if I write more than a full line.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 13, 2018, 10:18 pm

That’s odd, Drew. I don’t know why that is, except that I fudged the WordPress theme in my own inimitable way. That is, I have no idea what I@m doing….

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: June 14, 2018, 2:40 am

@Drew458 & S. Weasel – Although it is mighty hard to see, there’s a little gadget in the lower right corner of the comment box. It looks like two tiny faint diagonal lines. If you grab that with the mouse pointer you can drag it around to re-size and -shape the comment box (within reasonable limits).

We windy SOBs find it quite useful.

Comment from Tnnitus
Time: June 15, 2018, 3:46 am

Ahh… mebbes I am last to see a Muckle Flugga being prepped & pressed, Norman Ackroyd says it keeps him out of bother, no waste of y’alls time to view this one for sure…


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