The Inside Continued – Editioning
In last week’s post I had made it as far as a successful proof for the inside of my book object “The Great Library of Alexandria”. You would think that a successful proof would mean that things were sorted, but as soon as I tried to make an edition of the drypoint, I had problems.
As I’ve said before, I’m not experienced in intaglio printmaking, and with a drypoint especially, there is quite a bit of lee-way in how you wipe back the ink. In case you’re not clear, a drypoint works like this.
What is a drypoint exactly?
* you take a plate (traditionally copper, but also used are zinc, perspex, other plastics and even illustration board coated with wood varnish, as I wrote here)
* and a pointed scribe of some sort (even a nail can be used at a pinch)
* and you draw, creating “a burr” or a raised edge on the plate. It is this which catches the ink for printing in addition to the line you have scribed.
Once your image is done, you cover the plate with ink and wipe it back with tarlatan (a coarsely woven fabric traditionally used by printmakers) using circular movements. Working this way forces the ink down into the line and burr, while removing it from the surface.
When you print a drypoint, you achieve a very particular type of line. One that to me, is very beautiful. It is soft and fuzzy, yet rich and dark. And the burr is essential to that mark.
The Great Library of Alexandria (detail)
You can imagine that the burr is very fragile, even more so with perspex than say copper. So, as I tried to make my edition of about 12, I was wiping very carefully and also trying to replicate the original plate tone, which had contributed so much to the first proof.
After three or four attempts, none of which were usable, I began to realize that my plate might not last the edition. What to do? The plate was quite large, I didn’t want to start from scratch (no pun intended!).
Digital BFK Rives?
I knew that there is now a digital BFK Rives, produced by Canson. I wondered what the paper was really like, and whether it would be possible to reproduce a scan of the artists proof using it. I decided it was worth a try, and then I remembered that a while ago I bought a Canson inkjet paper sample pack. When I checked, there was a sample of the BFK Rives in the pack, so I downloaded the *free ICC profiles from Canson, pressed print and crossed my fingers.
I was actually stunned by the quality. I had expected to feel that it would be a major compromise to work this way, but in the end, it was such a practical solution for me. I love to work with my hands, and a mouse or even a graphics tablet can never be the same to me. Yet, so often I come up against my practical limitations, and am physically unable to create even a small edition like this without exhausting myself. It seems to me that making the original by hand and editioning it digitally is a good compromise.
*Using free ICC Profiles
Free ICC profiles can be downloaded from the websites of the paper manufacturers. If you’ve bought a fine art quality inkjet paper but found the colours hugely different from the colours on your monitor, using the ICC profile may help. I am planning to write a post about what profiles can and can’t do for you, and how to use them in the next month or so.