Just scratching the surface


Drypoint print

On Wednesday morning I had a bit of a dash over to Thirsk to Rural Arts where I had booked myself onto a Drypoint printmaking course tutored by Andy Dalton.

etching press

The drypoint process – a printmaking technique in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed ‘needle’ of sharp metal – was explained.  An etching press is required for this intaglio (the word comes from mid 17th century Italian, from intagliare meaning to ‘engrave’) printmaking, because the ink lies in the furrows created by the incisions and pressure is needed to force the paper to pick up this ink.  The paper is dampened to help the process.

dampening the print paper

We were shown how to ink up our drypoint plates (we used acrylic sheet) and how do the ‘kiss test’ to check if the paper was exactly the right amount of damp!

inking the drypoint plate

After that, it was a matter of getting to use the tools and we were initially encouraged just to make marks and learn about the effects achieved by different points and implements (the use of a 6″ nail and sandpaper were demonstrated).  I began rather tentatively, and thought best to number my lines of incised marks, so that afterwards I could remember what effect came from what tool.

first mark making

Once through the press all was revealed.  I completely forgot that I had to reverse my numbers so that they came out the right way on the print.  Anyway, that aside, it was a good start.

my first drypoint print

My print drying

Looking at my print hanging to dry, I realised that I needed to pay more attention to inking up process – it looks very grey because there is still ink on the unscratched area of the plate.  On to the next print.

bird with egg drypoint print

Andy was a very good tutor, giving guidance where needed and encouraged me to be more spontaneous and free with my engraving, a bit more ambitious and experimental perhaps.  I knew exactly what he meant, but actually I found it rather difficult and a raft of doubt and insecurity sailed my way.  It does when you’re trying new things and you’re unsure of the outcome, but I tried to follow his suggestion and example.

owl drypoint print

It felt rather exciting (revealing too) and I learned a lot from this print.  Dry point prints give a very specific look from the scratched drawing, which can be delicate or determined, but the ink also catches in the burrs thrown up when inscribing with the sharp metal, and this produces a lovely velvety look to the lines.  I enjoyed my day immensely.





  1. Comment by Ellen Abbott:

    fun, huh! I tried a new technique two years ago with frit…sifting it onto the glass and then using a brush to remove everything that wasn’t supposed to be there. very loose and spontaneous which is totally not the way I work. so yeah, doubt and insecurity but I really like the piece I did.

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      Sounds great Ellen, good to try new and shift the way we work occasionally.

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