Driving home one evening I saw this beautiful badger dead on the side of the road. She was a pregnant female, heavy, swollen belly and teats. I was so sad. I spent some time with her, observing closely every detail so I could keep her memorised and later honour her life, one mother to another. Her soft velvety brown paw-pads and mud encrusted claws from digging; how the fur on her muzzle was silky smooth until it was harsh bristles on her hindquarters. The deep blacks and mottled greys. Her sweet tufted ears, the snarl of pain and her clean white teeth. I worked in my sketchbook later, hoping that the ideas would come to me.
And then I discovered mezzotint…
I’ve spent the past few weeks working on this plate, but now I feel it is finished. I hope I have been successful in bringing her back to life, the snarl of physical pain and the glassy eyes replaced with a heartbeat and warmth of fur, and a sense of sadness. Sarah Gillespie, an artist I admire greatly, wrote a wonderful post a couple of years ago about drawing dead creatures with respect and gratitude.
One of the trickiest aspects of printmaking is knowing when enough is enough. It’s always tempting to add extra detail or scrape away a little more. My teacher says he always frames his proofs and hangs them where he will see them frequently and if they need more work he will make a better decision like that, rather than in the heat of the moment.
At the same time as the badger mezzotint I have been working on an aquatint. This has been in progress since last December, and knowing when to call it a day has been really, really difficult! Over winter it’s a challenge to keep my momentum going, my studio is open at the back and thus too cold for me to work in there. Instead, I get the moka pot bubbling or a large brew of something herbal, put on some music (right now I’m revisiting the huge CD collection we have, and I’ve fallen in love all over again with Blood On The Tracks) and take over the large table by the wood burner, laying out what I need for the day and trying to hunker down.
Now spring is in the air, sun is shining and for the past few days I’ve been busying myself with lumens, cyanotypes and pinhole experiments that I will show-and-tell soon.