Tag Archives: spit bite

Like Chalk And Cheese

17 Sep

I went to a weekend etching course at Trefeglwys Print Studio the weekend before last with two other printmakers – one of whom was Husb. He did some beautiful work but looking at what we produced emphasised that we’re like chalk and cheese. Here’s Husb’s beautifully modulated head of a child, burnished into a copper mezzotint plate, and my bonkers Mari Lwyd, an ancient Welsh traditional life-size puppet with a horse’s skull. Vive le Difference 😀



mari mezzo plate


Mad Mari: The First Proof

16 Sep

first proof

In the last half hour or so of Andrew Baldwin’s weekend etching workshop at Trefeglwys Print Studio, I did a first proof print (on the left) of my coffee lift / spit bite aluminium etching plate, using Charbonnel black ink onto soaked Hahnemulle paper. I’m really pleased with it. It’s completely different to the faux mezzotint Mari Lwyd that I did on the first day (below). Same subject but a completely different interpretation. I like them both.

double drop 1



Spit And Splatter

15 Sep

mad mari 1

Carrying on with the coffee lift plate I worked on at Trefeglwys Print Studio last weekend, after washing the coffee off the plate, leaving the black B.I.G. etching ground masking most of the aluminium, I dipped it in copper sulphate solution for quite some time to etch the exposed areas really deep so they’ll give a good strong black when printed. Then when I was happy with the amount etched, the B.I.G. ground was cleaned off with non-toxic paint stripper.


mad mari 2

Then I started to etch the rest of the plate using a spit bite technique, brushing and splashing and splattering copper sulphate solution onto the aluminium. You have to keep rinsing the plate because the copper sulphate leaves a dark ‘rust’ on the plate as it etches and this will eventually build up and stop the etching process. You can see it above – the darker areas to the left of the Mari Lwyd’s face. After the very precise and tight process of the mezzotint plate I also did at the workshop, I wanted to be much freer and looser with this one.

Tomorrow …. finishing the spit bite etch and printing the plate …..

And here’s one of Andrew Baldwin’s videos demonstrating coffee lift and spit bite


Mad Mari

14 Sep

mad mari 1

So as well as working on a copper mezzotint plate at Andrew Baldwin’s weekend course at Trefeglwys Studios last weekend, there was also time to prepare an aluminium plate with coffee lift and spit bite. I used another of my drawings of the traditional Welsh Mari Lwyd from one of my sketchbooks. The Mari Lwyd is weird looking at the best of times but in this drawing she looks proper mad. The first stage is to degrease the aluminium plate (soy sauce and whiting powder) and then draw onto it with instant coffee. I used brushes and a large-ish nib pen and a bit of splatter. Then once the coffee was dry, I coated it with Andrew’s B.I.G. etching ground and baked it in the oven for 4 minutes to set it. Then it was washed in cold water to lift off the coffee, leaving the design showing through the black ground (above).

More teccie stuff tomorrow ……

The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is an ancient Welsh tradition rooted in the celebration of the Celtic horse goddess, Epona, and appears around the New Year, always accompanied by a band of revellers who often travel from pub to pub. The tradition was almost wiped out by Christianity and just a few Maris were left in Wales by the mid-20th century, but there has been a strong revival in recent years. The Mari Lwyd is a life-sized puppet based on a real horse skull and is therefore very heavy. The Mari’s skull is usually decorated with flowers, ribbons and bells and the eye sockets are often filled as well, giving a sinister appearance. She wears a white shroud to hide the puppeteer underneath, who operates a contraption that snaps the skull’s mouth open and closed.


Mari 1

Mari Abertawe (the Swansea Mari Lwyd) celebrating the New Year in a local hostelry with her companions


Real horse skulls are quite hard to come by these days, but there are card flatpack ones available – see here.



Coffee And Spit Bite

25 Jul

I’m going to be at Swansea Print Workshop tomorrow and I’ll be preparing some aluminium plates ready for some coffee bite etching, using some of my drawings of Neolithic stone monuments for inspiration. Here’s a blog I did a while back about this technique, which was invented by Andrew Baldwin of Aberystwyth University, an expert in non-toxic etching……

More geeky printmaking stuff from last weekend’s B.I.G. Etching course with Andrew Baldwin at Swansea Print Workshop. The aluminium plate was degreased with whiting and soy sauce to get it re…

Source: Coffee And Spit Bite


I have been travelling across South Wales with Rhondda-born archaeologist Dewi Bowen and Swansea film maker Melvyn Williams, hunting the wild megalith, accompanied by my portable drawing board, portfolio of Fabriano paper and a bag full of assorted artist’s materials.  Dewi is researching his latest book on Neolithic monuments and Melvyn is making a documentary film of our literary and artistic adventures.

If you want to know more about my solo show in The Worker’s Gallery in the Rhondda Valley in September, please click here.

And if you want to see some of my other artwork, please click on the image below.


The First Proof!

5 May

First proof

I spent this afternoon at an Open Access session at Swansea Print Workshop, ready to take a first proof from my coffee-lift-spit-bite aluminium etching plate, developed at last weekend’s BIG Etching course with Andrew Baldwin. I chose a soft textured Somerset paper from St. Cuthbert’s Mill and Intaglio Printmaker’s Drypoint Shop Mix etching ink. It’s softer than the usual etching ink, specially designed for delicate drypoint plates, but I fancied using it on this because I like its soft smudginess.


I’m very pleased with this first proof of one of the standing stones I have been drawing over the past 2 months. The coffee lift technique is wonderfully free and suits my drawing style – I did most of the drawing onto the aluminium plate with a dip pen and a reed pen. I like the splashes and dribbles, so much more spontaneous than traditional copper plate etching with a hard ground.

Andrew Baldwin’s new book comes out in October in conjunction with the opening of the ‘BIG Exhibition’. The book will give step by step guides to all the processes that can be used with BIG. The call for entries for the exhibition is open from 1st June and is open to all who have made prints using BIG. All entries should first be sent to Andrew via atb@aber.ac.uk. The exhibition will open at The School of Art in October and then travel to other galleries in UK before going over to USA.

I’m travelling around South West Wales with archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching his new book on Neolithic / Bronze Age monuments. His previous book on the stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m currently working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.


Coffee And Spit Bite

4 May
The plate ready to print

The plate ready to print

More geeky printmaking stuff from last weekend’s B.I.G. Etching course with Andrew Baldwin at Swansea Print Workshop. The aluminium plate was degreased with whiting and soy sauce to get it ready for drawing on with instant coffee solution. I forgot to take a photo of mine being drawn, but Andrew Baldwin has kindly lent me a photo from his forthcoming book (below). Once I finished the coffee drawing I gave it a quick flash in the oven to dry it and then rolled over a layer of Andrew’s B.I.G. etching ground. I baked it for 6 minutes and then bathed it in warm water, which lifted off the areas that had been drawn with the liquid coffee, revealing the areas to take an aquatint and spit bite, which will be the darker areas of the print. Then a quick dunk in copper sulphate solution to etch a light grey aquatint, giving the metal a bit of a ‘tooth’.



The copper sulphate does some chemistry and reacts with the aluminium, effervescing a red residue. Once that happens, the etching process stops and the residue washed off to reveal the lightly aquatinted surface beneath. Once it dried, I added layers of localised etching using a brush and concentrated copper sulphate solution to darken the selected areas. Then I scrubbed off the B.I.G. ground with non-toxic paint stripper and a stiff scrubbing brush. Now it’s ready to take a first proof, which I will do at an Open Access session at Swansea Print Workshop tomorrow.


The image is of a standing stone I drew recently on one of my adventures through South Wales hunting the wild megalith. Please click here if you would like to see more of my artworks.

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