Monday, May 26, 2008

"Under Tree"

"Under Tree" is an aquatint etching done a few years ago. The image was drawn directly on the surface of a specially coated zinc plate, the sharp metal drawing tool removing the protective resin coating. The plate was then immersed in an acid bath to etch the lines into the plate. Once satisfied with the quality of the line, I sprayed layers of lightly diffused spray paint onto the surface, which when dipped in the acid gave the gray-tone effect to the appropriate areas.
The finished plate was hand-inked, wiped to remove the upper surface ink, leaving only the pigment in the etched lines and aquatint textured areas. The plate was then run trough an old hand-cranked printing press with individual dampened sheets of high grade German etching paper. This print is the result. This traditional handcrafted approach to printmaking is slow and labor intensive, but at its' best, highly rewarding. Each time you peel back a newly printed sheet from the plate it's a bit like opening a Christmas present, sometimes you get a fabulous gift, sometimes a lump of coal! (I've never actually received a lump of coal for Christmas, but my Grandfather, being a rather naughty young fellow,  did on several occasions).
The image itself comes from an experience I had on a night ambush in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, with a full moon illuminating the countryside and our small group of infantrymen positioned in the moon-shadow of a large old tree overlooking the area. I took my watch sitting up, motionless, looking and listening in a state of hyper-vigilance. I was repeatedly struck on the head by some sort of seed pod, often enough that I finally moved out from under the tree, and still I was struck several times more! How and why became a great mystery until the first rays of dawn revealed a wild monkey sitting in the branches of the tree, very upset at the strangers below who had surrounded his tree during the night. I must say that monkey had very good aim, I was glad he hadn't been throwing something softer, as I had seen his caged brothers do in the San Diego Zoo!