The Mezzotint

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The Mezzotint process was invented by Ludwig Von Seigen in Amsterdam in 1642. It is a laborious and time-consuming technique for creating a print, and primarily for this reason is not widely used today. While the process seemed in danger of disappearing at times, it has enjoyed a resurgence of interest by artists and collectors during the past decade.

Mezzotints are noted for images created through a tonal process, rather than the incision of lines on the copper plate. Another distinctive difference from other intaglio prints is that the image usually emerges from a black background. The effect is created by pitting the entire surface of the plate, using a tool called a rocker or roulette, so that it would initially print as a solid black background.

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The artist then flattens the pits and burrs using various burnishers and scrapers to create a variety of tones and shades of gray which form the image. A similar technique can be used to create additional plates in order to add color to the print.

James Groleau pulling a print fresh from the press.

James Groleau pulling a print fresh from the press.


Five plates were used in the execution of most of the images in the 'Flowers of Turbulence' series, with the application of as many as ten color inks applied á la poupée. The use of multiple-plate technique allows for a rich, dense color by providing the means to overlay various hues. It also provides the opportunity for the subtle layering of imagery, illustrated by the faint impression of barbed wire visible under the skin of "Oboedientia," or by falling leaves in "Genocidium." These underlying images suggest hidden motives, emotions, or talents.

"Oboedientia" by James Groleau

"Oboedientia" by James Groleau

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