The making of 'Memento Mori' cat skull etching

The making of 'Memento Mori' cat skull etching

'Memento Mori' is a zinc plate aquatint etching, printed onto Fabriano Rosaspina 285gsm acid free paper with Cranfield Caligo safe wash oil-based ink. This print is based on a photograph of my old Maine Coon cat Finnegan. He sadly passed away a few years ago at the good old age of 14 years.

Before starting the drawing for this print I needed a good reference. This print is based upon my old Maine coon cat Finnegan. This may upset some readers, but as he had been dead for a couple of years, I personally felt ok in digging up his skull. Maine coons have particularly large and robust skulls so it was important to me to have an accurate reference. Here you can see me studying it and comparing it to that in the image. I used my vintage proportional dividers seen below to create an accurate measured drawing as reference.

drawing of a cat skull

Like most of my prints the first stage was to draw out the design in my sketchbook. Before transferring the design to the zinc plate however, I first had to prepare the plate. This involves filing down the edges, polishing, and de-greasing. A thin 'hard ground' is then applied. This protects the plate from the copper sulphate that is used to etch. I used Charbonnel liquid ground for this print. Once the ground is dry the image is transferred using white carbon paper. This acts as a guide for me to gently scratch the image into the ground, exposing the metal.

cat skull portrait etching work in progress

Once the line is drawn, the plate is placed in a bath of copper sulphate for a few minutes. This etches just the exposed lines. 'Aquatinting' is the process of adding areas of tone. As this is a zinc plate, a spray aquatint was first applied over the line etching. I then used Lascaux stop out resit to protect certain areas. Like the ground before, any areas covered up are stopped from etching. This can be built up in layers to give the different tones.

 cat skull aquatint etching work in progress

The following video demostrates the key stages of the etching process:

And here is the finished print. Printed onto Fabriano Rosaspina 285gsm acid free paper with Cranfield Caligo safe wash oil-based ink.

This is a limited edition of 25 prints.
Actual print size: 20 x 12.5cm
Paper size: 29.5 x 23cm

 cat skull portrait etching

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