Category: Printmaking approaches

Henry gets hung

I had two prints shortlisted for

The Summer Exhibition 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts

both were selected but only one was hung.

hanging at the RA 2019

Photo credit: Phil Sayer

As the print is quite dark, I framed it in a charcoal-coloured stained moulding, glazed with low-reflectance glass. Above is the lucky print waiting to be hung.

Henry at printing press0304

This picture shows me pulling a print of Wells Cathedral on a Rochat press.
Before finalising the image, I made 30 working proofs trying different inks, papers, colours and techniques.
Eventually, I chose a tinted chine collé laid over a Wells-made ‘Somerset’ paper. The chine collé is a conservation-grade paper made by hand in Japan. 

The print is on show in Gallery VII at the RA (no. 1070) until 12 August and can also be found in their online catalogue.


The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

10 June–12 August 2019

London W1J 0BD

RA Summer Exhibition 2019

©Henry Hagger 2019

Lithography: on stone and metal

In past blogs, I have shown examples of various forms of etching. In this one, I’ll talk about a completely different form of printmaking – lithography. Of all the printing techniques, lithography comes closest to painting in the marks that can be made.

Etching is an intaglio technique where the image is recessed into a plate. In lithography, the image is drawn onto a prepared flat surface with a greasy material and depends on the incompatibility of water and this grease. The greasy marks of the drawing can be made with crayons, special inks and diluted washes of grease-based materials applied with a nib or brush.

A stone can also be etched with acid, engraved or photo-sensitised.

Bavaria has the finest quality of fine-grained limestone in the world and it was here that Alois Sennefelder discovered the process of lithography in 1793. His experiments showed that by chemically treating the greasy marks of a drawing made on the stone, they could be made to accept printing ink while the areas with no drawing would, if dampened with water, stay ink-free.

The stones are usually about 3–4 inches thick, and therefore extremely heavy. The first stage of preparation is to remove any existing image on the stone by grinding it away with grit, and then polishing the whole surface with water of Ayr (a very hard stone) to remove any scratches. Next, the artist, choosing a size of grit suitable for the delicacy of the image, grains the surface of the stone with carborundum grit. The stone is then prepared for drawing by treating it with acetic acid. The image is drawn directly onto the stone, then treated with a mixture of gum arabic and nitric acid; and then left overnight to ‘cure’.

After several more operations, a non-setting ink is rolled onto the stone and proofed up to five times onto newsprint to achieve full strength of the image. If no alterations or adjustments are necessary, the stone is treated again with the gum-acid mixture and, after a further hour, the edition may be printed. Hand-made paper is carefully placed over the stone and above this, you place a make-ready of newsprint – to ensure an even surface. The stone, with paper in place, is wound through the special lithographic press and then the resulting print is hung up to dry.

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Once the printing of the edition is complete, the image will be erased from the stone by grinding it away, and thus the stone can be re-used over and over. All this grinding is done by hand, using a heavy steel device called a levigator and lots of water. It’s a very physical and messy business.

The technique was very popular in the nineteenth century for producing posters. Much of Toulouse Lautrec’s work was produced using this technique. It was normal to use several colours for these posters, each one requiring a separate stone. They were always printed by specialist workshops.

The more recent availability of pre-textured zinc and aluminium plates widens the scope of the technique and also allows for printing on a normal etching press. Printing from these plates uses similar techniques to printing from stone but is less arduous. The plates can be re-used up to five times before re-graining by a specialist becomes necessary. Together with the stones, each surface offers the artist its own advantages and limitations.

I have shown examples of lithographs taken from stones, from zinc, and also from aluminium plates. Sometimes, I have added to the print: by drawing with charcoal or pastel; by monoprinting over the lithograph from a separate sheet; or by adding watercolour. There is also an example of a lithograph printed on chine collé.

The stone of St. David‘s Cathedral was drawn with lithographic crayons in varying degrees of hardness and with lithographic ink applied with a dip pen.

The lightning in the print of Torcello shows an example of a mark made by engraving into the stone. You couldn’t make this mark on a lithographic plate.

Torcello – lithograph on stone (see stone marks around the edge)

S. Giorgio Maggiore is a two-plate lithograph. The Blue plate was drawn/painted with tusche mixed with distilled water.

San Giorgio Maggiore: two-plate lithograph with added pastel
San Giorgio Maggiore: the Blue plate












As you can gather, preparing and printing a lithograph takes time and physical effort but it does produce results, which are different to intaglio.

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©Henry Hagger 2019

Hastings: Dawn and Dusk

Here are two sides of Hastings: the fishing community at Rock-a-Nore and the trippers on the sands.

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Dawn is printed from a steel plate and uses the techniques of soft ground, aquatint, spit-bite, scraping, burnishing and dry-point.

As you can see, it went through several transformations, most notably at State 5 when there were five separate stoppings-out. After each stopping-out, the plate is placed back in the acid for a predetermined time. The time for each biting is different and the effect is cumulative. You can also see the effect of different wiping of the same state in images 3, 3a and 3b.

There is much scraping-out on this plate, which is a difficult job because steel is much harder than zinc. Steel, however, is better for colours, especially yellows, which, when wiped on zinc plates often take on a greenish hue.

In State 7, I have experimented with colour. These prints are monoprints (sometimes referred to as V.E. or varied edition), that is, they are variations printed from the same matrix: each one is unique.

Hastings state 6 monoprint 1 plate wiped in black and rolled in yellow 72dp
VE 1  © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 2 plate wiped in Umber and rolled in yellow72dpi
VE 2 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 3 plate wiped in black and rolled in yellow 72dpi
VE 3 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 4 wiped in black with orange roll 72dpi
VE 4 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 5 wiped in black with pale orange roll 72dpi
VE 5 © Henry Hagger

I used a different technique to the à la poupée that I showed you in Spanish Journey: Part IV: Ronda and Madrid. Here the dark ink is wiped into the intaglio and the lighter colour, which may be modified to alter its consistency or viscosity, is applied over the plate with a roller. Thus, when printed, the dark ink is the top layer.

I was particularly attracted by the foremost boat, RX55. Clinker-built boats have such graceful lines and, in the round, are beautifully crafted sculpture.

There is no harbour at Hastings and the fishing boats are pulled up onto the beach by a big tractor. Boats are registered at the nearby port of Rye, hence the RX numbers on their prow.

Old tales, young dreams, intaglio gravure, 300 dpi RSMA 2014, SocAA2017 , Discerning Eye 2016
Old Tales, Young Dreams © Henry Hagger

The Dusk plate is intaglio gravure wiped in a blue/black blend to give an impression of the sea at dusk.

A father and his children sit on the shingle, with the Hastings Pier in the background. He appears to be telling a tale to his daughter, while his son, who has heard all the tales before, looks away and dreams of what he will do when he grows up. Old Tales, Young Dreams.

I was fascinated by the silhouette of the Pier seen against the sparkling light on the sea, and engaged by the domestic scene in the foreground.

©Henry Hagger 2018

Spanish Journey: Part IV Ronda and Madrid – The Final Chapter

I took a few days out from my Spanish commission to visit the town of Ronda, famous for its bullring and for the Puente Nuevo. The temperature here in August exceeds 40°C during the middle of the day, so I worked in the morning and in the late afternoon when it was cooler.

Ronda morning,  from my sketchbook   72dpi.jpg
A Page from my sketchbook

Some artists have a motif which they find so fascinating that they return to it again and again. In my case (and that of David Bomberg before me), it is the ‘new’ bridge at Ronda. Built from 1751–1793 by Juan Antonio Díaz Machuca to a design by José Martín de Aldehuela, it is the most recent of the three bridges which cross the river Guadalevín. The earlier ones were built further upstream where the river is not as wide, as only smaller spans were possible at the times of their construction. The building at the top of the gorge is the Parador, which I have simplified for effect.

I have already shown you some prints of the dramatic gorge in my first blog. Here are some more images showing different approaches to the same motif:

Ponta Nueva , Ronda , charcoal, 35 x 50 , £480.jpg
Charcoal drawing © Henry Hagger
Ronda large BW etching 2.jpg
Soft-ground etching © Henry Hagger


One way of adding colour to prints is to apply individual colours to a single plate surface with small inking tools called ‘dollies’. The technique is known as à la poupée ( French for ‘ with a doll’). As you can imagine, it is a delicate operation and takes time. I used this method in the colour intaglio prints shown in the Gallery.

Puente Nuova -Ronda, colour etching VE , 30x40 cm jpeg 72dpi
Mono-print inked à la poupée © Henry Hagger


This watercolour was exhibited at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Ronda afternoon ,watercolour 72dpi.jpg
Ronda Afternoon © Henry Hagger

The ‘Morning’ version was also shown at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in their Contemporary Watercolours Exhibition.

Ronda morning, watercolour 72dpi.jpg
Ronda Morning © Henry Hagger

See the Gallery, for more of Ronda: intaglio prints, some touched with pastel; and a Lithograph.

The prints of the bullfight and of the Sherry bar in Madrid are from a later trip but I’ve included them in this Spanish blog.

Bullfight 72dpi
Sol y Sombra ©Henry Hagger

Sol y Sombra was drawn from a photo in the Tauromachy Museum – the bullfighting museum at the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda. This was printed from two plates (another way of adding colour) and is a varied edition.

CAH La Venencia Madrid 2 colour etching 9 x 12cm
La Venencia ©Henry Hagger

La Venencia is also a two-colour edition. The actual venencia from which this unspoilt Madrid tapas bar gets its name can be seen hanging behind the bar to the left of the picture

– and below is a page from my sketchbook.

La Venencia sketch 1  72dpi.jpg
La Venencia sketch ©Henry Hagger


©Henry Hagger 2018

Spanish Journey: Part III Jerez Bodegas and Beyond

When I moved from Sanlúcar to Jerez, I made sure that I had an air-conditioned room. Result, bliss!

August is the end of the season for the sherry makers, the harvest is in and it is just too hot to work. Jane C. Ward was kind enough to invite me to their end-of-year party at Lustau. After swirling the amber nectar round the glass, the professionals always throw a little onto the floor. I never discovered the origin nor reason for this habit. I think it might be superstitious, like, for example, throwing salt over the shoulder.

Historically, there is quite a lot of British influence in the sherry houses. Sr Beltrán Domecq Williams González gave me a tasting of the entire Domecq range. Sadly, Domecq has been taken over but Sr Domecq is now President of the Consejo Regulador of Jerez. Domecq and González Byass also took me to their vineyards, where I made a couple of pastel sketches.

Before I made this visit to Spain, I was not a fan of sherry. When I returned, I definitely was! If you are prepared not to follow fashion and choose carefully, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the variety and the quality of this undervalued wine.

My trip to the sherry region was a commission from The Wine Society, whose current list contains examples from each of these producers – Domecq is now listed as Osborne.

I have included some prints of other parts of Spain:

blog 15 Arcos, Spain 3 plate etching 12x 8 cm each plate ed.VE 5 £220BLOG
Arcos ©Henry Hagger

A triptych of Arcos, a hill town. This is a two-colour varied edition (sometimes called a monoprint) where each print is unique.

The end of season party at Lustau soft ground 12 x x9 cm
The Aficionado ©Henry Hagger

The Aficionado (a portrait of a guest at Lustau’s party) is a soft-ground etching in a  two-colour edition.

Spanish journey part 1 Mending casks at Lustau 11.5 x 8 cm
Fixing the Cask ©Henry Hagger

Fixing the Cask is a portrait of a tonelero working in one of Lustau’s bodegas

My preliminary drawings for these prints of the Jerez bodegas were exhibited in The Derwent Art Prize 2016

Jerez Bodega I © Henry Hagger
Jerez Bodega II © Henry Hagger

In these two landscape pastels below, the stark white of the soil contrasts with the green of the vines.

Jerez Vineyard I ©Henry Hagger
Jerez Vineyard II ©Henry Hagger

©Henry Hagger 2018