Drypoint Print – Sailing to Byzantium on Display at the Artisan Store Fremantle

This image is one of a series of six drypoints is inspired by the Conversations with Ghosts Concert/Album by Paul Kelly, James Ledger, Genevieve Lacey and other classical musicians. You can purchase this piece and others in the series at the Artisan Store Fremantle.

One of the songs took the Lyrics from The WB Yeats poem “Sailing to Byzantium”

Sailing to Byzantium drypoint print by Shana James
Sailing to Byzantium drypoint print by Shana James $450 framed $360 unframed

The imagery from this artwork draws from the first 2 stanzas of the poem although you could probably make a new picture for every single line.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
Artist Shana James drawing onto drypoint plate
Artist Shana James drawing onto drypoint plate

The medium of drypoint suited my idea for this artwork perfectly. Drypoint is a process where the artist scratches a drawing into a plate traditionally the plate was metal now it is more commonly plastic. As the artist scratches the drawing the displaced material creates a burr which holds ink when printed in addition to the incised line. It is this burr which gives the drypoint the rich fury line quality.

Inking up the drypoint plate
Inking up the drypoint plate

The image is printed intaglio which is the same way an etching is printed. First the surface of the plate iscovered in etching  ink.

Wiping back the plateWiping back the plateWiping back the plateWiping back the plateWiping back the plateWiping back the plateWiping back the plate
Wiping back the plate

Then the ink is carefully wiped back using paper, this is quite a labour intensive process.

Inked up Drypoint Plate
Inked up Drypoint Plate

Gradually the image is revealed, in mirror image to how it will print. When the artist has finished wiping back, the ink is trapped in the low lying areas of the plate. Moisened paper is placed on top of the plate and they are turned though an etching press.

Shana James Drypoint Print
Shana James Drypoint Print

The image imprints onto the paper. Each print has to be re inked – the entire process is repeated each time. It always feels magical revealing the print and seeing how it has turned out.