“Key Mangroves”

“Key Mangroves”, by Robert Leedy, 1977, etching, Artist’s Proof, Collection of the Artist
“Key Mangroves”,
by Robert Leedy, 1977,
etching, Artist’s Proof,
Collection of the Artist

One of few surviving etchings from my college years, this work was inspired by a trip to the Florida Keys. I was fascinated with the root structures of the mangrove trees and wanted to translate some of the visual interest onto paper.

This particular etching was created from a plate I cut out of plexiglass; The original drawing was scratched directly on the plate via a sharp instrument and a bit of elbow grease. After completed, a pattern incorporating the negative space of the embossed paper itself was carried into the design. I cut out the individual ” mini plates” with a jigsaw. Next, I used sepia ink which was rubbed into the scratched lines. The individual plates were carefully positioned onto damp etching paper (I cannot recall which type I used) and placed on pads and run through a German etching press. The paper was pressed into the small plates and the ink actually forms a slight texture on the paper while any area not directly exposed to a plate is embossed. Because there was no regisration for the plates, all prints pulled were slightly different and essentially all monoprints or artist’s proofs – instead of a full edition. I cannot remember how many prints I pulled from this plate but I can say that it was relatively small as each print was very time consuming.

I mentioned the use of the paper and negative space: Actually, the plates create both negative and positive space while the paper makes up mostly positive space in the design. The above photo may be hard to read (I didn’t want to increase the contrast too much) but if you look in the lower left hand corner, you can see where I used blank plates (without scratched lines or ink) to slowly work into the design solely with the blank embossing of the paper.

I love etching – as I do drawing – and I would give anything to own a nice press. The work is hard but the great feeling of pulling the pads back and peeling off the paper to see the results was very rewarding. Gallery owners will tell you etchings are dead these days and very unmarketable. Why, I have no idea. Possibly the reason is that they cannot fetch the prices original pieces do which is an unfortunate decision in the hands of gallery owners and dealers…

I do not know the whereabouts of any other of these prints; They were most likely sold off or traded with fellow art students.

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