whats that? whats a "solarplate photograve intagla-ma-thingy?" now that i've briefly explained how to make a drypoint print (here), i can sort of explain what a solarplate photogravure is:
basically, way back when (1830's), i guy named henry fox talbot (really famous photographer) came up with a way to make prints of his photos. simply put, he would use a bunch of chemicals (gelatin, potassium dichromate, ferric chloride) to etch an image into a copper plate. then he could print his photos by inking the plate and running them through a press. this process is called photogravure, and it is a huge pain in the ass to do.
so in modern times (about 10 years ago i think), someone came up with a much less toxic process - although, still a pain in the ass, slightly less so - the solarplate. you began with an image. the process was specifically designed for photographs, but i, however, use a drawing (why? because its crazy). after scanning the drawing i print it on a high quality film transparency. now it starts to get a little complicated...
solarplates (not the ones that hemp-necklace wearing people put on their roofs) are orange light-sensitive plastic plates with a metal backing. the plastic is soft and delicate until exposed to light which hardens it, so you have to keep them in the dark. working in a darkroom, i put the transparent drawing on film upside down (reversed) on the solarplate. i then expose it to light (the amount of time is predetermined by testing smaller areas). where the light is blocked out by the linework and shading the plastic stays soft.
the plate is now put in a tray of water and gently brushed by hand. this rubs the plastic away where it wasnt hardened by light. so now you have an image etched into the plate, and you exposed it to some more light to harden it completely. at this point the plate can be inked up and run through a press the same way i print my drypoints.
i cant imagine that there are more than a handful of people in the world right now who go through the trouble to reproduce a drawing this way, but the final image is much more beautiful and rich than the original. as with my previous solarplates i've yet to make an edition run, and probably never will.