About Mary Taylor
Mary Taylor was born in Narrow Neck, Devonport, and remembers a childhood with strong links with the sea. Educated at Auckland University and Massey University, she was formerly a teacher. She has worked as a professional artist since 1983 and her work is held in collections in New Zealand and in other countries.
Mary is best known for her limited edition etchings and paintings. Mary follows a traditional process for her etchings, involving nitric acid, zinc plate and a manual etching press. Each work is hand coloured. Her paintings are done on board or canvas and she uses both acrylic and oils.
Her favourite subjects are New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna, coastal landscapes and pristine wilderness. Important themes in her work include the beauty found in nature, and the peace and sense of stillness in a very busy world.
Her book Old Blue: the Rarest Bird in the World won the AIM non-fiction award in 1994. Mary is represented in New Zealand’s Favourite Artists (ed Denis Robinson 2006). Her work has recently been shown in New York and Beijing in exhibitions of New Zealand Art.
The Etching Process
The design is drawn through a dark varnish on to prepared zinc plate. Metal needles are used for the drawing. When the first lines are ready, the plate is immersed in a solution of nitric acid and the acid bites away (etches) the exposed parts of the plate. This process is repeated many times.
Some etchings include aquatint. This involves showering the prepared plate with finely-powdered resin, baking it so that it fuses with the metal, then immersing the plate in acid. Areas that require gradation may be scraped back and burnished.
A fine quality acid-free paper is soaked in water. The metal plate is carefully inked with special printing ink. When ready, the plate is placed on the bed of the etching press and the damp paper laid on top. Then the two are rolled through together.
An impression is transferred from the plate to the paper. Each time a print is pulled, the plate must be inked afresh. The paper is pressed flat as it slowly dries over a number of days. Each etching may then be hand-coloured by the artist. The process is time-consuming and manual. Each etching will vary from others in the edition and is an original work of art.
Relief Block Images
Relief printing has been with us since earliest times. In its simplest form, a block of wood or stone was coloured and the image transferred to cloth or paper. When a block is carved only the raised part, which is left in relief, transfers the image. The relief prints by Mary Taylor are printed from carved lino blocks. Each image is individually printed and then hand-painted. Mary favours the use of a strong, dark key block, influenced by both Japanese woodblock tradition and stained-glass art.