Artist Jayne Reid Jackson [BS-Art ’77] could be working on a piece for weeks before she knows exactly what it looks like. Jackson is a practiced hand at mezzotint, a centuries-old printing process, but it still surprises her all the time.

“The plate can fool you into thinking that you’re way farther along than you really are,” Jackson said. “You get to a certain stage and you think you’re done. And you pull out a proof and you’re very humbled. ‘Oh. That looks like nothing. It looks barely un-black.’”

Jackson will try to demystify mezzotint on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at an evening gallery talk and demonstration in the Wisconsin Studio at Overture Center. She’ll give a glimpse of the history of the art form and how it’s distinct from other types of intaglio printmaking, like engraving, etching, drypoint and aquatint.

She will talk about her own process, and the work she makes in her east side Madison home studio. She also plans to describe her recent experiences at the 5th International Mezzotint Festival in Ekaterinburg, Russia, held in September.

While there, Jackson heard from festival organizer Nikita Korytin that there are about 400 mezzotint artists in the world. There were thousands of mezzotints shown — huge works made by printmakers from Thailand, experimental pieces out of Japan, portraits from the Russians.

“You don’t see a room full of mezzotints anywhere,” Jackson said. “If you do go to an exhibit of a mezzotint artist, it’s all that one artist’s work. Looking at the variety of the work … there were certain artists I was amazed how big their work was.”

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