“Buggy Bookkeeping,” etching by H. H. Mitchell. (The embossed fleur-de-lis Mitchells logo appears in this display only for purposes of image security.)
“Buggy Bookkeeping,” original etching by H. H. Mitchell depicting a mule, buggy, and driver in the French Quarter, New Orleans. Edition of 200, pressed by the artist from the etched copper plate onto Arches Cover paper. Dated 1983 and signed in the plate. Each print titled, numbered, and signed in pencil by the artist. Plate size 9 x 12 inches. Deckle-edged paper size 11 x 15 inches. Unmatted, unframed, shipped in sturdy mailing tube.
New Orleans' French Quarter, the original old city constructed in the 1700s inside a bend of the Mississippi River, has a scale unlike modern cities and towns. Transportation was accomplished on foot and with animal-drawn conveyances. Streets are narrower, buildings smaller, blocks shorter. The Quarter is best seen and enjoyed in slow motion. So it is appropriate that sightseeing taxicabs in the French Quarter are old-style buggies pulled by horses, mules, or sometimes even a zebroid (zebra-horse hybrid). Carriage companies are licensed by the city, and personable drivers regale their passengers with their own repertoire of the history around them.
The tourist thinks of the carriage ride as the ultimate setting for an “I was there!” photograph, with the added bonuses of a quick summary of French Quarter history and a respite for sore feet. However, for the driver; the carriage company; various tax collectors; and even the beast requiring food, shelter, and other care, the bottom line is found in the accuracy (!) of the little record book kept by the driver.
For this etching, I chose as a model a palomino mare mule with kind face and regal bearing. Her demeanor and attentiveness gave her a noticeable “stage presence.” Why not pick the more-commonly-thought-of horse? They say that mules make up in reliability and intelligence – or at least long memory – for any lack of glamour. I would aspire to that myself, plus I thought this blonde lady even had glamour!
In the etching process, I relied more on the breadth and density of the scratched lines in order to achieve lighter/darker variations, rather than the length of time the copper plate was in the acid bath. If I am interpreting my old notes accurately, the lightest portions of the plate were bathed in acid about 60% as long as the darkest portions. That is a narrow range compared to some of my other plates, such as the cityscapes depicting receding depth.
– H. H. Mitchell
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