Thursday, January 24, 2008

Want to see my etchings?

I've been exploring etching in printmaking class. We take a zinc plate, cover it in hard ground (a wax-like substance that coats the plate) and then take a pointy thing to scratch through the ground and reveal the zinc metal beneath it. Once you have your image, you put it in a bath of 8 parts water to 1 part nitric acid for anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 seconds, depending on how dark you want your line to be.

The longer the etch (time in the bath) the deeper the etch, the more ink it will hold and so it will be a darker line in your print.

Here are examples of my first line etching. The image is based on an etching from 1516. When I make these prints I felt in direct contact with the people who worked in the 16th century. I like that feeling.

Bad Dreams
zinc plate, line etching,
sepia ink on stonehenge paper

Bad Dreams
zinc plate showing line etching

Today we started aquatints. Using black spray paint, we can add tones to our plate. I made a new line etching, and then covered the areas I wanted to remain the brightest/whitest with soft ground. Then I sprayed the plate really lightly with black spray paint. It was very grainy and you could see the plate below it as well as my etched line drawing. After this, I dropped the plate into the acid bath and etched it for 1 minute. I then covered the areas I wanted to remain light grey with ground and etched it again for another minute. Once more I covered the next darkest tonal areas with ground and brought it into the acid bath for one last etching of 3 minutes to create the darkest darks. In this way it's just like the reduction woodblock prints. You are always taking away from your image until you are done. I haven't printed my plate yet but here's a look at it. It has a lot of gradations of tone. I can't wait to print it.

Bad Dreams No.2
aquatint etching on zinc plate

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