Saturday, February 23, 2008

Etching Results

These were the first two etchings I made.

Sandman is a line etching only (20 minutes in the acid bath). Gotcha is line and aquatint.

I did the aquatint three times for Gotcha (5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute) and I like the subtlety of tone that happened by taking the time to do it. I feel both of these etchings are successful.

My next two plates were Under the Bed and Scavengers.
Under the Bed is a line etching with aquatint(5 minutes) and soft ground (30 minutes). I took a piece of linen to make a linen for the bed. I masked off the area seen as light under the bed. It's just the plate itself, no texture, and then I burnished the edges to get a soft glow.
It turned out very close to what I was going for.

Scavengers is a different story. This was already a very heavy line etching when I decided to add soft ground to it. I had some burlap which I put over the birds' bodies, and some linen for the area behind them. The soft ground etching was 45 minutes long. It really ate everything up. I knew it would be a very busy plate but we have to experiment to find out what works right? Right.
As part of a series based on nightmare images I think it works, but it could be better. I am going to burnish some of the background that was over-etched and see if I can't improve this print.

The final print is a compilation of all of my plates into one. Called Bad Dreams I made an artist proof and a series of 4 prints all in sepia ink. Then I made one variable edition print in colour. This was my 5th variable print, the other 4 being the colour versions of the single plates.

Opinion was split as to whether the sepia images worked better than the colour. I know I was very happy with the colour ones, but the sepia has a charm all its own.

As a print-making process it is so dependent upon the acid bath. I don't have enough experience to be able to look at the surface of my plate in the bath and judge whether it's been etched too deeply or whether I need more. The process is long and involved, and if you over-etch there is little you can do to rescue your plate in the moment. All you can do is burnish your image and start over. As opposed to woodblock printing or lino prints, where once your remove material from the surface it's gone forever (without taking extrordinary means like using glue and sticking bits of stuff in the groove and hoping it'll stay put when you print) etching is more forgiving. It's just not as direct.

But the look! Instant age, instant link to the printmakers of past centuries. The prints just look mysterious to me. I can't get that look any other way. And I love having the plate. You know you've made something. The bad part is these prints cannot be made at home without a press. Unlike the spoon printing you can do with relief prints, I can't just make another one when I want to. Of course I can scan and print... but where's the fun in that? Though I am sure Da Vinci would have. He loved all technology and took advantage of what was around him in his day... but that's another topic.

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