new etching in progress


It’s kind of hard to see here, but this is what an etching looks like while I am working on it. I make the drawing with a sharp pointed etching needle in the hard ground (the brown/black coating) and next I will put it in an acid bath which etches the line drawing into the plate. Then I will run the plate through the press and see how it looks when it is reversed.  If the drawing looks okay and I don’t want to change it, then next I will make tones in a process called aquatinting. I aquatint using a powder called rosin- you dust a plate with rosin, then melt it to the plate. When you put the plate into acid, it bites away at the plate around the teeny rosin particles, and that makes a tone. You control the tone strength with timing- the longer it stays in the acid, the darker it gets. You block out the parts you want to keep light with hard ground to protect them.  I am not a practiced hand at aquatinting, so I usually have to go through it a lot to get it right and sometimes I mess it up all together. I’ve put a lot of time into the drawing, so hopefully I can get the plate etched right! This is a bigger etching for me- 18 x 24 inches. Off to Zygote Press this week!


    1. I use zinc plates (a little softer than copper, I think), and after inking and going through the press many times, the etching starts to wear away a bit to the point where the print isn’t holding up too well. When that happens I retire the plate. If the etching isn’t very deep, I scrape them down and then I can use them for another etching, but usually I just put them on a shelf in my studio. Sometimes I use a stack of them to weight things down. 🙂

      1. Awesome…the other etching you posted a while back is so great – is it an aquatint also?

        Something about your art really works well as etchings. To me.

        I am not sure I understand – the areas where you are scratching away the zinc in the photo are going to be white on the page? Since they are below the level of the rest of the plate and don’t get any ink?

      2. yes, that is an etching too- actually Distant Lands is two etchings printed on the same paper to get two colors. When you ink etchings, you force the ink into the etched lines, then wipe away the rest of the ink from the plate. Wiping plates can be pretty tricky- you have to strike a balance between wiping off too much and too little ink- and how well you wipe a plate really effects the final product. So all the silvery looking lines I scratched into the hard ground are going to be dark. This is part of what makes working in printmaking confusing for me, though not as bad as the mirror image aspect.

  1. I see, so the paper kind of gets smashed into the etched out areas and the ink sticks to the paper …

    counter intuitive, to me.

    I meant to ask whether the other etching was printed twice…!

    1. yeah, it feels sort of confusing when you first start doing it … When I paint, whatever mark I make, that’s what the final outcome looks like. So it took some adjusting.
      Etching is one reason I really love my cooperative print studio- It’s pretty much impossible to do etchings without an acid bath (not good for my cats or me at my home studio with no vents) and a printing press to really squash that paper (no room left in my house, they weigh a ton, and very pricey for good ones) The box you use to distribute rosin for aquatints also very unwieldy and breathing in rosin is toxic. So I’m so happy to work with Zygote press!

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