21 February, 2013

Intaglio etching

We've all been laid up with bugs in my house this week, so there hasn't been much new creative stuff going on.  Nothing serious, just nasty colds.  I'm dying to have that clear headed feeling again that comes with recovering from a bout of illness, where you're full of ideas and have the energy to get into them.

Anyway, I thought I'd post something I made a while ago, in a printmaking class I took.  The first is an etching, made with the skeleton of a day lily from my garden.  We used a zinc plate, painted with a waxy substance (called asphaltum) with the lily sitting on top, which is then run through a high pressure printing press.  The lily is peeled off, leaving an image on the plate, which is then dipped into a bath of acid and the image is etched into the plate.  Ink is applied to the plate and run through the press again with some paper.

It's such an incredibly fiddly process to get right.  If you run the plate through the press at the wrong pressure you can buckle the plate, if you leave the acid in the bath for too long you can bite too hard into the plate and lose the detail in the image, you can put your inky fingers all over the plate, soak the paper too little or for too long.... the list is endless, and I did all of these things and more.  It was so incredibly frustrating!  However there's a moment after you run the plate through the press, when you're holding your breath as you peel the paper up to have a look.  And when you get it right, it's just magic.  The results are worth all the effort.  It's quite an addictive process.  Each time I printed, I thought, maybe if I just ink it up and run it though again I can get something better.

The second print was a bit more straightforward.  It is a drypoint etching, which is a drawing scratched with a needle into plastic, inked up and run through the printing press.   The image on the bottom left is a printed photo of some refrigerated shipping containers.

I'm quite addicted to printmaking.  Unfortunately it's not the kind of thing you can do on your own at home without considerable setup and lots of dangerous ingredients.  But also, there's so much to learn, I think it's best done in the company of someone very experienced.  Maybe I will go and look at the class timetable for next term...

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