For part II of my thesis I am working with a medium that is a bit unknown to me. That being said, I know many of you who read my blog aren’t very familiar with printmaking, & that’s okay. It gives me the opportunity to do one of the things I love to do most: Talk about it. So here I go… Copper Plate Etching.
This is my reference photo:
After polishing & de-greasing my 18 gauge 7×11″ copper plate, I coat the surface with bitumen, a waxy substance that acts as a resist against the acids eventually used in etching. There are several different types of bitumen-like mixtures to create a desired look. I start with a soft ground. It allows me to vary line weight and pick up subtle marks. but be careful, it can easily hold a finger print.
So I draw into the soft ground, revealing the copper underneath. Once I have my desired image I stick the whole plate in a vat of etching acids for 2-5 minutes. Pull out, wash off, print. My in-progress print looks like this:
…not bad. Next, aquatint. I evenly dust the entire plate with granules of tree sap. when the ratio of coverage/exposure is 50/50, I fuse the resin to the plate with extreme heat. Aquatints are used to add gradient. wherever the resin has been fused, it also acts as a stop for the acid. Here’s a print after 3 minutes in the acid bath:
Looks quite dark now. The next step before continuing with various layers of aquatint to create a value structure, I’m going to burnish out my highlights. Here’s my copper plate that I have not yet printed, but it’s a lot like looking at a penny in the light, you pick up certain details by moving it around the source:
Huzzah! The next few steps will include Aquatints, more burnishing, possible sugar lift, and a hard ground etch for emphasized line. More photos to come.
Update: 1.25.11 Aquatints completed
After a grueling week of aquatint failure, I finally got one to come out like velvet.
All’s that’s left to do is Burnish out a few more highlights and do a hard ground for some bold line work & detail. I should have my final print by the end of the week, and starting 2 more by the weekend.