The Journey of an Etching Process

Last week I had the wonderful Rowan (createdbyrowan.co.uk) stay with me for a short but sweet couple of days as she had her interview for the Graphic Design course here at Falmouth. I'm delighted and ever so proud to say that today she received an unconditional offer to study here. I'm crossing my fingers she will accept so we can make brunch dates like this one we had at Espressini a regular occurrence.

Although this etching process started out with an end goal in sight, as I've been making up my plate and printing from it, that end goal has developed. That's what I like about a process as complex as etching. It's a journey-like process; there are so many stages and steps in the creation of a piece that you are bound to change the planned 'route' at some point. The possibilities are endless and so the likelihood of following a plan to a T is little to none.

I'm no longer going to be cutting out the individual shapes I had made on the plate. After aqua-tinting the plate as a whole and printing it to see how the ink would grip to the grooves made by the photographic bite, I actually liked the image as a whole. However, there are areas where the print would benefit from more detail to bring it together as a final print.

I cleaned up the plate with white spirit, applied brasso, de-greased it and then applied a hard-ground over the top, ready for adding more detail and geometric shapes with the process of hard-ground etching.

After I'd made these initial hard ground lines and etched them, I applied a soft-ground to my plate and and created textures over the top of the entire surface with materials such as bubble wrap, mesh and sandpaper. Passing these materials through the print press with acetate placed over the top allowed the impressions of the materials to create textures on the soft-ground.

After I'd laid the textures onto the soft-ground, I have been using stop-out varnish to paint over the parts of the plate I didn't want the acid to reach. The varnish acts as a barrier to the acid, meaning only the shapes and areas of the plate I left exposed will be etched when placed in the zinc bath next week.

With some monoprints made earlier last week when waiting for the acid to bite my etching plate, I have been continuing collage trials in my sketchbook. I don't really know what these will materialise into - but I'm enjoying the process of making them and the outcomes I'm left with. The more time I'm spending piecing together collages and print-making, the more I'm noticing my work develop. An unintentional break away from painting practice may have been just what I needed to spur this project on.