Saturday, 10 August 2013

Effects of Etching Grounds

For one semester during my second year at university, last year, I specialised in printmaking, specifically etching. I wanted to explore how each ground used on a steel plate could influence the bite of the acid, and therefore the visual aesthetic or quality of a print. Upon raiding the scrap pile in my backyard, I discovered some rusted steel and experimented with it in combination with different grounds. The results were quite unexpected.

This first print was printed on found steel that had been buffed and cleaned of fingerprints. It has two layers of shellac as a ground. Using a photograph of my dog, Pan, as reference, I scratched into the shellac with a sharpened nail. As a side note, the black spots are from ink trapped in shellac imperfections. 

The benefit of shellac is that it is easy to produce a sharp line deep into the ground, biting as a clear, crisp line. The downside is that shellac is very difficult to remove from a plate (if you intend to reductively aquatint), to the point that I would recommend to not waste your time attempting to remove the stuff. I'd recommend using it for additive aqua tinting though.

Regarding printing, shellac plates are my favourite. The ink is very easy to scrim and clean from a plate in comparison to bitumen based grounds. It is a lot less stress on your joints and requires far less work. One thing to keep in mind is that if the shellac is scratched or damaged, without being carefully patched and bitten, the marks can show in new prints. 


Pan with bones.

Found steel, soft ground. 

My grandparents have a tray in the kitchen of their homestead where they put the interesting things that they find in the farm paddocks. Some of these things include: shotgun shell casings, nails, parts of machinery, animal bones and horns as well as improvised tools. The plate below is an experiment to study the marks made by a large square razor blade.

Bought steel, soft ground.

I sketched onto the ground with a red copic marker to get an idea for he composition before scratching into the surface. Surprisingly, the marker bit with the rest of the etching, hence the sketchy outline on the left and the white blocking on the right. 

Found steel, soft ground.

Life studies of Pan drawn with the round end of a crochet needle. 

Found steel, hard ground.

Sketch of Pan. I wanted to try filling in the drawing with hatching.

Found steel, soft ground.

Outlined with the metal of a shotgun shell. The toning was done with a razor blade that produced an unexpectedly fuzzy line. 

Found steel, soft ground and sugar lift.

Found steel, hard ground.

Life drawings of Pan done with a nail. 

Found steel, bitumen.

The steel plate was covered with a ground of thinned bitumen. Using a rag soaked in turpentine, I removed some of the bitumen like you would ink in monoprinting. The effect looks a bit like a reverse monoprint.

Found steel, soft ground.

Drawn from a photo of myself and Pan cleaning rabbit meat on the farm. The outlines were drawn with a nail and filled with a found screwdriver.

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