Saturday, 6 December 2014

Artistic Explorations: Intaglio Printmaking (1)

The direct opposite of a relief print which I wrote about in my previous article is an intaglio print. Intaglio printmaking is a technique where the image is incised into a surface (copper, zinc, wood or perspex) and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. Examples are etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, aquatint and collagraphy. In this article I will show you a drypoint print and a few etching prints.

Fot my drypoint I used an etching needle tool and an A4 perspex plate.A picture of a song thrush I saw in RSPB's magazine was my inspiration for the design.

Drawing on perspex plate with etching tool ©Fenfolio2014
Once I finished the design, the plate was then inked up with sepia oil-based ink by using a squeegee or old credit card to get the ink in the incised lines and taking off excess ink.

Inking up plate with card or squeegee ©

The plate was then wiped off with scrim, or a muslin cloth, to take off more ink from the plate.

The scrim ©

Finally the plate was buffed up with some newspaper. As I wanted to leave a bit of texture of the scrim (circular movements) I only buffed it up very lightly. After I run it through an etching press this was the result!

Drypoint print of a song thrush on Fabriano paper ©Fenfolio2014

For the etching process we got a small copper plate which we covered in resin ground or chemical resistant wax material. The underside of the plate was then heated above a candle to make sure the resin would set and cover the whole plate. Once the resin had cooled down I drew a design in it with a blunt needle (you don't need a lot of pressure to make a mark). The plate was then dipped in a bath of acid for about an hour. The acid "bites" into the metal (it dissolves part of the metal) where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. Halfway this process I applied aquatint (spray paint) to a small part of my design which I had completely left uncovered from resin. Aquatint is used to produce tone or shading as areas around the tiny beads of the spray paint (or waxy solution) will be eaten away. The longer the plate is exposed the deeper the bit and the more ink it will hold. Once I was happy with the incised lines I cleaned off the plate from the remaining resin.

Metal copper plate with my etched design ©Fenfolio2014

The plate was then inked all over (this time I used waterbased Caligo ink in the colours sepia and umber), wiped off again with scrim, leaving only the ink in the etched lines. It was then run through an etching press.

"Dandelion" etching print on Fabriano paper  ©Fenfolio2014

"Dandelion" etching print on my handmade paper  ©Fenfolio2014

This was not the first time I made an etching. About 35 years ago (!), when I considered going to art school in The Netherlands, I was doing an art course and made an etching on a zinc plate. Luckily I was able to retrieve both the plate and the print!

Zinc plate with etching of still life  made in 1989 ©Fenfolio2014

Still life etching print from 1989 ©Fenfolio2014

I really like the etching prints but I find the process very time consuming and I don't like to use chemicals. The drypoint technique on the other hand suits me much better so I think I will create a few more of these during my Printmaking course. Next time I will cover collagraphy which is my favourite printmaking technique!

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