So, the fourth of the Leicester Print Workshop ‘Introduction to Print’ classes was last night. This time it was etching with hard ground. The whole process is rather involved but much less complicated than I thought (I wasn’t really looking forward to this session). Because of the time constraints, Nichola had already provided us with zinc plates already prepared with hard ground but did show us how to do it ourselves.
The shiny side of the zinc plate is degreased (with Cif) and then placed onto a hot plate (huge chunk of metal sitting on one of the side benches: wondered what that was for, other than stacking paper onto and banging my elbow into). A blob of hard grounds is rubbed & melted into the shiny surface of the plate after it has heated up and then smoothed out all over the plate (using a tool – dabber? – that looks like a darning mushroom covered in leather). The plate is then left to cool and the grounds to harden. But our plates were already at that stage.
Scribing the plate was much the same process as with the first lesson on drypoint, but with less pressure being required since we were only cutting through the ground and not into the plate. This time, I did not try to transfer an image onto the plate before scribing, just used a photograph of a canal in Venice and then hand drew it. I’m no good at this process. Working that small (my plate was only about 3″ x 3″), any hand shakes cause a bit of damage and my hand does tend to shake when I try to draw clean small lines. But I ended up with something that everyone later recognised as a Venice canal so was not too disastrous. I tried using other tools like the roulette (see the lines in the sky) but without much success.
After finishing the image we had to protect the back and side of the plate, the back by putting packing tape over it and the sides by painting varnish onto it. Then the plate was lowered into the acid bath (10:1 water : nitric acid), in my case for about 11 minutes. While in the bath, the ground took on a dark colour and bubbles of air formed over the plate. The bubbles were brushed away with a feather. When finished, the plate was lifted out (we were wearing gloves and goggles with all the acid work) and washed in water. The ground was then removed by rubbing the plate with white spirit at which point it was ready for printing.
The printing process was the same as for drypoint: scrape ink onto the plate, rub it into the grooves and off the surface using scrim, polish using telephone directory paper and tissue paper, lay onto the press bed, face up, on top of sheet of newsprint, lay damp sheet of printing paper over the plate and another sheet of newsprint over that and print.
My first print was:
It looked ok. Nichola then suggested I could leave some surface ink in places to add some atmosphere and so I did this, leaving it on the water and sky with the result:
Much better. I don’t think my drawing skills are up to this approach but it was more enjoyable and much easier than I thought it would be. I will have a go at this again, in the future. I’ve joined LPW as a member so will be able to go along any time to try this again. I may try copying some old master prints to get a hang of the techniques.