Etching class: first proof

first proof line etching, Edinburgh rooftops
Edinburgh rooftops; copper plate line etching, first proof. 5.5″ x 3.5″

Last evening was my second class in Etching & Intaglio. Last week we prepped our plates by filing the edges, de-greasing, and coating them with a hard ground which is basically wax.  Our homework was to scribe drawings into the ground. The way it works is that you scratch away the resist (hard ground) to reveal the copper– this means only the lines scribed through the ground will be etched away because the ground resists the ferric chloride.

During the process of scribing it’s fairly inevitable there will be some marks or accidental scratches, so last night we painted in those areas with asphaltum (another form of resist).  Unlike the drypoint process (scribing directly into the plate itself), your lines are not irretrievable. If you made some marks you don’t care for, you can cover them back up with resist before dropping it into the acid.

line etching first proof- close up of Edinburgh rooftops
To give you an idea of how fine the lines can be, each of those dark windowpanes is only about 1/8″ wide. I think I’ll employ a magnifying lens to work on the next plate!

Once the asphaltum dried, our plates were ready to go into the ferric chloride (a far less dangerous, salt-based alternative to acid). I left my plate in for 15 minutes in the first go. (The acid was brand new so it could have  been less. It’s not an exact science, more intuitive, so more experience will lead to better guesses.) Then I dried the plate and applied more resist to areas in which I didn’t want the lines to get any deeper, and put it in for an additional 30 minutes. The difference in line weights turned out pretty subtle (most noticeable in the vertical lines on the far right), but It was a good first test. It’s a fascinating process.

Next week we will cover the process of aquatint, a process for achieving tonal areas without using lines or cross-hatching. My plan is to fill in the darker buildings and chimney with tones so the white parts of the house in the foreground will pop more, and the whole thing will have more dimension.

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