Etching admiration

I have just completed a 2 day etching course and I’m now totally in awe of anyone who etches!  What a complicated and difficult process it is.  First you have to grind the edge of your metal plate, then polish it, de grease with whiting and ammonia, apply the ‘ground’ which may be hard or soft (soft in the case of the following small illustration) by heating your plate and rolling on a sort of wax.  Then you draw your design on, varnish the back of the plate and put it in acid (all these operations require full breathing apparatus and goggles) for 10 minutes, lifting it every one minute to get rid of bubbles.  You must never touch the top of the plate with fingers at all and dry it with a cold fan after each stage.  Are you still with me?  Now you can clean off the front with white spirit and the back with meths and print it – hurray – here is my first soft ground etching:



Now to add tone by aquatint.  A barrel with huge paddle is required filled with resin dust.   Vigorously wind the handle, wait 30 secs, put in your plate for 5 minutes, repeat the process, then heat the plate with a naked flame from underneath until a sort of varnish forms.  Then ‘stop out’ anything you want to remain white. Re varnish the back.  Put in the acid bath for 2 seconds, stop out anything you want to remain pale, repeat for each shade and finally leave in the acid for 10 minutes for black – phew – I was being shown how to do it but this took me TWO WHOLE DAYS to complete and here’s the result!!!

etching2 copy


Was it worth it?

This entry was posted in Art, Birds, etching, Nature, Printmaking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Etching admiration

  1. Emma Currie says:

    I think your picture looks delightful but am not entirely sure all the time taken is worth it…but now understand why this sort of art seems to cost a lot of money!! I have just made some felt from a fleece….and I am not sure that all the carding, washing, rinsing, and rolling for 20 minutes was worth it either!!.

    • I remember having one go at felting and thinking I’d leave that to others!! The frustrating thing with etching is that you have to go to a print studio and use their equipment as you cant buy nitiric acid and youd have to sell an awfull lot to make it worth setting up an aquatinting contraption. I think I’ll stick to linocutting!!

      Nice to hear from you – love Cx

  2. Yes, it definitely was and your drawing skills have made this a rather humorous flock of birds. The steps you describe are very much what I learned to do 40 years ago but we did not have masks or goggles and were pretty much exposed to the chemicals. I still have my old zinc plates. But such beauty in a process and I still love a good etching and aquatint. However, I print at home so that is why I do monoprints and linocuts with oil or water based inks. For your first time, you did an amazing job. Good for you.

  3. Annette Wolfstein-Joseph says:

    It’s really worth it for me for the “rush” I get when I pull back the blanket and see my results. There are some shortcuts you learn along the way if you love the medium enough to continue. I’ve been at it for forty-odd years and never get bored. I’ve been teaching as well and if you were my student I’d say you had really good results for ONLY two days work. Congrats!

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