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!!!
Was it worth it?