Saturday, August 27, 2011

Etching and fiddling

Thought I'd add some little photographs and info about the etching process I used to create the image in my last blog post. Intaglio Etching was my major at the National Art School in Sydney where I completed my BFA, but I haven't had too many opportunities since finishing up my degree to spend a decent amount of time on this intricate medium.

Before you can start work there is always a lengthy preparation process involved of filing down the rough edges and sanding the surface of the copper, polishing, removing grease, then applying a smooth layer of hardground in which to draw.

The original method for sanding down the copper surface was with a little piece of charcoal...

Then come all the tiny little intricate interwoven details......

I don't have any photographs of the acid bathstages because they are always filthy, covered in brown and ochre stains and looking like the abandoned hospital or butcher scene from some gory horror film.
At any rate you say a little prayer and emerse your copper plate into a bath of ferric chloride, which eats into all the little areas that you have scratched away. Depending on the time you leave the plate in (and the strength of the chemicals) even the finest little hair-thin lines will show up with precise clarity.

I won't go into the printing process right now, as that is an essay in itself. A lot of artists I met recently said the fiddly and uncontrollable aspects of copper etching keep them from delving into it more than once, and as a bit of a contrl freak I admit to having my fair share of stressful moments when things didn't go absolutely according to plan... but perhaps that's exactly what I like in the process.... as if it were training me to patience....

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