Since I began showing my sketches on Instagram I received many comments from artists all over the world suggesting that I would be good at etching. I took lithography in college which I loved but did not continue after I moved to NYC. I was always intimidated by etching, it seemed like no mistakes could be made, and then there's the word "chemicals" which was always attached to the process. It just sounded a bit too serious. Over the years I became more comfortable with unforgiving tools such as pen. Constantly drawing with ink developing "my touch", and working with monotype finally brought me to this point...I'm taking an etching class.
I wanted to share a few photos of the process of my first etching. After sanding down the edges and corners of the copper plate so that they don't tear through the paper under the press, the plate is heated. Once hot, a waxy compound called hard ground is melted on top and spread evenly and thinly with a brayer. After letting the copper plate cool it is ready to be worked on.
I chose one of my looser drawings to start, I didn't want to be bothered too much with details since this is my first etching after all. With an etching needle or stylus, you begin drawing on the surface by scratching at the hard ground. The point is to remove the wax and not make deep scratches on the plate.
The areas with the hard ground will be protected from the acid bath, those areas exposed will be the areas the acid will bite into, creating burrows where the ink will be deposited when the plate is inked. On the image above my plate has already gone through an acid bath of forty minutes, and then completely cleaned of the hard ground. Now the plate is ready for ink!
After applying the ink, and then buffing it with a tarlatan cloth and newsprint the plate is ready for the press. At first it seemed like there was not enough ink left on the plate, I was nervous my print would not turn out the way I hope it would. I kept thinking, how did Rembrandt get those rich dark areas in his etchings? I know I created areas that were supposed to be dark but now with the plate inked it seemed like I may not have scratched enough.
Show time! The plate went through the press, watch as I pull my first etching.
Here it is, the first print and it actually looks good. It printed darker than I expected which is good. I'm still debating if I want to keep the plate as is, or if I want to keep working on it to create a wider range of tones. Time will tell.
Untitled, 2020, hard ground etching, image 9 x 6 inches, sheet 13 1/2 x 10 inches