Soft ground etching: My first plate

For my first plate I decided to imitate what Matthew, the tutor, had taught us.  I have a bit of a habit of running away on my own and trying things that don’t necessarily work very easily, but as this is so new I’m trying something fairly straight forward first.

I prepared my plate to waxed stage as per my previous post.

Zinc-Etch-6My dried and pressed plant material was laid over the wax, the waste plastic was placed over this and it was run through the press.  Now came the hard part.  As much of my dried flower heads were very fragile they stuck to the wax and I spent a frustrating 25 minutes trying to locate very fine particles and removing them with tweezers.  You can clearly see some pieces of very delicate leaves still sticking to the plate on the bottom right.  I had to be painstaking with the removal or the etching would be ruined.

Zinc-Etch-7I finally got it into the acid bath.  After a 5  minute stint, followed by a further 3 minutes, it looked about ready.  I rinsed and then removed the excess wax.

Fingers crossed that I was careful enough with the tweezers and haven’t ruined the plate.  Hard to tell until the first print.

Zinc-Etch-8Having filed and smoothed the plate edges (so it wouldn’t tear my print paper) I proceeded to ink up, rubbing it into the etched areas, and then semi-wiping back the blank non-etched areas  My goal was to produce a print with sharp imagery and a faintly coloured background.  The first result, above right, came out quite well.  The paper is only cartridge proofing paper which had been quickly run through water and dabbed dry.  Obviously it’s crinkled but the idea is only to assess how well, or badly, I’ve inked the plate before moving to better paper.

Zinc-Etch-10Moving to BFK Reeves, soaked for 10-15 minutes before drying between towels, I took my first print.

I felt that my initial sample had too much of an overall blue look background so rubbed this one back significantly more.  Just look at that sharp, sharp, sharp imagery!!  Great start.

There’s a small edging problem.  Even though I rubbed away the ink from the filed edges it is still captured and is giving me an inked edge.  Not sure I always want that.  I refiled and smoothed (I’m hopeless with the abrasive file and the sandpaper) then re-inked, changing the colour.

Zinc-Etch-11Mixing a deep yellow with a touch of black gave me my favourite olive-green.  To this I added some of the original blue from the previous print.  The plant etched sections were printed with this mix whilst plain blue was applied lightly to the upper blank plate section.

I’m very pleased with this as the delicacy of the dried plants has been enhanced by this slightly softer colour scheme.

My colleague, at the printing station adjacent to mine, was using a brilliant full strength orange for her project and offered me some of her ink.  Zinc-Etch-12We hoped that by applying it over the remainder of the green mix I might come up with something resembling a dried corn colour.  Frankly I was doubtful because her ink was super bright and I was sure it would overpower the little grey/green left on the plate.

So the result is as shown on the left.  In real life it is a little more straw coloured than light green.  Photography is difficult sometimes.

So what shall I do with this plate from here?  It’s a lovely start but a bit plain on its own so I need to decide how to enhance the imagery, perhaps adding some layering and depth to the print.  I can also experiment with more than one colour to give more focal interest.

So here are my main choices:

  • Re-wax this plate and add additional components to it.  They could be etched for a longer time, giving better bite and more ink retention – so darkening those areas.  However, if I make a mistake the entire plate is wasted and I quite like this initial composition.
  • Make a new plate the same size and add different plant material to that.  These can then be printed together in either order, or independently.  I could continue etching more plates and widening the scope of my results.  The issue here is the cost.  Zinc is not cheap.
  • Make new plates from other materials to use as backgrounds to the zinc plate.  My stash of foamex board immediately comes to mind.  It’s inexpensive, easily etched, quickly cleaned and gives very good results.  That sounds like a plan.
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About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, My prints and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Soft ground etching: My first plate

  1. fibresofbeing says:

    Brilliant first plate. Do you feel it gives a sharper result than the foamex?

    • Claire B says:

      Interesting question. If you’re impressing plant or other material into the surface of either wax on zinc plate or directly on to foamex I think the results are going to be very similar. However, if you are drawing with an etching tool I’m not sure because I haven’t tried it on foamex. As foamex is essentially a 3mm plastic foam product, etching into it (and keeping a small etched incision precise) may not be as easy as scratching into a thinly waxed surface on a metal base.
      I’m going to make foamex plates to print under this zinc plate so I’ll give it a go.

  2. Exellent results. Super impressing what you have achieved – it does not seem the first.

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks Inger. You know when sometimes you try something new and it just clicks and you find you really enjoy it? Well, this is one of those occasions. The whole idea of working into wax and then burning into a metal plate is quite fascinating and I’m thrilled that the imagery can be so fine and detailed.

  3. Pingback: Hard ground etching: My first plate | TactualTextiles

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