Hard ground etching: My first plate


Zinc-Etch-11The aim with this plate is to combine it with my soft ground etched plant material from a few weeks ago, which will be printed as a second layer.

I thought it might be interesting to be looking through the plants to a lake or river, perhaps with ducks or swans.  So, using my beginner’s guide to drawing book, I picked up my pencil.

SwansDuck head and shaping was quite good but I wasn’t sure what to do with the folded wings and the book had a good example of a swan and cygnets that I could learn from, so I went with that.  The images were then regrouped whilst being transferred to tracing paper using a 6B pencil.

My zinc plate was prepared as for the soft ground etching: cleaned, degreased and heated on the hotplate to 90 degrees, then hard wax was applied.  It melted the same way as the soft wax and was then rolled to form a smooth covering.  Hard-zinc-etch-1Once cold it dried to a very hard finish and the traced image could be laid on the surface and put through an etching press (reduced pressure) to transfer the graphite to the wax.

Due to a lighting issue my photo didn’t come out well enough so here is a view of a transfer from a classmate (Cynthia).  Using an etching tool I then proceeded to draw into the wax using the transferred lines as a guide.  Detail not transferred was added as the etching evolved.  My design is quite detail-specific and it was surprisingly difficult to see where to etch as the light played over the golden surface of the waxed zinc.

Once complete, the plate was immersed in a nitric acid & water solution (ratio 1:8) for several minutes, checking from time to time and wafting with a feather to remove bubbles, for the design to be bitten into the plate.  When satisfied, I dissolved the remaining wax, cleaned the plate and took a proof print.

Hard-zinc-etch-2An excellent start for this design.  The next stage will be aquatint and masking, followed by water bite and spit bite background sections to create sky and water effects.


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 Hard ground etching: My first plate

  1. Nola says:

    Really like your swan!

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks Nola, I’ve just been working on the part of the face that should be dark. It’s coming on.

      • Nola says:

        You will be bringing show and tell next weekend, won’t you? You’ll be able to see one of my untethered ebb and flow works…

        • Claire B says:

          Yes, definitely. I’ve got the next acid layer working on the plate now. A bit more dramatic than anticipated. My swans are entitled ‘Lost at sea’ as it appears they are in the midst of a tornado with swirling waters. Not quite the placid lake I had in mind!

          • Nola says:

            That’s one of the reasons I love printmaking in all its forms. You just never quite know how it’s going to turn out!

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