etching, Printmaking

Etch-A-Sketch #2

It’s been well over a month since I posted about this, so I guess this is well overdue…

I thought I’d begin this post with a look at the workspace. Printing etchings (intaglio printing) is quite a different process to the relief printing I usually do in my garage printshop, so I needed to be a little more prepared. Listed above are:

1. etching plates
2. position guide
3. my printing notebook (I did a course a year or so ago and made copious notes)
4. muslin cloth squares
5. scrim and newsprint squares
6. rubber gloves (I didn’t use these after all)
7. cotton buds
8. black ink
9. turps dispenser
10. ink spatulas
11. rags
12. burnt umber ink
13. leather wad
14. glass inking plate

When printing lino or letterpress, I am covering the raised parts of the block with ink and transferring that directly under pressure to the paper. With intaglio printing I am filling the scratches and grooves that are cut into the block:

In order to get the ink right into the block, I use a wad covered in leather. The wad is rolled into the ink transferring it to the leather, which is then vigorously rolled, smeared and ‘pushed’ hard into the entire surface of the block:

The first stage of the inking process is to completely cover the entire surface, pressing hard to ensure the ink is pushed into every line:

Then comes the process of removing the ink;

First with scrim,

then with soft muslin,

so what is left of the ink is in all of the scratches and grooves, with just a little left on the surface for tone (this is frowned upon by some printmakers, but I rather like this effect.)

The press I’m using is a large flat bed rolling press. I have already adjusted the rollers for this type of printing and turned the wheel to move the pressbed all the way over to one side.

A little earlier, I immersed my paper into a large tray of water. This method of printing required the paper to be damp. The thicker the paper, the longer it needs to soak. It is then put between sheets of blotting paper to remove the excess whilst I am getting the plate inked up.  This is an important part of the process – I have made the mistake of getting the plate inked up and on the press before realising I haven’t any dampened paper! As I mentioned at the start, this type of printing takes a bit more preparation.

The actual moment of printing arrives. A backing sheet of paper (with a position marking for neatness) is placed on the bed with the block in place upon it. The white covers you can see in the image above are the press blankets; heavy duty felt used to spread the pressure. After the blankets are repositioned, a long turning of the wheel takes the press bed and its contents through the rollers at a high pressure. This leaves a significant  emboss on the print:

The reveal is always the best part. The shot below was actually taken as I peeled back the very first print of the day – the money shot!

I printed just four prints of each of the five plates. I have actually made six plates but left one behind – DUH! These are the best five:

Some of the first prints were a little too heavily pressed and tore the paper in places. Small adjustments were made to prevent this from reoccurring.

Drypoint etching on acrylic gives an amazing variety of line quality, from fine hairlines to deeper gouges. I really love looking at the details now that they are printed. I’m not being vain here, but I am genuinely excited by this process and the overall quality of these prints.

The image above shows some of the surface tone that is achieved when traces of ink are deliberately left on the plate.

An altogether successful result from around six hours of printing. The prints will be put aside for now, and I will prepare another six new plates for printing in the new year. This will eventually become part of a book which, of course, will be posted here first…

Just keep your eye out!

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8 thoughts on “Etch-A-Sketch #2

    1. Thanks James. Each of the plates took around an hour to make – they are quite small – but I probably spent as much time printing them. It is a slow process though – I began this in September, doing a little every now and then, but the printing was done in a day during half term. It is a real change from the immediacy of working on screen, and all in the knowledge that there is no CTRL+Z…

  1. Hey, i’m an art student and i LOVE your work and i think it’s amazing! i would like to use it in research to make a final peice for my portfolio, but i need to know your full name, if you can please, thanks.

    1. Hi Rebekah, thank you for your kind words! My name is Christopher Skinner (it’s on the ‘about’ page too!)

      I would be interested in seeing your work and am happy to offer any advice along the way. keep in touch.

      All the best,

      Christopher

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