Friday, March 28, 2008

Week Twenty-Six: March 24-28, 2008

Art Centre - Week Twenty-Six

Week seven of semester two of year one - two days of classes, one studio this week.

Monday Morning and Afternoon – no classes due to Easter Monday Holiday

Tuesday – Design

I completed the work on the three fabrics and now move on to do the three small objects to replicate. I did not however attend class on Tuesday. Instead I went to an Apple Computer seminar on the software program In Design 3. (I have In Design 2) for more information about this desk top publishing program. This program is gaining in popularity and many Quark users are moving over to this program. The facilitator had a great deal of experience and showed numerous tips and answered quite a few questions coming from the attendees. I was pleased to see my computer teacher (from the Art Centre) there. He came to me during the break to ask how I was doing with the seminar and to invite me to join him and the print teacher from CTS for lunch. I had a very enjoyable time talking with them about school and about the plans for the Art Centre Website I helped with all last winter. It seems there’s a possibility of these ideas finally being made a reality.

WednesdayDrawing Fundamentals

The teacher set up a new arrangement of objects for us to draw. First we worked on a thumbnail drawing in our sketch books then we were to take it to a larger drawing. I had my camera and by the time class was over, most of my classmates had taken a picture of the set up from their point of view and I agreed to once again transfer the images to a web page so each could save their version to work from at home. This is the link:

Thursday Painting

No class this week as the faculty had a meeting.

Thursday – Printmaking Studio

Because there was no printmaking class this week, I felt I needed to go to studio and do some work on my two etchings. I have reworked the cat plate for the third time so back it went in to the acid bath for the third time – another ten minutes. I could tell when I cleaned off the ground with varsol that I finally had the texture of line work that I have been aiming for.

I spent time tearing watercolour paper. I’m using the heavy #140 grade for my good prints and a lightweight one for test prints. I also made new templates for both plates to use on the press. And I inked up both plates (using black ink) to test them. The one of E. at his easel has had another round of aqua-tint work done on it. I did do a test print of each but in the process got ink on my new templates for the press due to messy gloves! I found that the gloves I was wearing had ink both inside and out. From now on I will bring my own gloves to use – it’s difficult enough to keep the work clean in the busy lab.

Additional Notes

This week I have been working on the printmaking presentation I’ll be doing mid April. I’ve chosen to look at contemporary Canadian Women printmakers and have a short list of 33 women. Of these, I have profiled three women in particular: Ann McCall of Montreal, Doreen Foster of PEI who attended the Art Centre at Central Tech. and Heather Aston of Vancouver, B.C.

One of the links on Doreen’s site links to an Introduction to Etching and Aquatint she wrote. (All three women also teach printmaking). I have reproduced what she wrote here as I find the instructions very well done.

An Introduction to Etching & Aquatint by Doreen Foster

An etching is the common term used for a print made from a metal plate, usually zinc or copper, where the design has been etched or corroded by the use of acid. In conjunction with etched lines, I use the technique of aquatint (explained later) to create tones of colour. I hope you find the following helpful in understanding how I make my etchings.

Preparing the Plate: To begin, a hard wax material known as the ground is applied to the surface of a heated metal plate and evenly spread with the use of a rubber roller to create a fine, smooth surface. When the ground has cooled, the design is traced onto the coated plate and using a sharp instrument (I use a needle-pointed stylus) drawn into the ground, exposing the metal plate below.

The Acid Bath: When the drawing is complete, the plate is immersed into a bath of water-diluted nitric acid. The acid mixture will begin to bite (erode) the exposed areas of the zinc plate where the metal was scraped bare by the stylus. Depending on the exposure time in the acid and the thickness of the line, grooves are left on the surface of the plate. The plate is then removed from the acid and washed in water to stop any further biting. The ground is then removed with mineral spirits.

Aquatint: At this point, the plate is simply a line drawing. In addition to the line, I use the technique of aquatint, a method of adding dimension to the drawing by means of various tones. The first step to creating an aquatint is to cover the entire surface of the plate with a finely ground rosin. This is done by sprinkling the rosin through a fine sieve (I use a fine nylon mesh stretched over a tin can). When the plate is heated the rosin melts and adheres to the surface of plate in a random dot-pattern. As with the etching of the lines into the plate, certain areas of the plate are exposed (while others are covered). The next step is to decide which areas of the drawing will have the darkest and lightest tones and the various shades in between. The principle of aquatint is that the darkest areas will be left in the acid the longest time and the lightest areas left in the acid the shortest. Areas that are to remain white will not be bitten by the acid at all.

After the plate and rosin have cooled, the tones of the print can be created, but first the areas which will remain white are covered with an acid-resistant varnish commonly referred to as blockout varnish. The plate is then placed into the acid bath which pits the surface of the plate where there is no rosin or blockout. While the plate is in the acid bath a feather is used to brush away the bubbles that are created by the chemical reaction of the acid and the zinc. Left on the plate, these bubbles can create unevenness in the depth of the bite resulting in inconsistent ink coverage when printed. After biting, the plate is removed, washed, and the process repeated, blocking out those areas which will have the second lightest tone. Once again, the plate is placed into the acid bath and allowed to etch the entire surface of the plate, with the exception of the previously and newly varnished areas. Of course, each time the plate is placed into the acid bath; those areas which have remained unvarnished have been exposed to the acid each time. These areas have the deepest pits and, when the print is made, will have the greatest concentration of ink. In my prints, the blocking out is usually done five or six times, but there is no limit to the number of times it can be done.

Preparing the Plate for Printing: When the aquatint is complete, the blockout varnish and resin are removed with mineral spirits. To avoid cutting the paper and the etching press blankets, the edges of the plate are beveled with a file.

Inking the Plate: The technique of inking the plate varies from artist to artist and the results are as varied. I use oil-based inks applied to the plate with small pieces of mat board which gives me more control in where the ink will be placed. I start in one area, gradually adding the neighbouring colours and blending them together with a fabric called tarlatan. Tarlatan is a starched ballet crinoline which in its original stage is very stiff but can be softened to varying degrees by stretching, rolling, and kneading. Using a circular motion, the colours gradually become blended. When the mixing is complete, the surface ink is removed with a soft paper (I use old telephone books or newspapers), leaving ink in the lines and in the aquatint.

"Pulling" the Print: The print is made, or pulled, by pressing wet paper into the surface of the plate by means of an etching press. Wet paper is used because it must expand without tearing as it goes through the press. First, the plate is placed on the steel bed of the press. The paper is then blotted dry and placed over the plate, covered by several layers and densities of felt blankets, and rolled between the two steel rollers of the etching press. The tremendous pressure of the steel rollers pushes the paper into the lines and aquatint transferring the ink from the plate to the paper. Finally, the felt blankets are carefully lifted and the paper peeled back from the plate revealing the final print. The print is allowed to air dry.

Editions: Etchings are usually printed in editions, that is, a selected number of the same print. The size of the edition is limited by the plate itself as eventually the surface will become worn down causing the aquatint and the lines to hold less ink. Although the prints in the entire edition can be exact duplicates, there will always be subtle differences. In most printmaking techniques, the artist not only signs and dates each print but identifies the print number, for example 3/50, 6/24, 21/25, where the first number represents the print number and the second the number of prints in the edition. To me, etching is a compliment to my painting, however, because etching is a multiple of one design, I have the freedom to extend my understanding of colour and experiment with the subtle nuances of line, shading, and form.

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