It Goes Something Like This, Part 1

I am getting ready to do some etching (for enameling, not for printmaking), and am using the plate I etched in my printmaking class this summer as the point of departure. . .

Etched copper plate

I’ve never met a fine line I didn’t like–the more fine, the more better! The piece of copper I chose for this had many dings in it, but I loved how these translated to “ambient noise” on the print.

Scan of a print from the plate, 95% plate-tone free!

This is such a simple image, but I liked it the moment I scratched it into the resist, when I saw the bright copper lines against the blackness of the hard ground.

Xerox of original print, with line thickness adjustments

For a successful etch (for later enameling), a high-contrast image with wide lines works best. Wider lines don’t break down as rapidly, if at all, in the long ferric chloride bath. (I often etch for 3-4 hours–I am typically removing a lot of metal to create recessed areas to hold enamel. Though necessary for enamelists, these wide-open spaces are considered undesirable to printmakers, and are called “open bite,” or “foul bite.”)

To fatten up the lines, I took a fine pen to the Xerox (a fine line offers better control). The lower circular part is likely going to break down a bit–these lines are very fine and very close together. I am curious to see what is going to happen here.

Xeroxes of the adjusted Xerox

For this next part, I enlarged, reduced, and mirror-imaged the adjusted Xerox so that I could begin collaging. I am leaning towards a two-dimensional panel of some sort for this project.

I could have waited to do this part until after I had run an etch test to see whether I’ve widened the lines appropriately (because if the lines are still too narrow, and they dissolve away in the etch bath, I’ll need to go back to the master Xerox, widen its adjusted lines still more, and then generate a lot of new material–reduced, enlarged, mirror-imaged). I am not looking for a perfect, crisp, unbroken line, so some break down in the bath won’t bother me. Still, test runs at the right time often save you a lot of time down the road.

Just the necessary information cut from the Xeroxes

I wanted to get a sense of scale and number, and I wanted to begin working with just the part of the print that I’ll be etching and enameling, so I cut things up. For a moment, I was in kindergarten again (this time with super-sharp scissors!), and could almost smell that white paste we all used back then. . .