muffled II

everything is grey and damp and quiet outside
it is strange. . .
. . .but what is stranger is that it is exactly how I feel today (well, not damp)
I don't have the energy to go to my Etching class, which is a shame as last night I printed my latest plate - trees
an image from some sketches I made in the summer of the pine forests of Landes, on the southwest coast of France

(this wasn't my image,
but I do like looking up thru trees)

I produced the image by using the aquatint method
initially I had used a hardground to etch a simple line drawing of the outlines I wanted to fill in; the outlines showed layers of trees, some just trunks right in front of the viewer, some small - those in the distance, some in between the foreground and those trees on the horizon; the outlines showed gaps in the branches, where light shone thru, the layers of undulating dune upon which the trees were planted, grass; where the trees and branches and dune and grasses were absent are where the sky would be visible - or the sun, if it were dawn or dusk
with these lines as a guide, I over-layed the aquatint
the aquatint process involved covering the plate with very fine resin dust (you wear a mask, you roll a drum in a cupboard full of the resin dust to agitate it and then you put your plate into the cupboard and leave it for about a quarter of an hour so the agitated dust falls onto the plate) (the resin is the same as a violinist would use on his bow) (and by total coincidence I dreamt last night of the violinist boyfriend from my youth)
once the plate is sufficiently covered with dust (you can tell by holding it at eye level and seeing a faint layer over the top of it) you place it on a wire rack, under the rack you light a gas-fuelled flame which you then pass gently underneath the plate, backwards and forwards until you see the dust on the plate melt away to be replaced by a translucent "wave" of melted resin; once all the dust particles have melted you turn off the flame and let the plate cool
effectively each individual resin dust particle has now melted into what will become an individual spot of acid-resistance on the plate
the idea of aquatint is to enable you to add layers of depth to your plate - you immerse the plate into the acid time and time again, in between painting out areas that you do not want to be etched with "stop-out" varnish (the varnish also acts as a resist to the acid)
the first area you paint out, in my case before I had immersed the plate in the acid bath since applying the aquatint, will not be etched by the acid - thus will not hold any ink, thus will be totally clean*. . .
all other areas of the plate will be etched (not lines**, but areas of shading)
(*altho in this case, because I had already created some lines in the plate with the hard ground technique, these will be visible in the final print) (**if there were already lines on rhose sections of the plate, these will be etched a little deeper, despite the resined areas)
you only leave the aquatint plate in the acid for a matter of seconds, as the resin dust is not as robust as the stop-out varnish; the acid bites around each dot of dust, created many many tiny indetantions that will hold the ink
the next area you paint out with the stop-out varnish will have had one bite by the acid, and thus will hold a small amount of ink, and thus will show up as a pale shade of the colour that you will ink up with eventually
you immerse your plate in the acid a second time, take it out
then you paint out another section of your image with the stop-out varnish; this section will have had two bites by the acid, and so will appear on the final plate slightly darker than the previous area that only had one bit of the acid. . .
into and out of the acid bath again goes the plate. . .
you paint varnish on the next area of the image, which will have had three bites of the acid. . .
effectively you are building up the shades of colour on your image, by repeatedly stopping-out and immersion in the acid - except you are doing it, visually, in reverse - the longer a section remains un-masked (no stop-out varnish) the more frequently it goes into the acid and the deeper it is etched so the darker it will become in the final print, yet to you it remains clear plate still as it is not covered in the stop-out varnish
the weird thing about aquatint is that after a few minutes in the acid (remember these minutes are cumulative, over the whole process, because you are dipping the plate into the acid many times over and over - so the unmasked sections have a cumulative exposure) the acid starts to bite not only around but also under each of the resin dust particles - thus some are eventually completely removed from the plate when the acid goes all the way under them; they lift off; and so that section of the plate becomes a little randomly bit and thus when you ink up might actually hold a little less ink than the areas that had a deep bite but the aquatint particles were not totally removed. . .
if you are still with me, due to the fact that I initially first painted out (with stop-out varnish) all the areas on the image that were not trees or trunks or branches or grass - the light effectively of the horizon - on the final plate these areas will have no etching and thus will hold no ink and will be clean and clear; then I painted out, section by section, the trees furthest away (they will be pale), the trees slightly less far away (slightly darker), the trees slightly closer and some of the undulating hills (darker still), the foreground (dark), leaving only the "nearest" tree trunks and branches to have the most dips in the acid, the most etching with the deepests bite, and so when I apply the ink these parts will be darkest (unless the acid bit all the way under, randomly as explained above)

this wasn't the image either, but it will do for my purposes: the first areas I painted out with the stop-out varnish were the sky and the gaps between the trees, and the gaps between the branches. . .
. . .what is odd is that to you as the person painting out the plate, the bits which will be clean of ink are now black (the stop-out varnish is black) - when you've gone thru the whole process the only bits of shiny metal that you are looking at still will be the trunks - which as you can see above, you know on your final image will be darkest - and that's why some people become confused by aquatint, as it's back to front, a kind of negative image as you work thru it
anyway, I'm too tired to go this morning, which is a shame


Mel said...

Ohhhhh......I'm excited!

Dangit that tiredness got in the way--but that's okay. It'll happen. Best to rest and take care of you--first things first.

Gosh--zactly how long did it take? And are you etching as well as immersing? Or is all the etching done by the time you're immersing.
Or do I have it all muddled up? LOL
That's entirely possible, given it's Thursday.

And how do you keep the resin dust on the plate before it's heated into place?

And.....oh......g'morning to you!

I, like the view said...

it took nine hours. . .


nine happy contented hours, of me being completely immersed in the process!

each time you put the plate into the acid (in between painting out each area once at a time) the un-masked areas get etched a little deeper

the resin dust stays on the plate because you take it out of the dust cupboard VERY VERY CAREFULLY and walk across the room to the heat source VERY VERY SLOWLY and you hope NOONE in the vicinity SNEEZES and you hope YOU don't sneeze (altho you are wearing a mask, so you don't breathe the stuff in!) and basically, you are just SLOW and CAREFUL!!!!

. . .

yup, lookin' after myself

trying to

(there is noone else to - apart from you lovely lot!)


I, like the view said...

(and gonna pluck up the courage to ask XCH to sort out my camera one of these days)

Rimshot said...

*puts down coffee and bagel, waves*

The brightest and best good morning to you, dear View...and to all your lovely readers.

katherine. said...

nine hours.
you have amazing patience!

what a cool way to express your creativity. very cool.

I was thinking the negative effect as I read the last part.

rest up

when you get the camera sorted out you will have to take a hundred photos to catch us all

sort out. I like this phrase...we don't use it in this context over here...I may incorporate it....

Mig said...

Sorry you're tired. Rest is good - have lots :)
I am desperate to see the etchings, it's so exciting hearing about the slow, patient arrival of the image (I would never have had the patience - thus instant digital :)
But sometimes the post-processing of a photo, with layers, works in a similar way.
Sleep well tonight.

I, like the view said...

thanks mig bundles of thanks! I'd love to see you again sometime. . . think I owe you a visit. . .


katherine I am lucky to have the time, I know that much

if one has the time, patience is easy

shot!!! my man!!! I had bagel today!!! yum

Anonymous said...

Great description of etching. And I would love to come up and see yours!

For now, it's on with the dry point...

Mig said...

I'd love you to visit :)
Any time :)
But seeing again definitely please!
(((((((((( I ))))))))))

Mel said...

Nine hours.....holy buckets. And there's a doubt in your ability to persevere? NOT FROM ME!

I can just envision one walking with the resin covered plate, holding one's breath.

Nine HOURS?!

Gordie said...

Acid, Boyfriend, Camera, Dust...

I feel an alphabet coming on.

I, like the view said...


did I dip the boyfriend in the acid, and then photograph the dust with the camera?

this alphabet could be extra fun!


I, like the view said...

nine hours. . .

the tutor commented to me at one stage, in a rather hesitant tone, "that's very detailed, isn't it. . ."

and someone else sneered at the complexity of my image and asked why, as a beginner, I wasn't working on a smaller plate (she's not very nice, that lady, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt)

when I test printed the plate, the tutor commented, in a surprised tone "so it worked out then"

mig I'd so love to come, if/when I may, but I'm having a travel phobe time at the moment - can't get out of the triangle that exists in my head between The Tower, the house and the art college


dinah I like dry-point - I can do that here. . .