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etching

  • PRINTMAKING TECHNIQUES I.

    Printmaking is a very versatile and interesting process, which allows you to create lots of prints of the same image. Different printmaking methods achieve completely different results – therefore, this series, introducing the most common techniques, will hopefully be a helpful guide to find the most suitable for your art.

    Etching

    According to the Tate’s glossary, etching is a printmaking technique that creates images by lines that stay in the metal printing plate with the use of chemicals.

    Etching gained popularity in the beginning of the 17th century, even Rembrandt was a dedicated practitioner of the technique. Despite how long etching has been used, it still is not an outdated technique – both drawing and painting like characteristics can be achieved, and even better, due to the longevity of the metal plate, the same image can be printed over and over again for a very long time.

    Rembrandt (1630) Rembrandt (1630)
    Rembrandt: The Three Trees Rembrandt: The Three Trees
    Francisco Goya 'The sleep of reason produces monsters' (1797-1799) Francisco Goya 'The sleep of reason produces monsters' (1797-1799)

    Etching in History

    The printmaking technique of etching originates from goldsmiths, who decorated metal guns, armour and cutlery with ornate designs, the foundations of which had been made in the Middle Ages, or even before.

    Etching as we know it today was supposedly invented by Daniel Hopfer around the 15th – 16th century, who decorated armour with the use of iron plates.

    The earliest dated etching was made by Urs Graf, the Swiss Renaissance goldsmiths, in 1513.

    The Method of Etching

    Traditionally, etchings are done on a metal surface (usually copper or zinc) on which the ground is applied – a coat of wax. It should be applied on the heated plated with a roller, evenly. Optionally, in order to make the drawing process easier, it is advised to ‘smoke’ the waxy surface with candles.


    When the plate cools down, it’s possible to scratch into the surface – although, it is not necessary to push the needle very hard, as the exposed metal lines will be ‘scratched’ into by the acid. Keep in mind that the actual print will be the reverse of the image on the plate, therefore, in case of words you will need to write them the opposite way.

    Once the image is finished, you place the plate in the acid – for the first time, it’s a good idea to do a trial plate and test for how long you need to keep the plate in the acid – the longer it’s in, the darker the lines will be, as the acid can ‘bite’ into the surface more effectively, and it will be able to hold more paint.

    It is also possible to cover certain parts with stop-out varnish so you can influence which parts of the drawing will be darker or lighter, depending on how long you allow the acid to bite deeper into the metal. (Make sure to dry the plate and the masking fluid before you put it back in the acid!)

    Once you’re done with the plate, you can wash off the wax with white spirit, and then the etching is ready for printing! Apply etching ink to the plate with a squeegee, then press it into the plate with circular motion, removing any excess paint. You need to soak the paper in water before printing, but make sure to lightly squeeze the water out of it by placing it between other sheets of paper, before you put it under the press.


    Aquatint

    Stephanie Rampton: Fenestella (2013) Stephanie Rampton: Fenestella (2013)

    The technique of Aquatint is a good method to produce watercolour / ink effect. It is possible to achieve by dusting the plate with resin powder – then marking the surface of the metal with lots of small lines that will appear to be different tones.
    The resin dust should be applied onto the plate, then it has to be heated up so the resin can melt. After the plate has cooled down, you can stop out the areas you wish to remain white, and after it’s dry, the plate can be put into the acid. To create different tones, you will need to experiment with the time you leave the plate in the acid, as well as with stopping out different areas to achieve the desired tone differences.

    print of an aquatint test plate

    Soft Ground Etching

    Soft ground etching is used in order to create crayon-like drawings. It can be achieved by applying a waxy ground that is made softer by some sort of grease. It is possible to create different textures and patterns by pressing various objects into the waxy surface. Or for creating lines, a sheet of tracing paper should be placed over the plate and then drawn on. When the object / paper is removed, the exposed lines will be bitten into by the acid.

    Nelson Dawson Sc et Imp - The Gesuati 1915 Venice Nelson Dawson Sc et Imp - The Gesuati 1915 Venice

    Signature and Editions

    Signatures on prints are usually placed on the lower margin, on the right side of the paper. The place for the edition mark is on the left, and the title goes to the centre.

    According to the Glasgow Print Studio's guidebook, these are the edition markings that can be used:

    • A/P - Artist’s Proof – (the artist’s personal use.)
    • P/P - Printer’s Proof - for the printer
    • B.A.T. – (Bon à Tirer - means “Good to Pull”) the standard quality and colour for the rest of the edition.
    • H/C – (Hors Commerce - means “Outside of Commerce”) means that the print is not for sale
    • S/P - State Proof – a work in progress print to show the development
    • V/E - Varied Edition – prints of the same plate with hand, or differently coloured.
    • Chop Mark – it’s an embossed sign on the paper to identify the workshop where the printing happened.

    If you liked this post, keep your eyes on the blog to learn about more printmaking techniques in the future!

    References:

    http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/e/etching
    http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/printmaking/etching.htm
    http://www.limitededitionprints.info/what-is-etching.html
    http://greatnorthartshow.co.uk/printmaking-etching-and-engraving-focus-on-aquatint-and-soft-ground-techniques/
    http://www.rembrandtpainting.net/rembrandt_etching_technique.htm
    http://www.gpsart.co.uk/DownloadDocs/GPS_Etching_Handbook.pdf
    how to do an etching, the old way
    Etching demonstration by Glynn Thomas — part one

  • Rembrandt, the painter

    Have you seen the previous article on the Rembrandt and Van Gogh paints? Or you would like to get some painting tips from the Dutch Master? Even if you’re just interested in some fun facts about painters and techniques; curious what chiaroscuro means, or why it is so soothing to look at Rembrandt’s paintings, keep reading!

    Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn |1606 - 1669

    Self-Portrait, aged 51 (c.1657) Self-Portrait, aged 51 (c.1657)

    Interesting Facts About Rembrandt

    1. Rembrandt started attending the University of Leiden when he was 14 years old, but as he found art more interesting than his studies, he left for Amsterdam to master his painting skills. Not long after he returned to Leiden, at the age of 22, where he started teaching art.
    2. Rembrandt's famous painting Night Watch is actually a nickname standing for tediously long original title – funnily enough, the painting is actually set at daytime, only the old dark and dirty varnish made it look nocturnal.
      Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (1642) Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (1642)
    3. Rembrandt is famous for painting himself into his paintings – here he is in the background of Night Watch
    4. In 1715, the forementioned painting was supposed to be brought to the town hall of Amsterdam. However, it was so big that it couldn’t simply fit on the wall – therefore, to hang it, it had to be cropped, and in its present state it’s actually missing some parts.
    5. January 13, 1911, September 14, 1975, and April 6, 1990 – what is common with these dates is that they mark the days when the Night Watch somehow provoked violent reactions from visitors, they actually attempted to slash it with a knife – or a more modern method, pouring sulphuric acid on it. Nevertheless, the painting still remains untouched
    6. There are many reasons why Rembrandt’s paintings stand out from others, but one is definitely the phenomena of “guiding the eye”. Apparently, Rembrandt’s painting technique enables the viewers’ eyes to be directed throughout the paintings on a specific route, as if Rembrandt consciously wanted to present a certain narrative by making sure where his paintings “begin and end.” As the study – mentioned in the article “The Magic of Rembrandt’s Painting Technique”- shows, it has been confirmed scientifically that Rembrandt knew how the human eye works, and did actually guide the viewers’ eyes with his brushstrokes.

    Rembrandt’s Painting Technique:

    Chiaroscuro, meaning “light-dark” in Italian, is technique used to create contrastive effect, especially in painting. Moreover, it’s not simply the strong contrast of light and dark surfaces, but according to Tate Britain’s Glossary, the chiaroscuro technique is generally only remarked upon when it is a particularly prominent feature of the work, usually when the artist is using extreme contrasts of light and shade"

    The effect of Chiaroscuro is very characteristic of Rembrandt’s paintings; he usually used dark shades of browns for shadows and pale yellow tones with white highlights to achieve an illuminating effect, as if his subjects were the sources of light.

    Danae (1636)
    Self Portrait (1628) Self Portrait (1628)
    Self-Portrait in a Gorget, (ca. 1628) Self-Portrait in a Gorget, (ca. 1628)

    More on Rembrandt's techniques:

    • How to Paint Chiaroscuro - https://sites.google.com/site/oilpaintingdemonstrations/how-to-paint-chiaroscuro-in-oils
    • Using the Secrets of the Master in Portrait Painting by Brigid Marlin - http://www.artofimagination.org/Pages/RembrandtTech.html
    • Reconstruction of Rembrandt”s “burnt plate oil” -http://www.northernlightstudio.com/new/burnoil.php

    What was Rembrandt’s colour palette?
    You can find more about it in the previous article by clicking here

    How can I paint like Rembrandt?

    Well, naturally, to acquire such skills as Rembrandt’s, you probably would’ve need the expertise of the master himself. Although, perhaps with some help of these videos you can learn the technique and pretend you’re a contemporary of the Dutch Baroque painter.

    [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8RLtL5NZhg[/embed]

     

    [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5YIEzmwfPA[/embed]

     

    Rembrandt Etchings

    Fortunately, Rembrandt wasn't only a talented painter: he took an interest in this particular printmaking technique - and became quite known from his etchings as well. In fact, he produced almost 300!

     Triumph of Mordecai Triumph of Mordecai
    The Three Crosses The Three Crosses

    Interested in printmaking techniques? Keep your eyes on the website, or sign up for the newsletter to hear about the arrival of the article!

    Still want more?

    Rembrandt style drawing - U Tube Clip
    Painting techniques from Rembrandt to Vermeer - U Tube Clip
    BBC Fine Art Collection 3 of 7 Rembrandt - U Tube Clip
    Why I Tried to Copy Rembrandt By Sarah Hart

    References:

    http://www.tate.org.uk/
    http://www.naturalpigments.com
    http://www.livescience.com
    http://www.rembrandtpainting.net

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