Friday, 4 July 2014

Etching course

Last night was my final evening class at the Prince's Drawing School where I've been learning some basic etching techniques.  I've been a bit torn about sharing these as I don't think they're very good but if I blog about them at least I've got some form of documentation to refer back to when I next get to do some more.

In the first session we were introduced to the studio by the brilliant Thomas Gosebruch; an artist, sculptor and printmaker and our teacher for ten weeks.  First up drypoint etching on copper plate.  We were encouraged to do a self portrait and the copper plate acted as an abstracted mirror image to enable this.  Half an hour of gouging away at my face and I had a plate ready to ink and print.

It's surprisingly accurate - I've managed to capture my huge pasty like face - I don't like it but there's a passing resemblance.  I tried to redo one of the eyes by flattening out the copper and reworking it but I didn't have time to make a print of the updated plate.  It was good to get a feel for the inking and printing parts of the process but I found drypoint difficult.  There's a primal satisfaction in gouging away at the copper but it's tricky to control and the copper can be resistant to certain movements. 

The second week we had a go at soft groud printing which is a super delicate form of etching.  I was intimidated by just how delicate the mark making process is; you can use just about anything to make a mark as it all shows up.  I used a small bit of aluminium and etched a small knife onto it inspired as always by all things horror.

By the third week we moved onto hard ground etching which is more in keeping with what I had in mind when I began the course.  I decided to draw something based on a sketch I'd made of a Dorothy Iannone piece I saw at her exhibition in Berlin based on her favourite joke and featuring suspended tortoises.  This piece ended up running over several weeks whilst I learnt various basic techniques of acid biting/timings, inking up a plate, tidying plate edges etc.  Here's the aluminium plate.

And here's my favourite print - it's not actually the final print - Thomas is a wonderful teacher but he had different ideas of how my illustrations should look.  It's been a long time since someone has told me to change my drawings but I tried his ideas and in both instances I preferred my original attempts.  With the tortoises he felt there needed to be more depth under the nearest tortoise's shell so I added some additional drypoint detail only to find I'd lost my nice uniform lines. Granted there was more depth but it became a little incoherent in the process.  He also suggested I refine and clean up the edges more but in this instance I quite like the frame; must be my comic book leanings...

I actually quite like this print.  It's a little bit noisy with unwanted marks/acid biting (Thomas suggested the rear tortoise was vomiting!) but I like the composition and line work.  I also really warmed to hard ground and decided to stick with hard ground for the remaining weeks of the course.  We learnt other techniques but I tend to forget processes very quickly so thought I'd be better off nailing one rather than doing a lot and not remembering anything.

My final print was based on an illustration from a forthcoming screenprint.  Again it's a hard ground etching and I think the acid may have bitten a little too much in places - I've lost some detail along the way - Thomas is all about optimum acid-biting!  Here's the final plate with some additional drypoint work.

And here's my favourite print.  Thomas felt the gaps between limbs and the body were a little bit odd and suggested I filled them in.  I tried it but it became a little messy.  It was a concious decision to have the body parts separated but I think he felt it was technically inaccurate whereas I was trying to achieve something more graphical (?) rather than an actual rendering of a wolf.


It's a little heavy in terms of ink but I'm sort of happy with it.

I can't wait to do another course so if I can get some money together I'll be back in September for the Autumn course with Thomas.  I'll probably stick to hard ground again as well despite his best efforts to push me into more experimental etching techniques!  

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