Weekend Etching in Frome

Printmaking is like sex – it’s not solely about reproduction.

It had been ten years since my last etching when I entered Frome Printmakers to begin a Hard Ground Etching course run by Steve Clarkson, the current chair of their studio-collective and a true printmaking wizard.  The man is an expert not just in traditional printmaking, but  he exceeds in digital image creation and knows more about obsolete photography techniques than any other living person on this earth… so, yes, I was incredibly intimidated.

Not for long though – as luck would have it, Steve turned out to be a wonderful teacher and a really nice guy.

Despite of knowing how to make etchings in previous life, I needed a bit of handholding to start with:  Preparing a copper plate for an etching is by no means difficult, but you do need to know what you are doing.  In the end, we prepared two plates with hard ground wax; the first one which I covered in drawings of the human leg bones and another featuring a single molar tooth.  Both were submerged in a mild acid solution to etch my drawing permanently into the copper.

artist studio - waiting for my prints to dry

Ironically, it turned out much more fiendish to decide what type of prints I would like to make using these plates.  Picking out a colour was tricky enough, but I quickly learned choosing the right paper and an appropriate print-to-paper ratio was equally important – perhaps even more impactful than colour alone. 

And please allow me to toot my own horn a bit here: my imagery, inspired by anatomical illustrations of a bygone age, worked silly well as etchings!  Like establishing a missing link between my painted work and the all that drawing confined on the pages of my sketchbooks, re-learning printmaking has done wonders to my confidence as a visual artist.  It is a pity it took me ten years to get back on it.

I chose to print my plates on large sheets of handmade paper speckled with dark brown seeds.  This was the paper stock that worked best with the line-work, giving me high saturation of ink each time, but it also chimed in with my concept of drawing something that would look at home on weathered pages of an old encyclopaedia.  Printing on a unique paper like this added another layer of texture to my small edition of etchings, but it also meant small imperfections would be less noticeable if not complimentary on the final images.

That, my friends, is not a bad thing at all when you are still getting comfortable with print-works.

What remains now, is the gargantuan task of choosing the right frames to display these bad boys…  So if you know a good framers shop around Wells, give me a shout!  My new prints deserve nothing short of the best, LOL.

‘till next time!