Monday, April 28, 2008

Rainbows, autumn leaves and experiments

Autumn leaves

We had a lovely few days away, driving 1500 kilometers across the mountains behind Coffs Harbour, down through Armidale where we stayed for two nights, over the tablelands and into the Upper Hunter Valley wine growing region where we stayed for another two nights before driving back up the same, spectacular road and home again. We got a brief taste of autumn among the deciduous trees planted by European settlers in the colder weather of the tops. Most local trees are sub-tropical evergreens around here.

The rainbow graced us with its presence in a delightful vineyard where we'd had lunch, both beginning and ending among the vines.


Back home I've been battling with the biggest plate I've ever etched, which has confronted me with various challenges! Willis suggested I try screen printing a mark drawn onto TruGrain and applied to my plate, using sugar-lift solution instead of ink so that I could then treat it as a lift-ground image, soak it off in water and hand-aquatint it using rosin applied through muslin.

Abortive attempts to make fluid lines in brush and ink...

Well, what fun I've had. Firstly it took a while to work out how to make the marks on the TruGrain. Brush and ink and pen and ink were both discarded when I discovered I couldn't reliably produce the feathery line I wanted. Marker pen was more fluent but less descriptive somehow, so in the end it came back to chinagraph pencils. Willis made me re-do my lines a couple of times because he's a perfectionist and didn't like some of the curves!

The finished chinagraph line on TruGrain film

Half way through re-doing my lines I realised that I'd been sent copper plates that were slightly larger than I'd ordered, and the extra millimetres made the difference between being able to wash out or etch the plate in my plastic trays and... being completely stuck without a suitable tray. Cue: minor panic and trips around photographic shops, farm supplies shops and eventually a large hardware store which resulted in the purchase of an ENORMOUS plastic crate thing, which is the only container I can find that is large enough.

This of course creates its own problems because then I realised I might not have enough Ferric Chloride in which to etch the plate since it would now have to cover a larger surface area in the new tray and I don't have time to order any more from Melbourne. Cue: another panic trip into town, this time to visit an electrical bits and bobs store that just happens to stock litre bottles of 42 baume Ferric Chloride for the nerds who etch their own PCBs locally. Thank goodness for nerds! There was a slight panicky moment in the shop when the cashier noticed a discrepancy between the two bottles I'd found on the shelf and the stock inventory, which seemed - momentarily - to suggest that I couldn't have the bottles because they didn't show up as being there on the stock list, but we overcame that little hiccup, although strangely I still had to pay full price for two bottles that technically didn't exist. ??!

The TruGrain line screen printed onto the plate

Now I still don't have much Ferric Chloride, but I've got as much as I'm going to get locally, and remembering Archimedes and his bath I started thinking about displacement of liquids in a tank... somewhat nobly, I think, I decided to sacrifice my liver to the altar of printmaking and have emptied a few winebottles over the weekend (although not, I must confess, alone. I had help.). I'm going to fill them with water so that they don't tip over and place them in the etching tray to help raise the level of Ferric Chloride. Eureka!

Fine detail washed out - not enough sugar in the lift? - but I like the slightly ragged, raw look to it anyway

Having solved these minor technical problems I decided I'd better soak and then aquatint my plate, which I did today. All I have to do now is to etch it tomorrow, print it, fiddle with it and produce a bon a tirer print by the end of next week. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nozzles - the answer to my prayers

Now you'd think, being female, that I'd know about this sort of thing, right? After all, I spend my time playing with hairspray and stuff... not. Apparently, as every graffiti artist worth their tag knows, it's not the spray paint that makes the difference, it's the nozzle. So what I need to do to get a finer spray is pull the nozzle off the top of the can and experiment with some different ones. So now I might have to go to the chemist and buy lots of cans with nozzles on them. Drat. Oh, and the other thing I should do, once I've identified the perfect nozzle, is to spray up in the air and let the mist of tiny particles fall down onto my perfectly prepared plate.

OR... I could go back to using resin as an aquatint and apply it by hand, using muslin stretched over a flour shaker to distribute the dust over the plate and then blow-torching the underside of the plate. Half my problem is that a lot of my equipment is still in boxes as I don't have a permanent studio space in which to work, but I think I do have a blow torch top lurking somewhere that I simply have to attach to a bottle of gas, so this may be workable.

The other part of the problem is that I often just don't have a range of techniques at my disposal - just whatever I learned in printmaking classes. So it's great talking to people with more experience than me, even though I'm left feeling frustrated at my own ignorance sometimes!

Friday, April 11, 2008

More spray paint antics

It's dashed tricky, that spray paint aquatint! I wonder if it's because I bought car enamel rather than a different kind of spray - I may have to investigate whethere something else gives a finer mist. My biggest problem is atmospheric: high humidity and/or a stiff breeze make spraying anything evenly with fine droplets a bit of a problem, and I have to do it outside because I can't use all these solvent-based products in the office I share with my husband...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Saline etch update

Yes, at long last I feel well enough to put up some photos! I can't believe that two weeks after falling ill I'm still ill... mind you, the last few days of coughing have been down to the nuisance activities of one of our neighbours who appears to have decided to chop down and burn a number of trees in his back garden. Protected koala habitat? Fire ban? Permit required...? Nah, who cares about that?!

Anyway, a while ago I got on with making a saline etch solution and using it to make aluminium plates for my exchange project with Tina - so really this post should be on my Complicities blog, but anyway... I made up a sugar lift solution, dried it on the plate, used bituminous stopout to cover it, dried it again, washed it out in hot water and... realised that I'd need some sort of aquatint in order to retain ink in the open areas. Of course! Silly me.

Now I do have an aquatint box, but it's sitting in the carport still wrapped in corrugated card, just as it came off the container 18 months ago. I haven't re-instated it because I don't have anywhere suitably ventilated to put it. Somehow it doesn't seem fair to put it into the office/studio space that I share with Michael, at least not without equiping him with a P3 mask first. And it's a bit dodgy because we're in rented accommodation and I suspect there's fine print in the lease about using carcinogenic substances on the property! Fair enough. So I read up on techniques again and came up with spray-paint aquatint.

Here's my newly purchased can of black car enamel!

I was surprised at how easily this went on, although in retrospect I think I need to practice in order to get a finer mist on the plate. While I was waiting for the enamel to dry - less than 5 minutes in this climate, despite the humidity today - I made up the saline/copper sulphate solution. Then I coated the back of my plate with varnish to protect it and put the plate in to etch. Having read Aine's post about saline etch solution I was careful not to leave the plate in for too long, and anyway, having never used nitric and so not being used to my plate producing bubbles as it etched I was a bit wary of over-doing it.

This is the result. I can't show you a close-up as the right lense wasn't on the camera

I think my spray was too coarse and I need to practice getting that right, but I was pleased that it wasn't more uneven and that there wasn't any undercutting of the individual dots of enamel while the plate was in the etching solution.

The third attempt at printing because I was a bit messy the first two goes!

As you can see, the aquatint is a bit coarse but I think I'll be able to rectify it. I understand it's fairly easy to re-aquatint a plate using the spray paint method; I'll have to see whether I have enough energy to re-spray this plate while I'm busy etching the others! But overall I'm pleased with the result.

Meanwhile I've also printed Tina's plates, which are decidedly more interesting than mine! These are the plates for January and February inked up using a surface roll so that I get an embossed texture from the more deeply-gouged areas. And the plates really are deeply gouged, using drills and built up areas of lacquer I think, judging from the bare plates.

And these are the resulting prints. I need to change the size of the paper slightly; we'd agreed to print within the plate margins slightly and of course I forgot that the paper would swell while it was soaking... so to get the deckle edge I need tear the paper slightly smaller than the desired size to give it room to expand in the water.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin