Aquatint on Copper

I’ve recently been experimenting with copper etching in the studio, particularly refreshing my brain on aquatint, and learning how copper differs from zinc, which is what I used years ago. Here’s my latest work in progress: a pair of goddesses on a 10×4 inch plate. This began as a proof plate and got a bit out of control (in a good way).

45 minute line etch with aquatint ranging from 20 seconds up to about 8 or 10 minutes.

Though I favor grain in b&w photos (Tri-X film, y’all!), I wasn’t too crazy about this much grain in this particular print, so I proofed and then found a finer spray paint. I use Sharpie oil based paint pens (fine point) to block out small areas. The blue pen works really well. Red works pretty well, but seems to bleed on deeper plate areas. White and yellow seem to run much more, bleeding across etched lines.

At perhaps the third round of etching, the graininess started to come down a bit (this is when I found the new spray which was far more fine than the nearly-empty old can). Adventures in donated studio materials!

Below are the first four etching rounds, showing the progression of graininess & tone. The last two are more what you’d expect using a proper fine aquatint spray & etch. This was my first adventure in aquatint on copper:

Here’s plate & print after several rounds of etching and a bit of burnishing (still needs more refining). Since the original couple of etches were made with a less-than-fine spray of paint, the grain was quite pronounced, which wasn’t what I wanted for this particular image. Here’s a side-by-side of the print looking flat and a little burnishing on the right.

The ropes of hair are looking good, but I’d like a bit more even burnishing in the foreground face. I’m new to burnishing—work in progress!

Up next: a little more burnishing (faces) & an edition. I might also burnish up some stars. It’s a test plate, so I’m not too precious about it. This was part of a journey started in Andrea Knarr‘s INTRO TO COPPER ETCHING class, which is being offered again at Tiger Lily Press in Cincinnati, OH in August. (The class is offered when enough interest is expressed!)

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