Intaglio is a printing method in which ink is forced from recessed areas on a surface onto damp paper by putting it through an etching press.
My prints are created mostly by hardground etching and aquatint.The lines of my images are created by a hardground etching. This is done by coating a copper plate with hardground, which is acid resistant. I then draw with a needle to remove the hardground where I want my printed lines to be. After I have finished my drawing, I submerge the copper plate in acid. The acid bites my drawing into the plate, creating a recessed area to hold ink. The longer the plate is in the acid, the more ink the lines will hold, and the darker the image.
To create different values over a larger surface area I use a process called Aquatint. The first step in aquatint is applying a powdered rosin to the plate. This creates a dot pattern for the acid to bite, allowing ink to be held within the plate. The rosin is then fused to the plate with heat. After the rosin is fused different values can be created on the plate by putting the plate into the acid. Working from light to dark, the plate is put into the acid and then removed to stop out each level of value with the acid resistant hardground.
Etching, a form of intaglio, is a printmaking technique developed over 500 years ago. An etching is made by using acid or a salt to bite into the surface of a flat metal plate. The longer the plate bites, the deeper the bite is, and the darker the mark. Most other printmaking techniques, such as relief (linoleum block, woodblock) and silkscreen, only produce one tonal value per plate, but with etching, many values from the lightest grey to the darkest black and many different types of marks can be created on one plate.
How I make my plates:
I use a combination of hardground (line) etching and aquatint, but most of my animals are made using only aquatint techniques. I love aquatint because I can create a plate that has unlimited use of different grey tones and can create almost a painterly line.
To create a hardground line etching, I paint a thin layer of hardground, which is acid-resistant, onto my plate. I use an etching needle to draw my image, exposing the plate below the ground. I then put the plate in a tray of acid. I pull the plate out every few minutes to apply more hardground to areas where I want a lighter line and then put it back in to the tray to make the remaining lines bite deeper.
To create a large area of one solid tone to the plate aquatint is used. Similar to hard ground, I apply acid resistant substance to my plate. This time it is an even dusting of finely ground pine rosin. I melt the rosin onto the plate using a torch. This creates a dot pattern on the plate. If I did not do this and simply exposed a large area of the plate to acid, it would simply create a large area, where ink would not sink into the plate in the inking/printing process and would print white.
Now I can begin painting with the hardground to form my image. First I paint out the white areas and then submerge my plate in the acid. I take the plate out after a few minutes and then paint out the lightest grey areas. Then the plate goes back in and out until I reach the darkest area of my image. You can see how I made my elk plate through the aquatint process below.
Now that I have etched my plate I can print it. First I need to bevel the edges of the plate so that they do not slice through my paper (or worse the etching blankets). Now I can apply ink. I use a wide flexible plastic pallet knife, but a cardboard chip works too, to apply a layer of ink over the whole plate. Next I use a fabric called tarlatan to softly push the ink into the areas that I bit with acid. After most of the ink is distributed I use the palm of my hand to gently remove any excess ink. Depending on the size of the plate, this process can take up to an hour.
inking my Indian Paintbrush plate. On many of my flower plates, my fish and vulture, I ink "a la poupee" or more than one color per plate. I will use the tarlatan to distribute the red ink equally, hand wipe, and then add a second color for the flower stem.
Now that my plate is inked, I put it on the etching press. My paper has been soaking for at least an hour (depending on the type) in water. I blot the paper and place it over the etching plate. On top of the paper I place wool blankets and then pull the plate through the etching press. The intense pressure of the steel drum on the press pushes the soft damp paper into the bitten areas of my plate that contain ink and my image is printed.
Registering some plates to add to my image on the press. The paper is trapped under the weight of the press so that I can line my image up on my grid without the paper moving.
To create many of my images I have inked several plates and printed then in an over lapping fashion. Some images, I have used the same plate, and printed it several times. On some large pieces, I have over 250 plate impressions.
a small sampling of my plates
wiping the grizzly bear plate with tarlatan
hand wiping the plate