Print-making with Imagination

Print-making had always fascinated me, but I never thought I would ever have the possibility of exploring its possibilities, because there was so much technical ability needed. But then by chance a friend asked me to join a print-making class which was held for outside students, and luck was with us, for there we met Michael Carlo, one of the best teachers of print-making ever. He encouraged each of us to experiment, and with his technical help,I was able to try out various new ideas in print-making which may inspire others to try out and experiment with for themselves.

The first essential for someone starting out, is to find a good class or workshop. The equipment is so costly, the mess is so unsavory, and the acids so dangerous, that joining a good class is virtually the only solution. Luckily, more and more art colleges are opening their doors to outsiders who only wish to do one or two classes a week. There are also workshops around the country, and even residential print-making courses. The next step is to make friends with your tutor or technician so that you get technical help with your ideas. (For example, in the sawing of metal plates!) Once you are backed by a friendly teacher and/or technician- the sky's the limit!

At first the difficulties of working with metal and the dangers inherent in working with strong acids are a bit off-putting, and one needs a reliable and helpful guide with a lot of encouragement to get one past the first few problems. An aspiring student must be prepared to do a few bad etchings before he or she is successful. After that the fun begins.

The first experiment I did was to try the effect of floating the oil-based wax coating on water, giving a delicate stir, and then dipping a zinc plate face down into it. The plate is then removed, left to dry, and put into acid. The result was a "watered silk " effect, sometimes (though not always) of great beauty.
I printed this up, and then studied the result with great care turning it sideways and upside down until I seemed to see a picture emerging; rather like seeing pictures in the fire.

When I had decided what the picture was going to be, I cleaned the plate, and coated it with a transparent wax ground. Through this I could see the "watered silk lines", and could draw my picture exactly where I wanted. The result was "The Seer" I used the same process for the "Cow jumped over the Moon" etching. I loved the sharp markings on the cow, but decided that the background would look better if it were softer and more blurred. I covered the cow with a wax ground, and put the etching in acid for a short while,and obtained this effect. Suddenly I saw a moon under the cow's heels, and Michael cut it out for me. It looks charming because the moon puffs out of the metal plate as if it has been embossed.This led to an exploration of embossing, which I tried next. "The Snow Queen" was done with a few "watered silk" patterns and a lot of over-drawing. The plate was beautifully cut into two, and given a curly edge by Michael Carlo. Then I was let loose on the drilling machine, and used different sized drills to get a snowball effect. A metal decorative piece from an old chest of drawers formed a huge snowy crown over the Queen; cut-out cardboard clouds and two washers finished off the effect.The same techniques were used for "The Ship Inn, Rye" etching where a ghostly ship was obtained by cutting out cardboard and sticking on toothpicks and bits of wire.

By now I was getting more proficient in the different techniques of etching, and had learned to aqua-tint. This method could be used to great effect in "Zebra Crossing" The fact that the sky piece was cut separately enabled me to give it a Yellow Ochre colour undirtied by the brown shading to black that I used for the rest of the plate.

The Alhambra- harem court" was the most complicated to do. It was drawn, aqua-tinted and drilled. Thanks to Michael cutting out the "windows" they could be inked up in green shading to blue and dropped in to the main plate which was inked in ochre to brown.

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