Assignment 3: Chiaroscuro: Newton’s apple series 2: copper plate etching

The monoprints and drypoint were ok, but it was time to use my new materials, and plan an image using multiple techniques of engraving. I sketched my ideas, and wrote a list to follow, as it’s hardly intuitive yet.



This would involve masking- again, using photopolymer. I decided to make two parallel images, using the positive and the negative mask.

Here are the cut masks ready for sun exposure of laminated copper plates.


The lamination, exposure and developing all went well. The delicacy of the laminate was demonstrated when I realised that the tiny cut I had made into the black paper in order to start the shape was exposed- a tiny sliver of fixed polymer. It was ok, some caustic soda on a cotton bud removed it.

I now had two plates, a negative and a positive apple shape. I started with the negative. I was very keen to try a “tonal wash” which I had a recipe for from Capileira- it involved using a mixture of Graphic Chemical black ink with  high level of pigment, and demineralised water. The two could be moved around on the surface of the plate, and the pigment would be released and will dissolve, forming a surface with a variety of tones and grains, which would substitute for an aquatint layer. It was a technique that could be controlled, ink wiped off with brushes, and redone until it was good. This was the result. I like the swirling patterns: they make me think of the dawn of the universe.


I liked it and decided to use the same technique on the other plate. Having done one, this was now relatively easy, and simple. I etched them for 18 minutes. The unexpected thing here was that the hardened photopolymer was hard to remove, and small dots remained on the plate that I could not remove with caustic soda.  In fact, they work quite well, as otherwise this is quite a simple image. Now they suggest stars, adding to the sense of this shape being a world.



Now back to the other plate. I removed the photopolymer successfully with caustic, and made an aquatint layer with an airbrush and acrylic – concentrating a dense spray on the highlighted part of the shape. The background now had to be stopped out, which I did by painting a layer of acrylic ink- also making a fine line on the apple, to create a thin highlight. The shading was done using a wax crayon- two layers of dark and light grey, and sharp lines engraved with a needle. The stop-out ink was hard to remove from the background though, and I wonder if this could have been done differently.





The background of this one may be too busy, and too dark- going back to the original photo, the grey background rally set off the contoured apple.






Author: chrisocaprintingblog

Studying visual arts part-time with the Open College of the Arts

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