Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Experimenting with white ground etching

The Skeptic
Etching, ©2010 Elana Goren

This past fall, I experimented with etching techniques that I hadn't tried before such as white ground etching. For the print above, I used white ground as an acid resist on a zinc plate.

White ground is a soapy mixture that allows the artist to build up thicker layers of resist where the acid can't reach the plate as well as thinner, gradated areas that are more susceptible to the acid's bite. This ground is more unstable than regular asphaltum-based ground and so it needs to be monitored more closely when in the acid bath. But the instability of the ground adds to the textural and tonal quality that it yields.

It's a little tricky to paint with what is basically soap on the metal surface. But, it can be worked with while it is wet to add texture as you would a soft-ground application or it can be scratched into with a pointy object that's not too sharp to scratch the plate (unless you want to add some drypoint lines to your image). It's also nice to work with a medium that can be corrected easily by washing off the undesired application before starting to etch.

After applying the white ground, the plate is covered with aquatint rosin and it can then be etched. It's recommended to use the white ground before applying aquatint since this makes for a smoother surface to paint on. 

I took the photo of the plate (above) to see what would translate when the print was done. I believe this was taken in the middle of the process where I had already etched the plate and was applying new layers of the soap ground for another etch. You can see how some of the thinner applications of the ground have gone from light to dark grey and the thicker applications remain white. This process is alot like the aquatinting with asphaltum hardground but behaves less predictably in the acid. But the benefit to it is that it allows for a more fluid, gradated image and the white color makes it more visibly straightforward to paint where you want the image to be white.

1 comment:

josgreenroom said...

This does seem like a very interesting process - one that I'd like to try