Monday, August 1, 2011

The Dangers of Auto Pilot

For the Kids
etching on paper, ©2011 Elana Goren 
12" x 18"

Above is the second state of an etching that I had been working on for months (not continuously but I started this back in April). I decided that the shadows under the truck needed deepening and I figured this would be a quick finale to a long process of working on this plate.

Since I don't have an etching set up in my studio, I need to etch at one of the several printmaking studio/workshops that I use in New York City. To prepare ahead of time, I applied the resist directly to the plate at my studio so that I could bring it to the etching workshop to coat with rosin for aquatint and then, etch. It was a great time-saving plan, except that it's not the way I usually work. I almost always coat the plate with rosin first and then cover it with resist.

So, I went to the workshop, saw the usual crowd and chatted with my fellow printmaking buddies and then did several rounds of etching the plate in the nitric acid (zinc plate). But at some point I realized that there was something very, very wrong with the plate. It wasn't until it was way too late that I realized that I had neglected the crucial step of coating the plate with rosin for aquatinting. I had disastrously ruined my plate by not paying attention to what I was doing and relying on my own little auto pilot who was used to applying resist-coating to plates that are already pre-coated with rosin, ready for aquatinting and acid.

This mishap happened a week ago and I'm still kicking myself for it. Months of work down the drain because I zoned out and missed a crucial step. So this is my word to the wise, don't rely on your habitual way of working to such a degree that you stop paying attention to what you are doing. I suppose there are much worse accidents that can happen beyond a ruined plate since we etchers work with toxic substances, so my advice is focus and avoid a printmaking disaster or worse, a personal tragedy.