Friday, October 7, 2011

White Ground Experiment

Cattle Car
Etching, 9" x 6"  © 2011, Elana Goren

This was a test plate where I mixed different techniques together to see what effects I could get: strong hatched lines mixed with the crayon aquatint as well as white ground effects. I usually don't do alot of crosshatching and rarely combine this with my usual aquatint tonal shading but since I was experimenting here I wanted to see what would happen. The jury is out on whether I want to do more with it, perhaps if the subject/composition dictated more expressive hatched linework, but for now I am much more interested in what happened with the white ground.

I used alot of water when applying the white ground. In fact, I wet the areas on the plate where I wanted to apply the white ground and then let the ground swirl around in the water as it was drying. I had to let go of any notion of control over where the ground will be thickest and thinnest in the watery swirls but I found this to be a general feature of white ground that I like, yielding results that are surprising, unexpected. The resulting smoky, hazy atmospheric effect came from repeated applications of the white ground in the same manner in between etches.

White ground is a bit tricky, there are so many factors involved in how it will yield results you are looking for. The formula used to create it will determine if it's more pigment-heavy or more soapy which in turn determines how it responds to water and after plate application, to the acid itself. I used a recipe from the book Etching, Engraving and Other Intaglio Printmaking Techniques, by Ruth Leaf. It's a great recipe for ground that can be stored in a jar and activated easily with a wet brush each time you need to use it. 

If you are interested in white ground or any other etching techniques, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I am still experimenting with white ground and I welcome insights from others who have used this. I hope to post more about it in the future as well.