Etching in the Studio (by Merle Hunt)

2014-06-02 15.21.16 copy2014-06-02 15.21.21 copy2014-06-02 15.23.20 copy2014-06-02 15.29.55 copyLiving up to our ink-stained name, this is me making a right inky mess in the studio, all in aid of illustrating “The Waves” of course! 

The process of etching isn’t for everyone; it’s slow, quite hit and miss untill you’ve had a lot of experience, messy, tiring and, untill reletively recently, required the use of a fair few dangerous chemicals and carcinogens in its application. Fortunately, with a growing awareness of the health risks, many safe alternatives have now been created (I recommend the Lascaux range for grounds and aquatint and Caligo for their “safe wash” inks) and the studio I work in has now become completely non-toxic. As for etchings other qualities, I find that they are exactly the reasons I take so much pleasure from it. Like playground battle scars (and Abra’s earlier post about her own blackned fingers), there is a certain amount of pride to be gleaned from stubborn ink smudges and the satisfaction of tired feet and the very slowness of the process really helps to focus my illustration.

Creating the image you see me printing here came about quite intuitively and as a result of limited equiptment for applying the aquatint. As previouse attempts at aquatinting had produced a grainy texture with little scope for tonal variation my first thought was how I could exploit these limitations. The pebbly beaches of the story easily suggested themselves and a scene where Vivienne wakes to find herself washed up on shore with a dead sailor. I did a few roughs in my sketchbook to work out composition and line but really the bulk of the experimentation happened during the etching and printing process. Although I have mentioned the aquatint to you now, actually, the first step is to etch any linework and then proof these by printing. Here is where you can experiment using selective wiping to see where you might like to create tone and this is what I have posted. I like that, while my intention was for the figures to be lying on a beach, with the perspective I have used, it also looks as if they could be flying like the floating characters of a Chagall.

The Dead Sailor (2)The Dead Sailor p.s. If anyone has any tips on what to use to apply a liquid aquatint in a fine and even spray please let me know! At the moment we are using old squirt bottles which, although appropriate here, can be very temperamental!

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