The Absinthe Table

This week I experimented with hard and soft ground.  Here is “The Absinthe Table”, etching on copper plate.

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It’s based on a sketch I made at the Hotel de France, Vaud, Switzerland. They have a collection of absinthes for tasting.

Walking on the way to the print studio I decided I would do two colours. Furthermore, I thought that the second colour, with black, should be green, as absinthe is sometimes called the “la fée verte”. Rooting about in the leftovers box at the Print Studio I found some green ink.

The long process of making the plates took all morning. I watched the rain fall into the canal. Perhaps some of this atmosphere went into the print. Making a two-colour print means:

  1. placing the colour-ink plate on the press.
  2. roll over until the plate is out but the paper is trapped under the press roller
  3. lift the press blankets and remove the plate without shifting the paper or the template
  4. get the black-inked plate
  5. put that plate very carefully in the same place on the template
  6. replace the press blankets and roll back over

The potential for error is great. The most obvious error is to put the second plate in up-side-down.

I printed the plates in the afternoon. The error that happened first time round was that the green ink didn’t print at all. Not a dot. Examining the tube very carefully, reading the writing between the splodges on the tube, I saw that it was “block-printing ink”. Lesson: block printing ink does not work for etching/intaglio process. OK.

This is why the background is brown, using the Charbonnel etching ink which I had brought with me. This is very reliable, but is brown not green.

Here is the single colour black, one plate in hard and soft ground.

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Here is an out-take, the very first print of this series. The bottles are in hard-ground only, and the registration is totally off. But perhaps that weird dislocation is appropriate for a picture of an absinthe table.

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Here’s a sketch of the absinthe table from February this year:

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From Godfrey House

Here are etchings based on a drawing I did from outside Godfrey House, in the St Luke’s estate, Bath St, EC1V.

This one is done in the new brown ink I bought: “Terre d’Ombre Brulée”

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This is aquatint.

Here’s what the hard ground etch was like, before the aquatint.

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Here’s the work in progress:

 

The Cheesegrater, etching

Yesterday I did an etching based on a sketch I made of the Cheesegrater and St Katharine Cree.

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This is a post-card sized etching on copper plate, printed by the technique called Chine collé.  Japanese paper is the coloured background, and is printed and glued to Fabriano Unica, all in one process. It’s a bit tricky, but gives a good result, I think. The Japanese paper takes the ink very well, and provides the coloured background.

The plate is made using a hard-ground etch, then aquatint. Hard-ground etch means I put a varnish on the plate, then draw the picture in the varnish, so revealing lines of bare copper. Then I dip the plate in acid for 20 minutes. The acid attacks the bare copper and makes lines. Then if I print it, it looks like this:

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The next stage is aquatint, to make the tones. Aquatint is nothing to do with water, and nothing to do with colour. The name is misleading. The plate goes in a box, where I’ve turned a handle to make clouds of fine rosin. The rosin drops on the plate like rain. Then it’s annealed with a gas burner. Now there are lots of tiny dots in a random pattern on the plate. The skill now is to paint and dip the plate, so as to get the tones. The longer the plate stays in the acid, the blacker the tone. But if you leave it too long the acid bites off all the dots and the tone is light again.

The picture has 5 tones and plate tone. The darkest tone was in the acid for 4 minutes.

Here is the plate being inked up:

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I did the printing on the Henderson press at East London Printmakers.

Lady of Avenel etchings

Here is the Lady of Avenel in aquatint.

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Lady of Avenel, aquatint

Here is the hard ground, before the aquatint went on:

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To help with the aquatint, I made a small test plate. It seemed a pity to leave it blank, so I put some sea life:

Lady of Avenel is an 102ft brigantine square rigger. I sailed on her for the swimming expeditions in the Hebrides in 2017. This is why the sea life is relevant, and realistic. Especially the jellyfish.

I drew the Lady of Avenel in Heybridge basin, see this post:

Lady of Avenel at Heybridge Basin

Lady of Avenel website is: www.LadyofAvenel.com

Etchings done at East London Printmakers, 18th January 2018.

Towers, Chine Collé

Last Thursday I made more prints for my “Towers” project.

I improved a plate I made last September, “Skyline”, using a dry point tool, and a marvellous rolling tool called a roulette. The idea was to add more detail.

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The drypoint tool, above, and the roulette, below.

I used chine collé to make a yellow shape. Chine collé is paper. It is put on the inked plate, glue side up, which as you can imagine is quite tricky. Then I carry the whole lot to the press, trying not to let the sticky yellow bits float away. The print paper goes on top, then tracing paper to protect the blankets, then the blanket which the press needs, and then I roll it through the press.

Here’s the result:

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Skyline, Chine collé, 4th January 2018

This is the view out of my window. When I look out, I can see shadow of my building and other buildings. The yellow outline reminds me of this effect, and of all the other buildings whose metaphorical shadow is here: the buildings demolished or bombed down, and the buildings to come.

I also made Chine collé prints of Towers East and Towers West.

 

I have printed these before. See these links:

Towers East and Towers West

Towers, East

Towers East and Towers West

I continue to work on my “Towers Project”. The idea is to document the towers of Finsbury, Islington and Camden, or at least the ones I can see from my window.

I did a “Skyline” previously which you can see on this link.

Here are two smaller etchings, Towers East and Towers West, both 10.5cm by 15cm. I finished Towers West yesterday.

 

These two together form a panorama. I used Towers East in a Chine Collé course. See this link.

The two prominent towers at the front are part of a Peabody Estate, the “Roscoe Estate” on Roscoe Street. The one on the left is “Peabody Tower” and the one on the right is “St Mary’s Tower”. The low house at the very front on the left is Fortune House, on Fortune Street. I have drawn Peabody Tower in an urban sketch, see this link.

These etchings are aquatint on copper. Here is work in progress on “Towers West”.

 

I drew the picture in hard ground using an etching spike, then etched it in acid called “Edinburgh Etch” for 20minutes. The resulting print is shown above on the right.

Then I put resin dust, called Aquatint, on the plate, and set it with a gas burner. I paint varnish on top of the Aquatint, to make the shapes, then dip in acid, then paint more, then dip. Towers West is 6 dips. The sky is a technique called “spit bite”: I just paint the acid on, wait 20 seconds, and wash it off.

Here’s the copper plate for Towers West:

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Towers West, copper plate

Chine Collé workshop

Here is a gallery of prints I made yesterday, experimenting with a technique called “Chine Collé” – thin paper glued. The idea is to introduce colour, by using a thin piece of paper which is sandwiched between the printing paper (white) and the inked copper plate.

This was a workshop led by Damien Grist at East London Printmakers. I used plates I’d made previously.

My favourite print is this one, based on my “Towers East” plate:

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“Edge of the City” – chine collé

Here are other examples. Each print is unique.

 

Here’s what I learned:

  • The glue that’s used to fasten the thin paper is wallpaper paste. This is wet, and allows the thin paper to shrink as the assembly dries. It also contains fungicides. Traditionally, Japanese printmakers use rice glue.
  • The thin paper doesn’t take the ink as well as the white print paper. So sometimes the image is disrupted.
  • This is a fast technique for adding colour. And it’s fun: the result is a bit of a surprise.
  • Japanese printmakers use “Gampi” paper for Chine Collé. Tissue paper is an alternative. Newsprint works quite well, and also takes the black ink well.