Last Summer I bought an etching press from my lovely friend Christine which I have finally made space for in my studio. This week my husband helped me to carry it (in bits) up two flights of stairs to the attic where my studio is and there it now stands pride of place under the eaves. I also paint large canvases in this space so I have been forced to change my natural tendency for being very untidy for more organised working.
The press has been up for literally three days so I am itching to start making great work on it straight away but, as in all things, there is the small matter of learning how to be a good printmaker.
I have done a lot of relief printing on my old faithful book press, mostly lino block printing which I really enjoy but my experience with intaglio is limited to a course at Poole Printmakers and a couple of workshop sessions with Francesca Whetnall also at Poole Printmakers. That being about two years ago I am trying to remember everything I learned there and have been watching many wonderful Youtube tutorials.
So yesterday I made up a bunch of experimental practice collagraph plates with a variety of markmaking and textural surfaces to start to get a feel for using the press and making plates. I used all sorts of things from the obligatory scrim through scrunched up tissue paper (loved the effect of tissue paper) and feathers. i used cut outs of card glued onto the plate and removed the surface of the (mountboard) plate to create recesses. I used carborundum thickly and thinly. I used sandpaper and wall paper and hessian and gossamer and glue (lots of glue).
When they were dry I painted over them thickly with knotting (a woodworking substance that drys hard in a similar fashion to shellac. This is what we did on the course I went on though I havent seen it done on youtube tutorials. It makes the surface hard and ready for inking.
Today I inked up the tester plates and using dampened watercolour paper (waiting for my delivery of Somerset paper from Jacksons Art to arrive!) put the press to the test.
Unsure about pressure and blankets and all that jazz I just guessed and fiddled about til it seemed to come right and was very pleased with the results. Most of the things I have used to create marks had worked pretty well and the pressure of the press seemed to be very easy to control.
Early days but I feel good to be on the first steps of the journey learning to use my press. There is so much to learn but also soooo many possibilities of using it to express my creativity from here on in. I see it as the perfect partner to my easel. The paint and the print. Two very different disciplines for expressing the same creative urge. Heres some pictures of todays experimental markmaking plates.