Sunday, January 13, 2013

Copper plate redux and non-toxic hard ground

It was both a frustrating and very good week of printing. Monday the 7th, I had great luck with an aquatint on the copper plate (traditional hard ground and spray enamel) but really poor luck with two different sugar lift ground experiments. Luckily, I ran out of time Monday afternoon, so I just left the last lift ground as is, no etching. It was the right choice....on Thursday, things were working much better. 
Second state showing the proof and plate with the added aquatint
Thursday was a special day (And long- the class is 9:00am to 4:00pm) with much rushing around and activity. The first day of the "Intro to Non-toxic Printmaking" class at The Drawing Studio. I was mostly assisting, so I was able to observe some new interesting techniques and also work a bit on my own work. Strangely enough, while I was using traditional hard ground on my copper plate, the students were shown how to use acrylic-based grounds on their copper plates. Acrylic floor "wax" makes an excellent hard ground! Apparently this brand is really good; you just add some India ink to tint it. 
Non-toxic hard ground
Once the plate is beveled, cleaned, abraded with fine sandpaper and degreased, you coat the plate with this stuff by pouring it on, holding it almost vertically over a tray. You want a thin, even coat. Clear packing tape makes a "handle" so you don't disturb the surface.
Pour it on
Walk it off
To get rid of the excess floor wax that accumulates on the bottom edge of the plate, you "walk it" onto some newsprint or phone book paper. You don't want a thick edge of floor wax on your plate. After that, you can air dry it in the sun or put it in a hot box to speed up the drying process. After it's dry, you can scratch through it just like regular hard ground and etch it in ferric chloride. It's a wonderful alternative since it's odor-free, relatively non-toxic, and you can remove it later with sodium carbonate (washing soda). Sodium carbonate breaks the long polymer chains of the acrylic and becomes a safe solvent for clean up. Alternatively, a non-toxic citrus-based solvent can be used to remove acrylic floor wax ground from a metal plate. 

After lunch, the students worked on their plates and while I created a successful sugar lift ground on the copper plate and etched fairly deeply. 
Proof of the third state with added lift ground. 
Later that night, I brought the little proof I had printed to an art critique and the other three artists deemed this print "looks finished". I think it looks pretty good, but I will see when I see it again with fresh eyes tomorrow! 

While I was etching the copper and the students were working away, I printed a couple of monoprints from a Solarplate I had neglected- it was from the Santa Fe workshop with Dan Welden. The image was made by drawing with a waxy crayon onto frosted glass and using the glass to create an image on the plate. I've been using it a few times, usually printing it with another plate, but it's always been subordinate. This time, I made it the star and I was pleasantly surprised at the results. You may recognize's been used for both Fig. 16 and Fig. 21. 
Abstraction, Blue & Yellow 2

Abstraction Blue & Green 1
These two also went to the critique. Both got very positive feedback, so I will continue working with this plate this week. Tomorrow I will play around with the little copper plate and see if it's finished. It may very well be. 


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