Subtle Effects in Etching: Spit Bite

In the last post, I talked about creating aquatint tones using hard ground and paint markers to cover the plate and protect it from the acid.  In another process, the acid can be painted directly on the plate to create subtle effects and soft edges.

Spit bite: painting acid directly onto the Aquatinted plate

Spit bite: painting acid directly onto the Aquatinted plate

The plate is covered in an aquatint ground (a ground of tiny speckles that will result in very small raised points of metal when etched.  See How Tones Are Created in Etching for more detail on this ground.)

Next, any parts of the plate that need to be protected from the acid are covered in a solid acid-resistant ground, such as liquid hard ground. This appears coffee-colored in the above photo.

Now the fun begins.  Using a weak solution of acid and an animal hair brush, the prepared plate is literally painted with acid. Acid can be stroked onto the plate, dripped onto it, or dripped into puddles of water that have been painted onto the plate.

Because the acid is weak and is depleted quickly in this process, areas that are to retain ink need to be painted over and over with the acid, until the etch is deep enough to hold the desired amount of ink.  It is not possible to tell just

Spit bite plate

The plate is stained from the acid

from looking at the plate exactly how deep the etch has become, so it is important to have a sense of how many times a given area has been painted with acid in order to gauge progress.  The application of acid to the plate in this manner results in the plate appearing stained, but the varying color of the stain does not relate closely to the eventual tone in the print.

When the artist determines that the spit bite is deep enough, the plate is flushed with water, and dried.  All of the grounds are removed, and the plate is inked, wiped, and printed to check on progress.

 

Using paint marker for highlights in the waves

Using paint marker for highlights in the waves

 

For this image, however, I chose to continue to develop tones for areas representing sand and surf.  I used paint marker to protect the highlights in the waves.

 

Another technique I like is to draw over the aquatint ground with a china marker (grease pencil).  This is another way to create subtle gradations of tone in the aquatint.

Using a china marker for subtle gradations in the sand

Using a china marker for subtle gradations in the sand

 

 

Again, development of tones proceeds by soaking the plate in acid,  then using paint marker and china marker to cover more of the plate and soaking in acid again.

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Here you see continued development of tones for sand and waves. Eventually the areas still exposed to acid are very small.

Eventually the area being etched is very small.

Eventually the area being etched is very small.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally the grounds are cleaned from the plate.  The bare plate gives some idea of how the plate will print if you look at how light reflects from the surface.  The spit bite areas are somewhat deceptive because of the irregular acid staining.

The bare plate after grounds are removed.

The bare plate after grounds are removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next step is to ink and wipe the plate, and print it on the etching press to check progress. Here is a view of the press, which has rollers above and below the traveling bed. Note the felt blankets folded up out of the way, waiting for the plate and paper to be set upon the bed.

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Here is a view of the etching press

 

The inked plate on the press bed.

The inked plate on the press bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plate is inked and the surface is wiped with rags.  Now you can see more clearly how the acid has affected the plate, especially in the spit bite areas.

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Damp paper is placed over the inked plate, and covered with soft felt blankets. The resulting sandwich is rolled through the press.

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Note the plate marks visible from the back side of the paper after the plate has gone through the press.IMG_2784

 

 

 

 

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Black and white proof of the plate

Here is the black and white proof (print) of the etched plate.  The spit bite has produced a brooding grey sky of indistinct clouds.

The next process in developing this image will be mixing colors and proofing the plate in color.

 

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