Etching & Watercolor: Imogen’s Frida

This is a zinc plate with Frida Kahlo etched on the surface. The edges of the plate were beveled so they wouldn’t cut the paper while going through the press, and the surface of the zinc was sanded with 320, 400 and then 600 sandpaper. This is one of the styles of printing referred to as intaglio. (The word intaglio (intal’yo) is from the Italian word intagliare, to engrave.)

After coating the plate with a waxy ground, I sketched Frida into the wax with an etching needle. The drawing was based on a beautiful photo of Frida taken by Imogen Cunningham. Next, I submerged the plate in acid, which bit into the metal surface exposed by my drawing lines.
This is another etching (“Sure Temptation”) using the same process. My reference drawing is on the left, and the coated plate is on the right.

After removing the ground, I pushed black ink into the etched lines of “Imogen’s Frida”, and wiped the top surface of the plate clean, leaving ink embedded only in the etched lines. I put the inked plate on an etching press, and laid a dampened sheet of cream-colored printmaking paper over it. Felt blankets were placed over the plate and the paper, and this layered sandwich was rolled under steel cylinders on the press with a great deal of pressure (about 1800 lbs).

The pressure of the press pushes the paper into the acid-incised wells on the plate to collect the ink, which transfers the line work to the paper. After one pass under the press, the artist peels the moist paper from the inked plate, (the art prints in reverse) and the freshly pulled print is set aside to dry.
The process of inking and wiping and printing the etching plate begins all over again for the next print in the edition, and this continues till the edition is completed. You’ll see a plate impression on original prints, where the moist paper molded around the entire plate under pressure. The artist signs the work just beneath that plate impression, usually with the title of the art, and the print number, and edition size.This image shows an Artists’ Proof of the etching on BFK Rives Printmaking paper. I matted and framed it for an exhibit coming up. I printed the edition with very light contrast, since I planned to paint most of the prints. The image on the right shows the etching with watercolor washes added.

13 Responses to Etching & Watercolor: Imogen’s Frida

  1. Jon Han 03/20/2006 at 1:51 pm #

    wow nice etching.

  2. Alina Chau 03/15/2006 at 1:16 pm #

    Beautiful paintings!

  3. ottoblotto 03/13/2006 at 7:26 am #

    Excellent explanation of the etching process, and lovely work. The watercolor wash adds so much depth!

  4. Marie-Dom 03/08/2006 at 11:48 pm #

    I’ve just found this and I am totally stunned. I love your art work, the vivid jewel-like colours that you achieve in your watercolours. I am fascinated by your prints too. Great work.

  5. janey 03/08/2006 at 4:27 pm #

    Your work is wonderful. I love seeing the process of art. And thanks for visiting my site. And I’m linking to you from my blog 😀

  6. Brips 03/08/2006 at 2:21 pm #

    Wow! Great stuff. Your watercolors are amazing!

  7. Terry Miura 03/08/2006 at 11:45 am #

    Hi Belinda, Terry Miura here. Your stuff is fabulous! It’s so great to be able to see how other artists work. As I don’t know much about printmaking, your blog is really very educational- thanks so much for sharing!

  8. hfm 03/08/2006 at 7:19 am #

    I love those notes.


  9. Diahn 03/08/2006 at 4:26 am #

    As always, I love watching your process develop – so interesting, and so inspiring! The outcome on this one is fantastic – such vibrant colors – I love the way the orange in her dress and skin tones shimmers against that blue background! Nicely done!

  10. orion713 03/08/2006 at 1:43 am #


  11. Chrissie A 03/06/2006 at 1:44 pm #

    The print is just beautiful…and reading about (and seeing photos of) the process is a bonus. Thank you! I visit your blog often for inspiration.

  12. Linda 03/05/2006 at 4:38 pm #

    This is absolutely gorgeous! Not only is the etching wonderful, but the color is perfect. I know your exhibit will go great.

  13. katat0nik (JaneKL) 03/05/2006 at 3:50 pm #

    Awesome! I love seeing your whole process (thanks for sharing!) 🙂 You are the queen of original prints, I hope one day I can make some etchings as good as yours 🙂

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