This etching is from an artist’s proof in an unprinted edition. (An Artists’ Proof is a test print, and they’re used as a reference to make adjustments to the plate, so that subsequent proofs will be printed, till the final print matches what the artist had in mind for the etching.) The zinc plate for this etching (see the photo below) needs a few more dips in an acid bath to darken areas on the print. I don’t use acid in my studio, so the remaining work will require borrowed time in a fully equipped print studio.
Etching can be a process-intensive rotation of successions, particularly if you have a specific image in mind. Compare the value of the lilac leaves in the vase and the bird figurine in the proof print above with the next-stage proof print below, and you’ll see evidence of my adjustments to the plate in acid to render darker values. Changes are made subtly, with repeated-but-short intervals in the acid, until the print is ready to edition.
When an artist’s proof print meets the artist’s vision for what the edition should look like, the A.P of artist’s Proof is instead marked B.A.T. – bon à tirer; translated from french: “ready to pull”. Artist Proofs and B.A.T. prints are not usually included in the final edition made available for sale, but some print collectors search for these mid-process pieces exclusively, because they show evidence of the artist’s process, they differ from the distributed & numbered edition, and they’re more scarce.
When I paint a proof with watercolor, and then photograph the altered proof with my phone, I can look at the photo in black and white and get a preview of where I want darkest darks and lightest lights to go before manipulating the ink-holding parts of the plate. You can do the same with your paintings: take a snap shot, switch the image to black and white in your image editor, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, flip the image horizontally so you’re seeing a mirror image of your work in process. This will give you fresh eyes to see where adjustments are needed, and you can jot down a list of alterations and fixes in your painting for the final stages.
Watch artist Candice Bohannon ink and wipe her beautiful copper plate of this persimmon still life in her newly posted video (and note that her lovely, limited edition prints are available for sale here). I’ve just subscribed to her channel with hopes that she’ll be posting more process footage from her studio.
There is some important prep work to be done to a plate before making an etching; the sharp, upper edges of the plate are beveled to avoid cutting the paper while going through the press, and the 45 degree angle imposed with the bevel facilitates getting the tightly adjusted roller on the press bed up on the plate by acting as a “ramp”. The surface of the plates are polished to a mirror finish by sanding with 320, 400, and then 600 sandpaper, followed by printmaker’s polishing compound, and then a degreaser, before being coated with a waxy ground.
The artist uses an etching needle to draw an image into the ground, which exposes the metal. The plate is dipped in acid for a set period of time, so the acid can bite into the metal along the exposed line work. The plate is removed from the acid, the ground is cleaned off, and then the plate is inked, wiped, and test proofs are printed, before the plate is again covered with ground, drawn on some more, and dipped into the acid again. Once the proof print is Ready to Pull, the inking and printing process is repeated for the final edition, as you can see in Candice’s video.
Thanks for visiting today! I’ll see you in the next post –
P.S. You can subscribe to this blog and get each post as an email here.
Train the people to be lovers of what is best in their own particular work, and Art will again become as near and dear to the people as it was when the great men of the Renaissance came trooping from the workshops of Italy to fill our galleries with the immortal results of their splendid labor.
~John White Alexander (1856-1915) from a speech – cir 1901-1912