silk aquatint portrait

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Reflecting 5.25×4.5 Silk Aquatint on BFK Rives paper, with colored pencil
Process shots begin at the bottom of this post
I’ve been intrigued with the soft, gradient effects of aquatint in etching for awhile now, but the supplies needed are pretty specific and a bit too toxic for me to have in my home studio (check out this video from Crown Point Press to see how it’s done).  A few years ago, I read about silk aquatints online. The idea that I could get a gradient plate tone, and a painterly print, with water soluble materials (no acid) really rings my bell! So, I’ve researched all the variables, and I’m experimenting with the process. I’ll be posting the results here.

 Here’s my little print, Reflecting, fresh off the drawing table, with a couple of layers of colored pencil over the Akua Intaglio ink to bring out the details I lost in the printing process of my first Silk Aquatint.  It’s available on Etsy.

A bum print always has potential to become something with a little artistic assistance. The next day, the Akua inks had dried completely, and I wanted to see how they handled colored pencil. I love the way prismacolor pigment sticks to the oil based inks I’ve used – especially Daniel Smith and Graphic Chemical. My experiences with other manufacturer’s water soluble inks as a base for colored pencil haven’t worked so well, so I was really surprised to find that the colored pencil adheres to the Akua Intaglio inks perfectly! 

 I didn’t get any of the subtle gradation I was hoping for in the print, and I suspect there were two reasons: the shimmery fabric was very absorbent when I was painting with the white ink/gel. I re-applied the white paint three times, and it eventually sunk into the fabric after each pass, leaving the weave exposed to catch ink. I also think my ratio of gel to white paint was off. I painted and pulled two prints during this session (I’ll post the other one next) and they both had the same fabric and the same issue; lost details, even after heavy wiping in the white areas. Back to the drawing board. I have a different fabric over mat board to try, as well as that same fabric over a plexiglass sheet, so there will be lots of experiments this week.

Here is my inked and wiped plate on the press bed, with a little tape registration to center my paper over the plate.

 I also tried my new batch of Akua wiping fabric. It’s much softer than traditional stiff tarlatan, and it works great on their inks.

 After the plate was dry, I trimmed the excess fabric and painted a little face with a mixture of white acrylic and gel medium. The white gel/paint fills the tiny weave of the polyester, and blocks ink from settling there, so after you ink & wipe the plate and print it, what you see is what you get. I tore my paper down to size, and used Akua Intaglio Paynes Gray and a little transparent base to ink the plate with scrap mat board cards.

The instructions I found for making a silk aquatint were on the Akua web site.  I don’t have access to silkscreen polyester locally, so I stopped at a fabric store and bought two types of polyester silk organza; one is shimmery and a little slick, and the other was rougher to the touch and seemed to have a bit more ink-holding tooth. The instructions advise against using cardboard as a base for the plate because it’s too absorbent, so I used mat board coated with a thin layer of gel medium as a seal. In the photo above, I’m using a foam applicator brush to paint a layer of watered down black acrylic on top of the silk to adhere it to the plate. It would be wise to iron the silk, but I was intrigued by the possibility of inky effects from the ridges of the fabric. The plate in the lower right has the shimmery silk, and it’s the one I used for the art in this post – Reflecting. You can already see the way each fabric reacted differently to the coat of black… both were wet in the photo, but the polyester on the plate in the upper right corner seems to sit on top of the paint. I haven’t used that one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Art Quote
The beautiful “In sorrow” painting has a story worth telling in its own right. Zorn’s self confidence was expanding, more now than ever before, mainly due to his successes in watercolours, though his love for Emma Lamm played no lesser role.
His artistic breakthrough took place in the spring of 1880. His painting “In Sorrow” was chosen as the main piece at the Academy’s exhibition. The model for the painting was Mimmi Nystrand, whose father had just passed away (at the time Zorn was living with the family.) Zorn said, regarding the reception of the piece:
“I painted the head of a young woman, wearing a black veil, and called it ‘In Sorrow’ before submitting it the pupil’s show. Professor Boklund, the bitter but benevolent man in charge of the exhibition, had a toothache that day and saw me with half-hearted enthusiasm. He said about my painting: “Son, such waste of paper. Put it down on the floor!” …
… “The next day however, I was sent after to meet him, and he said: “Son, they want it! They’re crazy about it! How much do you want for it?” Staggered by this unexpected turn, I modestly replied “Fifty kronor” (about half a dollar) – “Son, damn you for not asking one hundred and fifty for it! The next day the caretaker came to me with an envelope containing one hundred and fifty kronor. It was from one of the professors who bought it for a friend. A few days later there was a big article in the magazine describing my opus, and how my fortune was made.”

Introduction to Anders Zorn   by Matt Viinanen

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7 thoughts on “Silk Aquatint: Reflecting”

  1. Wonderful image, Belinda — it has a very pensive mood. Really enjoyed reading through your production steps. I’m left wishing there were twice as many hours in a day so I could play with this medium too.

  2. It’s always fun to watch you wip’s, I realized yesterday I hadn’t read one of your blogs in a while and I missed you voice coming to me out of the ether. Good luck with your experiments, and Happy New Year!

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