What a good day I had yesterday.
After five long months intaglioless, I finally got a chance to get thoroughly inky again. There’s nothing so satisfying as being able to look at one’s blackened fingernails and ink-stained skin, knowing that there’s a batch of freshly pulled prints – good ones at that – flattened under boards to dry.
I really didn’t expect to pull so many good ones yesterday. Five months is a long time to be away from one’s work. Prior to that, I was printing and etching every other week and working on the plates in between. Working that intensively, you become familiar with all the little nuances of the plates; you know exactly how much ink to use, which areas need a little more or a little less; how to wipe, where to wipe vigorously, where to wipe gently. As you pull each proof, you study it and notice all its subtleties, making decisions almost subconsciously as you go along. It sounds poncey I know, and I like to think I’m not pretentious but I think it’s true to say that you work with the plate rather than on it. That’s what’s so wonderful about etching – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. You have an idea how it’ll look when you pull that first proof, but there’s always an element of surprise. The plate, the ground and the etching solution all conspire to give you something you didn’t quite expect. It may not always be a good surprise of course, but that keeps you from complacency.
Yesterday I printed the second and third images in my Red Scar series. I’ve used details of these in the blog header and as my profile picture. They’re soft and hard ground on zinc, with some rather haphazard use of straw hat varnish, etched in copper sulphate solution. The plate area is approximately 15 x 10 cm. Like most of my work, they are illustrative – based on a story about a highwayman. A story destined never to be finished…