Skip to main content

Solar Plate Success

I've been reacquainting myself with solarplate etching recently, in preparation for teaching a 2-day workshop about the technique in a couple of weeks time. With some invaluable advice from my internet friend William Evertson, I got a great result yesterday on one of the plates.

A solarplate is a thin sheet of metal coated with a light sensitive photo-emulsion. When you place an image on a piece of acetate against the emulsion and place it in the sun, the dark parts of your image get exposed onto the plate. You then simply wash away the unexposed parts of the emulsion under warm tap water, leaving behind an etched image. What I realised in recent experiments is that I needed to make an aquatint on the plate first (basically, creating a 'tooth' on the plate that will ultimately hold more ink). So I made my own aquatint screen by printing out a dot matrix pattern on a piece of acetate, then exposing that against the plate first, followed by a piece of acetate with the image.

As soon as I had washed out the plate, I could tell I had a good result. This is what the inked up plate looked like:


And this is what the print that I pulled from it looked like:


What is exciting as a printmaker is how the solarplate picked up all the marks that I drew on the acetate (in Indian Ink and airbrush pigment), the thick, wide marks, and the thin spidery lines, plus some lighter brushstrokes made with thinner ink. The edges should be cleaner, but this is just a proof print.

Bill Evertson suggested I expose the image for 4 minutes, which was slightly longer than I had done before, so that was an essential part of it, too. There are some things you can't do with this technique that you can do with traditional intaglio -- for example, I can't go back in and work on this image with drypoint or a scraper -- but to retain that depth of dark tone on a thin plate, and to be able to ink and print multiple copies so easily, well, that's something that makes the switch from the old ways pretty worthwhile.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.


A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…