Anja Percival


A Plate Etch in Progress : Interior Light VII


The traditional etching process produces imagery using acid erosion on metal. Areas of metal that are exposed to and thus corroded by acid are roughened, and so during subsequent printing, these etched areas can grip printing ink more than areas which were shielded from the acid (and so remain smooth), and this ink is then later transferred to paper by the application of extreme pressure in an etching press.

I normally focus on the white areas of an image; if just the highlights of an image are marked/protected onto a plate using small areas of ground, then when the plate is immersed in acid, the rest of the surface is etched, except these protected polished points. Successive applications of ground covering more and more of the plate, interspersed with more etching, create different grades of roughness to the plate… as the more times exposed metal is dipped into the acid, the rougher it goes, and so the more ink it will hold, to produce darker areas within the resulting image.

I frequently work with wax pencils for this technique, to block off areas of the plate. A sequence of photographs that I took whilst working on a large image (Interior Light VII, 2011) demonstrate this; the photographs below document the surface of the plate, before each immersion in acid. Each stage has more wax covering the plate... hence leading to different tones on the resulting print, as the longer the plate is exposed to acid, the more ink it can later retain. As the plate surface becomes increasingly coated with white wax, I've later reinforced it with a brown varnish called hard ground. Wax pencils are intermediate in their resistance to acid, they will eventually break down in the acid and expose the metal beneath. Therefore areas on the copper that are 'finished' need to be coated with a permanent protective varnish, whilst the rest of the plate continues to be etched. The last two photos in the sequence show the etching plate after the last etch, with the ground and wax crayon washed off... and finally the resulting print.


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