If you’ve got the itch to etch

I love relief printmaking. I don’t have a desire to do other media — to paint or to sculpt. But sometimes I crave the textural effects that you can only get with an aquatint. Aquatint is an etching process where tiny pieces of rosin (pine resin) are deposited on a block and then heat-fused. Then the plate (usually copper) is placed in acid, and the places that lack the rosin are etched away.

This technique makes luscious gradations and textures, and I try to create similar effects with my dremmel and many layers of ink. There is a method of etching linoleum, and last spring I gave it a try. I’m posting my results below, and am going to use the etching in my latest work.  But first, an explanation about etching linoleum:

I used ten small blocks, and sealed the MDF with polyurethane. The best instructions for mixing the etching solution are from Warepuke Studios in New Zealand. You are using drain cleaner and creating a caustic solution, so do this outside with goggles, chemical resistant gloves and respirator.

The blocks were exposed for different time intervals. From the left (for both the top and bottom blocks), these were 30 min, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours and 8 hours.

To further my experiment, I used several resist techniques. Running in vertical rows these four techniques were:

Top block
1) Etch held in by a ring of sculpy clay
2) Just the etch in a blob by itself

Bottom block
3) The etch over dried PVA glue
4) The etch mixed with acrylic self-leveling gel (supposed to make the etch easier to control.) I found this seized up like mozzarella cheese.

My personal preference in all of these is the second area down — the etching solution only. The two hour time period made nice textures, without completely etching the area. If the area is completely etched, it is as if you had carved it away.

In my next post I will reveal the block that I will be etching — entitled Perspectives of Plenty.