I am having difficulty getting an even, rich black tone using the aquatint box at the printshop. I spotted Joe’s prints of architectural and industrial forms; the prints are almost entirely composed out of tonal etching. (In other words, the shapes are made out of shades, not lines.) So I caught him with a ham sandwich and asked if he would take a look at my aquatint sometime,
‘Yes, of course,’ he replied.
This evening he taught me a method of building tone using a sponge and soft ground. To begin, I polished a scrap of copper using ‘MAG’ (nesium carbonate) and a salt and vinegar mixture. Once clean, Joe showed me how to apply a thin layer of soft ground to my plate using a thick, soft brush which extended beyond the edges of the small plate.
Before allowing the soft ground to dry, we covered the plate with a small spongy thing Joe found from a man who sells rubber goods on Canal street. (I don’t know why I’m giving away all my secrets)
I ran the plate and sponge through the press using a low pressure, which transferred a ‘stipple’ of dots to the plate. I then painted with hard ground to cover some of the stippled areas that I wanted to keep white and etched the plate in increments of 2 minutes to build shades. Eventually, the darkest parts of the plate etched for over an hour.
The lesson was quite helpful, I found Joe to be a cheerful and generous teacher. He will be showing a series of zinc plates at Cafe Grumpy this fall.