These are some of the techniques that Carol uses to create her beautiful art.
A. LINE ETCHING
A mirror finish copper plate is cleaned and polished.
Acid resistant liquid wax ground is applied to the plate and allowed to dry.
Using a sharp needle, and preparatory sketches as a guide, the drawing is done directly on the coated plate, scratching through the varnish and exposing the copper underneath.
The plate is immersed in an acid bath, which will eat away the copper where it is exposed. The longer the plate is etched the deeper and wider the lines will become and the darker they will appear when printed. The plate is removed from the acid and cleaned so that a print can be taken to see how the plate is progressing.
Etching ink is forced into the fine lines and crevices of the warmed plate. Then the surface of the plate is wiped with fabric, paper, and finally with the palm of the hand.
The etched plate is placed on the bed of the etching press. A sheet of dampened 100% rag paper is placed on top of the plate and felt blankets cover the paper.
By turning the handle on the press, the press bed, etched plate, paper and blankets pass between the two large rollers which exert heavy downward pressure and transfers the ink from the lines on the plate to the paper. The pressure is so great that the copper plate is embossed into the paper.
The paper is carefully peeled off the plate. A "plate mark" (an impression of the plate edge, countersunk into the paper) can be seen. This distinctive plate mark is characteristic of every original etching.
The print on paper is a mirror image of the drawing on the plate. The plate is now ready for the Aquatint Technique Carol uses to attain various tones of grey.
B. AQUATINT TECHNIQUE
The line etched plate is put into a box in which particles of rosin are dusted evenly over the plate (covering about 50% of the surface and leaving about 50% of the copper exposes.) The rosin is fused to the plate with heat. Using a brush, Carol paints with an acid resistant liquid ground over areas that are not to be etched.
After the acid resistant ground dries, the etching plate is immersed in acid as before. Areas that are blocked out with the acid resistant liquid will not be etched and acid bites around each tiny grain of rosin on the exposed copper. The deeper the bite, the more ink is held in the plate and the darker the tones will be in the print. Blocking out and etching are repeated about 10 times to attain various shades of gray.
The plate now etched with line drawing and aquatint, is cleaned, inked, wiped and printed on the etching press as before.
Additional work may be added to the plate as necessary - perhaps adding further line work to strengthen or darken areas, or smoothing areas with a burnishing tool to lighten them. In this photo Carol is burnishing the copper plate.
This intricate and time consuming process leads to a beautiful intaglio print that has a three dimensional raised line embossed effect characterized by greater permanence and quality of detail than the best pen and ink drawings. The print is placed between blotters for 3-4 days until the ink and paper are dry. For every print in the edition each step of inking, wiping and printing must be repeated exactly.
D. WATERCOLOR PAINTING
After drying, the black and white etching can be hand painted with the finest lightfast artist’s grade watercolors, making each etching truly unique. Transparent washes which contrast with the rich blackness of the etching, and vivid dabs of pure pigment which enliven its surface are added. The watercolor is as vital as the etching in achieving the effect of light and shadow which makes Carol Collette's images convincing impressions of the world around us.
C. SIGNING & NUMBERING
The etching and painting are complete now and the print is titled, signed and numbered in pencil.
Signing and numbering prints is a relatively modern practice. The most common method used today is to record in pencil, on the left side of the print, the size of the edition and the number of that particular proof. For example, 143/450 means that there were 450 impressions in the edition, of which this is number 143. The signature usually appears at the right margin of the print. An Artist Proof is an impression not part of the regular edition. These usually become the property of the artist or his printer. Some may be sold along with the numbered edition. Such proofs are usually identified in the left margin (in place of a number) by one of the following markings:"Artist Proof" written in longhand, or "A.P."
Each etching is printed on Rives BFK or Somerset Heavyweight, both imported heavy weight 100% rag papers. Ample borders are all around the image.
E. DRYPOINT (also called DRYPOINT ENGRAVING)
Drypoint Engraving is a form of intaglio printmaking. Lines are scratched into a copper plate with a sharp tool. The scratching doesn’t remove the metal but throws it up as a burr and makes a ridge similar to the ridge of earth thrown up when a plow goes through a field. A drypoint print has lines that are irregular, with a velvet quality. The term “drypoint engraving” is used as well as the word “drypoint” by itself.
A drypoint plate will not hold up and yeild as many proofs as an etching can. The burr wears down with wiping when inking and pressure of the press tends to cause the burr to flatten. Steel facing a plate will help it last a little longer but edition sizes are generally not as large as etched plates.
To take a print, the plate is inked and wiped carefully, leaving ink in the lines. Damp paper is placed on the inked plate, covered with felt blankets and put through the printing under heavy pressure, embossing the plate into the paper. The paper picks up the ink and when the paper is peeled from the plate, the ink is transferred to the paper. The printed image is a mirror image of the drawing on the copper. A “plate mark”, made by the plate pressed into the paper is characteristic of original drypoints, engravings, etching and aquatint techniques.