Drawing into the plate, with a sharp stylus, can take many hours. After all the work on the plate is completed – the aluminium plate for Angles and Curves Tynemouth Station is etched in a solution of copper sulphate and sodium chloride ( salt ) and water. The etch time is quite quick – maybe a total of 2 – 3 minutes. If the etching solution is fresh this time may be reduced to seconds not minutes. The entire process is non toxic.
In the reaction between aluminium and the etch solution a black deposit is created.
When the etch is complete the black deposit is rinsed off in water and the plate is dried.
The plate is now ready for its first proofing print. The ink could have a small amount of linseed oil added to make the inking up process easier.
The ink is carded into the plate using mount board offcuts. The ink has to get into all the lines and marks on the plate.
After the ink has been carded in the plate is then wiped with material called scrim. The purpose of this is to further force into the lines and marks and also to remove from the surface of the plate.
When the work with the scrim is finished the plate is polished with tissue removing as much of the surface ink that is required. Sometimes surface ink is left on the plate – plate tone, creating a wash effect.
This is one of the most important stages in creating the print – the decision about how much the surface needs to be cleaned and/or how much ink to leave on the surface, without leaving smears.
After a final close check the inked plate is placed on a sheet of tissue on the press bed. The tissue protects the press bed from ink – the back of the plate gets inky. It also enables movement of the plate into position without touching the plate.
Damp paper is placed carefully onto the plate.
A second sheet of tissue paper ( dried used tissue is recycled ) is placed over the sheet of damp paper. The press blankets are carefully placed over the plate and paper.
The press bed is wound through – it has gears so it is fairly easy to wind.
The blankets removed and the tissue before the paper is very carefully lifted off the plate revealing the first glimpse of the print that may have been months in preparation.
This is the point at which after all the time taken to produce the plate the artist can see if it has been a success or failure and also the point at which to see how to change and improve the next print.
See the print here.
I’m experimenting with the unique qualities of the aluminium metal plate that allow many varying degrees of tone to be developed in the plate by biting the bare metal – it creates a ‘ tooth ‘ for the ink – the longer the metal is left in the solution the deeper the tooth and deeper ink tone on the print.