First of all it was just one of those weeks so missed a couple of days but that said I can always finish off afterwards. It was fairly intensive but I came out of it feeling I had at last got the measure of hades. It has
occurred to me that the studio seems to follow the general layout of Dante’s Inferno. In the basement it’s all about metal and fire, acid and blades. Then as we go up the floors we finally arrive at the top floor into natural light and clean white paper. From hades to heaven by lift.
Now that I am getting into spitbite again I have to upgrade the mask to a full face mask. In fact this is more comfortable than the half mask, but more importantly is necessary to protect from the full range of fumes. We use the ABEKI standard filters. Divil the fume will make through that.
The plates were smoked. This feels like time travel, Rembrandt did this. The plate is first covered with Hard Ground, melted and rolled on a heat plate. There is a definitely knack to this. Too cold and nothing happens, too hot and the wax just rolls off the plate and sticks to the roller – it’s a goldilocks’ job. The grounded plate is let sit for a moment on the heat for the wax to further melt, but not for too long. This helps to fill in any remaining gaps. When it is cool it hardens.
The plate is suspended in chains or a brace, ground side down. Tapers are lit which burn with a long cool flame, and then this flame is allowed to skim the surface of the plate. This both hardens the ground and darkens it to black, making it easier to see what you are doing later on. It is also one of the most fun things we do in etching. Swishing the flame around is just plain cool.
I also got a refresher in sugar lift. A lot of discussion covered all the variations, but in the end the vote was between, Maple Syrup with colour added, condensed milk or the classic mix of sugar, ink and soap. Each one produces a variation on the same result, so a lot – as usual – depends on what you want to do with it. On this occasion I was using it less as a resist than as a pattering method. After the Sugar Lift dried, a thin layer of Bitumen was painted over it and then this too was dried.
Finally the plate was put into a tray and the Sugar Lift was dissolved slowly in very hot water. First hot water was gently poured around it, allowing this to flood over the plate and soften the Sugar Lift, and then hot water was poured over it directly. In this case there was no use of brushes to help with the lifting – and the result is very interesting indeed, a sort of splotchy lift – the classic appearance of sugar lift. In any event a brush can be used to gently remove more if needed.
The next stage was to add aquatint (resin followed by heat) and then I will add tonality using spit bite – but it could just be dipped in the acid if the background was protections.
As I missed the start of the week, I was working backwards, so I ended the week playing with colour. We used three acetate plates with a simple drypoint line design on one, using ink applied with rollers, and overprinted. A brilliant way to just get the juices flowing and try out new colour overprint combinations.
I kept notes but really it’s all about familiarity and just getting to know the space. I can know say that hades no longer holds any fears for me.