A Natural Selection: Making the Etching

This is a fairly significant exhibition of printmaking in Ireland presented by the Graphic Studio Dublin along with the Botanic Gardens.  There are 100 artists producing 100 prints at a fundraiser price of €100 each.  It is shaping up to be a veritable who’s who of printmaking in Ireland today!

The Background

The call went out last spring, and at that stage there was plenty of interest but no one at that stage anticipated to momentum it world achieve. It seemed more like  another fundraiser for the studio, if a large scale one.

Then the discussions began, and suggestions that there would be catalogue  and that it would tour Ireland, then that it would travel abroad… The thing just grew legs!!

The Botanic Gardens already has an extensive collection of botanical drawings in their archive and a full set of these prints will be added to this as well.

Botanic GSD  reseach old drawing 3  Botanic GSD  reseach old drawing 1


There were a few visits organised for contributing artists to go and see the Botanic Gardens in Glasvevin, and their sister branch in Wicklow.

I went to the Glasvevin one and we got a tour of the gardens, the plants ad the glass houses. Nothing inspired me. I left a little worried. What would happen if I got no idea for a print ? I sent a text to the committee asking what happens if I didn’t want to do a flower or plant? They replied that was ok, my print just needed to be inspired by the Botanic Gardens, either of them. 


Much relieved I took myself of down to Kilmacurragh, and promptly go inspired! I sat in a patch of shade the first day it was so hot, and the next day I went down to do more drawing, I was dodging downpours. But I got my idea!!


The plates

I decided to use two plates as I wanted to use colour.

Initially I had planned to use aluminium and spit bite, but the brief specified an edition of 100 prints. Now while I had sever doubts that I would sell that many, I have no doubts at all about Murphy’s Law – if I didn’t;t pan for 100 I would need it after all.  And no way was aluminium going to survive that.

So ‘Plan A’ hit the fan, and I decided I’d better use copper plates. This also made a difference to how long it would take, as I now had to prep the plates with aquatint before I could spit bite.

I also wanted to use sugar lift for one of the details so this then had to be more carefully integrated with the aquatinting, and everything done in the right order. In the end I completed the sugar lift element in its entirety then masked it off for all the other processes – or at least whenever acid was involved. So more time used up while the bitumen in this dried.

  IMG_2316 IMG_2164

Overprint plan

The  two plates were blue and yellow essentially, and I planned the overprint areas carefully for a wide variety of tone and mix. I also had a lot of texture and detail on both plates with added to the range after overprinting.  The yellow was quite strong, and the blue had a dash of extender in it.  There was a fair bit of fiddling around to get it right.  That said, I do a lot on the plate itself.



So, everything seemed reasonably in order, and then – aha! I discovered some weird and wonderful problems with the aquatint. After several – failed – attempts to solve this using the normal Ferric for spit bite I had to admit defeat and again adapt the plan.

This time, abandoning most of the spit bite and reverting to the more traditional method of blocking out. Slower again!!! But doable. With one major change.

I had to use Nitric! I don’t generally use it, but needs must so I just went ahead – my wee schedule had already hit the fan and I was now falling behind.  

IMG_2324   IMG_2318

IMG_2326     IMG_2165

As it turned out, Nitric worked a treat, and fast!!!  I caught up reasonably well and – finally got to the colour testing stage.

Colour testing

IMG_2338 IMG_2339

Hours of fun to be had – variations on a theme. I know I wanted to a blue/green/yellow  theme, but I also needed to see what was on the plates and try out a few variations and options.  Finicky work at times but very satisfying to see it all coming together.

The  Artists Proof

Finally – the colours were settled and the A/P made – from now on it’s Editioning!!



6 responses to “A Natural Selection: Making the Etching

  1. Beautiful! Hard to believe it’s just a 2-colour print. I wish I had made better use of the workshop access during my printmaking degree; I really miss it now!

    Looking forward to the exhibition!

  2. Pingback: Iris Artist Info : A Natural Selection: Making the Etching | Irish Artrist Info

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