Makeover

Surprise! Today’s post isn’t about an etching – it’s about a watercolour painting… and… it’s makeover. Can you see the difference in the top-before and bottom-after images?

2014.07preweb

Hutong Bicycle, 9 x 12.875", 2014.07

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a closer look:

2014.07deets

 

 

 

The major change I made was to shorten the pole behind the rear bicycle wheel so they weren’t touching. This change helps the eye rest more comfortably on the bicycle, allowing viewers to enjoy the focal point, before rushing off to follow the pole towards the red flag in the upper right hand corner.

I also changed the value of the right handle bar as it goes over the darker shadow wall. It’s an optical contrast illusion that occurs in the real world: a tree branch will look dark against a light blue sky, but the same tree will have “lighter” branches if they pass over a dark wall or dark green bushes. Logically we know that branches of the same tree are the same colour and value (not withstanding shadows), but the contrast illusion “changes” the value of the branches. I learned this trick from my watercolour instructor, Barry Coombs. He’ll be pleased to know that some of his students are not only taking notes, but also applying his lessons. Thanks, Barry!

 

Fishies

Today I present to you a work in progress: Fishies on toned paper.Fish3up_edited-1

Fishies is larger than I usually work (7.5 x 12″), but I wanted to start on a project that, ironically, had legs. I started with a simple line etch and then went straight into an aquatint background. I used a toothbrush with hard ground to “mask” splatters and prevent areas from darkening in the acid bath. Several rounds of splatter and acid provided a a random, speckly background for my fishies.

Next step for my project, is Chine Colle, which is the technique of printing on pre-glued tissue on top of your carrier paper, essentially allowing you to add colour or tone to your print area (unlike printing on toned paper). One method is to cut tissue the same size as your plate, to offer a coloured background to the print area only (unprinted border of carrier paper would remain unchanged). Alternatively you can add pieces of paper and place them strategically or randomly within the print area to add flashes of colour and/or tone throughout. Chine Colle is tricky: tissue can curl once you apply the glue making precise alignment difficult, and different papers dry at different rates and therefore shrink differently.

I’ll share my Chine Colle results in a future post. Don’t be surprised if you see my Fishies again and again – Chine Colle is only the first of many ideas I have for transformation.

 

 

 

Serralunga d’Alba 2-colour Aquatint Etching

Serralunga Photo

Serralunga Photo

In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Piedmonte Italy. One of the most stunning vistas I encountered, was from the Castle in Serralunga. The photo doesn’t do it justice – my memory is much more vivid – so much so that 4 years later, I used the memory as inspiration for my very first 2 colour etching. The process took almost a full year, and I thought I’d like to share some of my trials, tribulations and triumphs in this post.

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Serralunga A1 (Work in Progress)

Serralunga A1 (Work in Progress)

Serralunga A2 (Work in Progress)

Serralunga A2 (Work in Progress)

Step 1: Prepping 2 separate plates

The process started with preparing an etching plate (A1), printing the image onto paper, and immediately transferring it to a 2nd, identically sized plate (A2). I had always intended A1 to be my black plate, and knew I wanted A2 to be my red-brown “accent”, plate.

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Serralunga B (Work in Progress)

Serralunga B (Work in Progress)

Serralunga C (Work in Progress)

Serralunga C (Work in Progress)

Step 2: Putting the plates together

Although I had always intended to use a red-brown, I took advantage of another etcher’s already pre-mixed blue ink, to do a test print B. Although print C has more black etching in it, the 2 plates are very similar, but clearly, colour makes the prints very, very different.

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Serralunga D (Work in Progress)

Serralunga D (Work in Progress)

Serralunga E (Work in Progress)

Serralunga E (Work in Progress)

Step 3: Building the image

As I built up layer upon layer of etching in both the black and red-brown plates, I started to notice that the strength of my red-brown accent colour was starting to fade. I tried different colours, different amounts of “easy-wipe” or none at all, and different amounts of “wiping”, with increasingly weaker results.

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Serralunga F (Work in Progress)

Serralunga F (Work in Progress)

Serralunga G (Work in Progress)

Serralunga G (Work in Progress)

Step 4: Aquatinting and re-Aquatinting

I decided to take a different approach: aquatint on the black plate. I was surprised to discover that “white” had become my accent colour – sparkling like little gems on the hillside. I also had to face facts: my red-brown aquatint was breaking down. Another layer of aquatint was the only remedy. Finally I got the 2nd colour intensity I wanted.

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Serralunga Final

Serralunga Final

Step 5: Artists Proof

My final image has  more “noise” which definitely helped with the registration challenges I had been having. I’m pleased with the outcome – as the houses move away, both the red and white sparkle throughout the hills – just like they did in my memory.

Night Scene

I’ve always loved the drama of good night scene – the stark contrast and the mysterious allure of the shadows. Watercolours are more about light and transparency, but a good aquatint – well, that’s a technique made for the night!

Berlin Theatre 72dpi

 

 

 

 

I started with a photo reference that I shot in Berlin years ago: the Gendarmenmarkt Konzerthaus at night, just as the audience was spilling out of the theatre after the show.

Konzerthaus Line

 

 

 

 

Naturally, I used selective editing to create the perfect composition and image, and with a few quick lines, I established the major elements and provided reference points for the aquatinting to come. One of the great things about etching is the opportunity to document work in progress, so although my goal was an aquatint, I printed the line work as wel.

Finally, the aquatint process: first applying and affixing rosin, and then a multi-step process of selectively blocking out areas to preserve lights and incremental baths in the acid to darken the rest of the image. Ta Da! Well, as with all things in life, things don’t always go as planned: my image was too light overall and didn’t convey the drama of darkness I sought out. There was nothing I could do except start the aquatint process all over.

Konzerthaus Aqauting

 

 

 

 

Finally, the Konzerthaus image I envisioned….

 

 

Soft Ground

So here it is a week later, and although I haven’t created any more art per se, I have been preparing material for this blog – photographing, cataloguing, measuring, inventorying – it’s like a 2nd hobby!

One of the techniques I tried during an etching class was soft ground. The soft ground allows you to imprint textures into the ground that reveal the plate to varying degrees, resulting in more or less etching or “bite”.  I used leaves which I kept damp until class and once etched and printed, the results were surprisingly intricate and delicate.

Arboretum K

 

 

 

The black and white looks quite antique – but I when I tried using a teal ink, and wiping less to get more “plate tone”, I fell in love with the mystical moody quality of the print. Definitely my preference – how about you?

Arboretum Blue

It’s been a while…

I haven’t abandoned watercolour (60+ paintings to post) but I have been unfaithful to the medium.

Early last year I took an Etching class. It was out of convenience at first – walkable or a $10 cab right for late nights, but I was soon hooked – or should I say Etching made an impression on me? I’ve now graduated to independent studies and continue to learn every session.

Godzilla Line My first awkward attempt was an image of toy Godzillas. I started with a naive line drawing, not even clear about where I was headed with the image.

 

 

Godzilla Aquatint 1 2013

Half way through the first class we did aquatint – still a mysterious process to me, but just what I needed to bring my fearful creatures to life.

 

 

Aquatint Etching, 5.5 x 4", 2013

Godzilla Aquatint 2

Unlike watercolour, etching is very process oriented – it takes me weeks to prepare a plate. But the opportunities for “tweaks” are endless, and I modified some of the shadow areas to increase some contrast in the darker areas – note the lighter eyes in the background zillas.

 

 

 

There’s still lots of opportunity to improve the image before I start editioning – Chine Colle, additional tone, highlights, line, or perhaps a 2nd colour. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You

A big thank you to all the friends and family that attended Open Rhodes last month. I can’t believe it’s been over a month already, but it’s taken me that long to recover from the excitement of my first show and sale. Both days were extremely busy – so much in fact that I didn’t have time to visit other participating artists – I sure hope that you did, though! Special thanks to Gillian Morris who hosted my work, organized me, and guided me through the Open Rhodes experience.

I’m already working on pieces for the show next year (always the 2nd weekend in November), and plan to update this blog a little more regularly in 2012. 

Thanks again for your support and happy holidays to all!