Category: Printmaking techniques

Varied Editions — Torcello

I mentioned in an earlier blog that some motifs inspire experimentation, and these images of S. Maria Assunta on the Venetian island of Torcello are examples of one group of techniques used to add colour to an image.

First, proofs are taken at each stage in black ink until the plate is considered to be completed. Then, by carefully inking-up à la poupée and selective wiping and/or rolling of the plate, a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, can be suggested with coloured inks. It is great fun to do, not least because the resulting prints can be unpredictable.

The plate may be inked in two or more colours. Sometimes it may be passed a second time through the press. If it does have a second pass, then the registration of the plate is crucial in achieving a crisp image.

Sometimes the plate is printed onto a new sheet of paper without re-inking. This is called a muculature, or ghost print and can produce a wonderful, soft, atmospheric image.

Using these techniques takes a lot more time and care than inking in black.

A unique inking of a plate is known as a varied edition, usually shown on the print as (VE) sometimes called a monoprint.

Here is a selection from 3 plates, showing how different the motif can look with this technique.

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©Henry Hagger 2019

Hastings: Dawn and Dusk

Here are two sides of Hastings: the fishing community at Rock-a-Nore and the trippers on the sands.

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Dawn is printed from a steel plate and uses the techniques of soft ground, aquatint, spit-bite, scraping, burnishing and dry-point.

As you can see, it went through several transformations, most notably at State 5 when there were five separate stoppings-out. After each stopping-out, the plate is placed back in the acid for a predetermined time. The time for each biting is different and the effect is cumulative. You can also see the effect of different wiping of the same state in images 3, 3a and 3b.

There is much scraping-out on this plate, which is a difficult job because steel is much harder than zinc. Steel, however, is better for colours, especially yellows, which, when wiped on zinc plates often take on a greenish hue.

In State 7, I have experimented with colour. These prints are monoprints (sometimes referred to as V.E. or varied edition), that is, they are variations printed from the same matrix: each one is unique.

Hastings state 6 monoprint 1 plate wiped in black and rolled in yellow 72dp
VE 1  © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 2 plate wiped in Umber and rolled in yellow72dpi
VE 2 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 3 plate wiped in black and rolled in yellow 72dpi
VE 3 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 4 wiped in black with orange roll 72dpi
VE 4 © Henry Hagger
Hastings state 6 monoprint 5 wiped in black with pale orange roll 72dpi
VE 5 © Henry Hagger

I used a different technique to the à la poupée that I showed you in Spanish Journey: Part IV: Ronda and Madrid. Here the dark ink is wiped into the intaglio and the lighter colour, which may be modified to alter its consistency or viscosity, is applied over the plate with a roller. Thus, when printed, the dark ink is the top layer.

I was particularly attracted by the foremost boat, RX55. Clinker-built boats have such graceful lines and, in the round, are beautifully crafted sculpture.

There is no harbour at Hastings and the fishing boats are pulled up onto the beach by a big tractor. Boats are registered at the nearby port of Rye, hence the RX numbers on their prow.

Old tales, young dreams, intaglio gravure, 300 dpi RSMA 2014, SocAA2017 , Discerning Eye 2016
Old Tales, Young Dreams © Henry Hagger

The Dusk plate is intaglio gravure wiped in a blue/black blend to give an impression of the sea at dusk.

A father and his children sit on the shingle, with the Hastings Pier in the background. He appears to be telling a tale to his daughter, while his son, who has heard all the tales before, looks away and dreams of what he will do when he grows up. Old Tales, Young Dreams.

I was fascinated by the silhouette of the Pier seen against the sparkling light on the sea, and engaged by the domestic scene in the foreground.

©Henry Hagger 2018

Spanish Journey: Part IV Ronda and Madrid – The Final Chapter

I took a few days out from my Spanish commission to visit the town of Ronda, famous for its bullring and for the Puente Nuevo. The temperature here in August exceeds 40°C during the middle of the day, so I worked in the morning and in the late afternoon when it was cooler.

Ronda morning,  from my sketchbook   72dpi.jpg
A Page from my sketchbook

Some artists have a motif which they find so fascinating that they return to it again and again. In my case (and that of David Bomberg before me), it is the ‘new’ bridge at Ronda. Built from 1751–1793 by Juan Antonio Díaz Machuca to a design by José Martín de Aldehuela, it is the most recent of the three bridges which cross the river Guadalevín. The earlier ones were built further upstream where the river is not as wide, as only smaller spans were possible at the times of their construction. The building at the top of the gorge is the Parador, which I have simplified for effect.

I have already shown you some prints of the dramatic gorge in my first blog. Here are some more images showing different approaches to the same motif:

Ponta Nueva , Ronda , charcoal, 35 x 50 , £480.jpg
Charcoal drawing © Henry Hagger
Ronda large BW etching 2.jpg
Soft-ground etching © Henry Hagger

 

One way of adding colour to prints is to apply individual colours to a single plate surface with small inking tools called ‘dollies’. The technique is known as à la poupée ( French for ‘ with a doll’). As you can imagine, it is a delicate operation and takes time. I used this method in the colour intaglio prints shown in the Gallery.

Puente Nuova -Ronda, colour etching VE , 30x40 cm jpeg 72dpi
Mono-print inked à la poupée © Henry Hagger

 

This watercolour was exhibited at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Ronda afternoon ,watercolour 72dpi.jpg
Ronda Afternoon © Henry Hagger

The ‘Morning’ version was also shown at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in their Contemporary Watercolours Exhibition.

Ronda morning, watercolour 72dpi.jpg
Ronda Morning © Henry Hagger

See the Gallery, for more of Ronda: intaglio prints, some touched with pastel; and a Lithograph.

The prints of the bullfight and of the Sherry bar in Madrid are from a later trip but I’ve included them in this Spanish blog.

Bullfight 72dpi
Sol y Sombra ©Henry Hagger

Sol y Sombra was drawn from a photo in the Tauromachy Museum – the bullfighting museum at the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda. This was printed from two plates (another way of adding colour) and is a varied edition.

CAH La Venencia Madrid 2 colour etching 9 x 12cm
La Venencia ©Henry Hagger

La Venencia is also a two-colour edition. The actual venencia from which this unspoilt Madrid tapas bar gets its name can be seen hanging behind the bar to the left of the picture

– and below is a page from my sketchbook.

La Venencia sketch 1  72dpi.jpg
La Venencia sketch ©Henry Hagger

 

©Henry Hagger 2018

Puente Nuevo de Ronda – soft ground etching

I thought that it would be nice to start this blog with a brief explanation of one aspect of printmaking.

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The terms Intaglio means that the ‘image’ is incised, engraved, or etched into a substrate — normally a metal plate. Etching creates an image below the surface of the plate by using acid to ‘bite’ into the metal, eroding its surface. The technique of etching metal with acid was first used in the decoration of the arms and armour of Mediaeval kings and princes. The Wallace Collection, London has some fine examples.

The depth and character of penetration of the surface is controlled by protecting the areas of the plate you do not want etched by using ‘grounds’ of wax or varnish. The examples in the slideshow use the technique ‘soft ground’ where the plate is covered in a soft wax which is imprinted into by drawing through a sheet of paper placed on top of wax-coated metal plate. Also, in this case, I added stippling, before immersing the plate in acid. Note that the drawing is done in reverse.

It also uses a technique called spit-bite where the plate is not immersed but the acid is applied directly to the plate in controlled areas. The term spit-bite originates from the era when printers used spit to control the flow of acid over the plate. I also used the scraper burnisher to refine this image.

The acid bites into any unprotected areas of metal and forms indentations in the plate. Ink is spread onto the plate and pushed down into these indentations with a squeegee. The plate is then selectively wiped with an open-textured tarlatan cloth to remove ink from the plate’s surface. It may be given a final polish with tissue paper or the side of the hand.

When wiping is complete, the plate is placed on the press bed with a sheet of dampened cotton fibre paper placed over it. After running through the press, the damp print is lifted from the plate, inspected and, wrapped in tissue paper, dried between two boards to keep it flat.

Guided by this proof, the artist will make adjustments to the plate. This can be done by ‘stopping- out’ areas with varnish before further immersion in acid and/or scraping and burnishing with a tool. At each adjustment, the artist will take a proof until satisfied with the plate.

This final version will be labelled BAT (Bon à Tirer) which means ‘good to print’. This will be the example to follow for an edition of prints. Although the editioned prints will be similar, they will not be identical because each print will be inked, wiped and printed by hand. Thus each and every print will be a unique work of art.

Here is the final version (Stage 6).

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Puente Nuevo de Ronda        ©Henry Hagger

See Gallery.

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Reproducing, copying or using them in any form, including electronic media, without the permission of the artist is an infringement of copyright.

All artwork ©Henry Hagger

©Henry Hagger 2018