We had a lovely few days away, driving 1500 kilometers across the mountains behind Coffs Harbour, down through Armidale where we stayed for two nights, over the tablelands and into the Upper Hunter Valley wine growing region where we stayed for another two nights before driving back up the same, spectacular road and home again. We got a brief taste of autumn among the deciduous trees planted by European settlers in the colder weather of the tops. Most local trees are sub-tropical evergreens around here.
The rainbow graced us with its presence in a delightful vineyard where we’d had lunch, both beginning and ending among the vines.
Back home I’ve been battling with the biggest plate I’ve ever etched, which has confronted me with various challenges! Willis suggested I try screen printing a mark drawn onto TruGrain and applied to my plate, using sugar-lift solution instead of ink so that I could then treat it as a lift-ground image, soak it off in water and hand-aquatint it using rosin applied through muslin.
Abortive attempts to make fluid lines in brush and ink…
Well, what fun I’ve had. Firstly it took a while to work out how to make the marks on the TruGrain. Brush and ink and pen and ink were both discarded when I discovered I couldn’t reliably produce the feathery line I wanted. Marker pen was more fluent but less descriptive somehow, so in the end it came back to chinagraph pencils. Willis made me re-do my lines a couple of times because he’s a perfectionist and didn’t like some of the curves!
The finished chinagraph line on TruGrain film
Half way through re-doing my lines I realised that I’d been sent copper plates that were slightly larger than I’d ordered, and the extra millimetres made the difference between being able to wash out or etch the plate in my plastic trays and… being completely stuck without a suitable tray. Cue: minor panic and trips around photographic shops, farm supplies shops and eventually a large hardware store which resulted in the purchase of an ENORMOUS plastic crate thing, which is the only container I can find that is large enough.
This of course creates its own problems because then I realised I might not have enough Ferric Chloride in which to etch the plate since it would now have to cover a larger surface area in the new tray and I don’t have time to order any more from Melbourne. Cue: another panic trip into town, this time to visit an electrical bits and bobs store that just happens to stock litre bottles of 42 baume Ferric Chloride for the nerds who etch their own PCBs locally. Thank goodness for nerds! There was a slight panicky moment in the shop when the cashier noticed a discrepancy between the two bottles I’d found on the shelf and the stock inventory, which seemed – momentarily – to suggest that I couldn’t have the bottles because they didn’t show up as being there on the stock list, but we overcame that little hiccup, although strangely I still had to pay full price for two bottles that technically didn’t exist. ??!
The TruGrain line screen printed onto the plate
Now I still don’t have much Ferric Chloride, but I’ve got as much as I’m going to get locally, and remembering Archimedes and his bath I started thinking about displacement of liquids in a tank… somewhat nobly, I think, I decided to sacrifice my liver to the altar of printmaking and have emptied a few winebottles over the weekend (although not, I must confess, alone. I had help.). I’m going to fill them with water so that they don’t tip over and place them in the etching tray to help raise the level of Ferric Chloride. Eureka!
Having solved these minor technical problems I decided I’d better soak and then aquatint my plate, which I did today. All I have to do now is to etch it tomorrow, print it, fiddle with it and produce a bon a tirer print by the end of next week. Fingers crossed.