Half a year after departing towards Rome, long since having returned back home, I got my first wee etching press. Starting from scratch, what better way to learn intaglio printmaking than to process the previous trip drawings? Their technical and stylistic variety was such that I’d have to try the entire spectrum of etching techniques.
Of the 18 drawings, about half have been done. Many required several plates till I was content, some of the following still do; some drawings don’t warrant a print at all. Probably three to five are still to follow, including one huge plate at least equal to Pontarlier if not more intricate, the print of the Siena panorama. The rest, roughly in order of printing, look thus:
The first etching throws a long shadow. There is a lot of “noise”: Foulbiting, or large indentations where the ground was too thick and too brittle – overall these random effects may improve the look a lot.
Anzio was done on a larger plate and for the first, though sure not the last time, I confused the directions – after all, the plate mirrors the real image and so there remain accidental traces of the mountain that’s supposed to be on the left on the right, too.
My first aquatint never made it to a full edition. The drawing’s faults have only been enhanced and so I’ll give this one another try later.
Bern in rain, the first and second plate. The first was just to figure out whether the method worked and looks relatively crude still; the second I found badly drawn with the road opening too widely. Moreover the hatching has been done with a steel brush, and its general look is just not as nice as with manual work.
Bern in rain, fourth plate (the third was a complete failure showing only some informal splotches of black). To me it’s perfect. Only the etching was too delicate, and the plate wore so quickly that I got only a handful of good impressions out of it.
The Besançon plate has a nice general look though I didn’t achieve the original objective, of recreating the drawing’s expressiveness. Sugarlift aquatint played a great role here.
The other expressive drawing I tried to adapt with drypoint. That also justified the record number of eight states, since the plate is so quick to change.
While in the original drawing I had wanted to superimpose interior and façade of the same church, missing a façade drawing, in the print I went for interior + road layout of Genova’s centre.
A rather quick line etching, plainly copied from Ralph Steadman’s frontispiece to „Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“.
This motive wasn’t so likely to be printed, had it not been the perfect practice plate for the large Pontarlier print: Line hatching and aquatint overlayed as Goya would have done it.
In the Fribourg print, day became night. Failing the original technique I had tried for the sky – a gelatine ground that’d allow for gentle gradients if only it hadn’t swum off too fast –, I polished out the moon and its rays, mezzotint-style.
Pontarlier: The plate measures 30cm x 20cm and so is by far the largest in the set. It’s the second of the same motive after I screwed up the first by overetching, and this helped a great lot to improve the composition as well. It’s not perfect, but state of the art: Couldn’t have done better at the time.