Yes, that is one of my favourite things to do. And one of my favourite sayings.

However this year I took this to a whole new level.

When I first started this blog I had just started etching and engraving. Now I love it. Though I haven’t done any lessons and have done very little, I have a wide assortment of  drawings and sketches that I hope to re do onto sheets of metal so that I can make etches of them so I can make prints of them.

I’m very fortunate to have an art teacher who has been trained in the fine arts and who supports each of our individual talents. This year, I chose to use some of my etches in my end of year exam. They weren’t exactly of a high standard, and mostly just looked like line drawings on a sheet of metal, though I didn’t have all the necessarily equipment and only had 3 sheets of copper to work on. what we did have was left over from when our teacher tried to get his students into etching some years ago. As no one was interested he didn’t order any equipment, but now we have a printing press. He’s promised me that when we go back in September I’ll have more colours of printing ink, more utensils and a wider selection of metal sheets and sizes. We were thinking of also getting the masking and chemicals that some engravers use.

See there are many different ways that one can make a print. They all revolve around different textures and heights by either adding or removing material. When we made relief prints in class, I took a painting I had made of a forest and stripped twigs of their bark and crushed leaves to re-create the image from natural materials. It didn’t actually work in the end as I could not apply ink to my work without taking off a great deal of the leaves and then if I did managed to get ink down, it would be too fragile or thick to go through the press. In the end I like it as it is. I sprayed it with some spray mount I got off one of the teachers and it gave the leaves a wonderful frosted effect besides sticking them down more securely.

I really like working with natural materials to make any sort of art, and that’s one of the draws that Indian and Native American art has for me. The vivid colours and the shapes all using and inspired by what they had around them. An artist from today’s world would have to lug around canvas, brushes, paints, pallets and even water containers if they wanted to do an observational drawing of a landscape. A native American artist in pre collonial times would be able to go any where with no supplies and find everything he needed to make a masterpiece. I find the concept enchanting, and would love to learn some of their art, but unfortunately the opportunities have yet to present themselves.

So I thought I would finally put up some more pictures. Some of my engravings and some of the relief I made.

But first, lets clarify the difference between etching and engraving. An Engraving is made by simply pushing away the metal and smoothing out bits, using an instrument to push it off. The technique can be rather complicated, and the traditional way is extremely complicated. The right hand is supposed to hold the tool and stay still and the left hand, with the help of a round pillow underneath the metal, is supposed to move the metal to make the shapes and design. I really dont have that steady a hand and would never be able to accomplish this. Which is why I love the modern meaning of artist. It means you can do whatever you want. No one can tell me I’m doing it wrong (though I know I am, I simply can’t do any better at the present) and you can invent your own way that works for you. (oh, and in engraving you can work on wood as well… or any other material for that matter)

Etching is slightly different and much easier. In etching you coat the metal with a film of masking. Artists use masking all the time to cover a piece or section of a work, which they want to preserve while working into another. Its particularly common in water colour painting. If you want to keep one area white white (or a certain other shade you have) but want to do a wash to deepen the other colours you simply put a mask on and then rub it off once you are done and it is dry. The masking an etcher would use would be much stronger though, and chemically based. They would then take a tool and pull away the mask fromt he areas they want to deepen and so make the design. Next they leave the metal in an acid to corrode the exposed area. The mask keeps it from being corroded evenly, so that you only get the indentations you want. An artist might have to repeat the proccess many times to get the fluctuations in texture they require.

Another huge difference between the two is that and engraver can smooth out his work and so “erase” a mistake or flaw. An etcher has to watch his work constantly while it is in the acid. If the acid cuts too deep the entire piece is ruined.

Both, however, can be used to make prints by coating them with printing ink and rolling them through a printing press.

My technique is more similar to that of an etcher save the acid and masking. The only thing I dont like about engraving/etching is the noise. Its horrible! Imagine nails on a chalk board or a knife on a plate constantly for half an hour, an hour, a day. Also, because I’m only using a tool, or on occasion a mechanical tool, it takes a lot of muscle, and so is very physically and emotionally draining. You have to be patient and move slowly enough that you wont make an irrevocable fault, but with enough force that you will actually make a cut. The tools slipped away from me numerous times. THe fortunate thing is that you can prevent these faults from showing because after you coat the entire piece with ink you take away the majority so that it is only held in the groves. You have to wet the paper you are imposing your image on so that it takes the ink out of the groves.

The hardest parts of what I was doing was getting the right amount of ink off, or rather leaving the right amount on and where I wanted it. The other variables that it took a bit of experiences and mistakes to get right was the amount of pressure on the press and the wetness of the paper. Too wet or too much pressure give the same effect and take the ink all over the place so you just have a blob and not an image.

Anyways, to get to the point of this very long, very big post, I decided to make my Exam piece “Dancing in the Rain”.

And as it turns out, I can’t upload all the pictures I had to show, so I’ll upload them as a photo essay in ‘Dancing in the Rain- Take two”