A discussion amongst the OCA Printmaking Facebook group prompted me to try out this technique. Internet research yielded several sources of helpful information:
and some people are clearly achieving excellent, subtle results:
Following the techniques described I:
- cut a piece of heavy mat board to my required size
- brushed it generously with black acrylic paint (black because this is going to be my darkest tone area, so helps with visualisation)
- laid a slightly larger piece of polyester lining fabric over the plate and brushed it over with more black acrylic to stick it down and smooth out any wrinkles
- wrapped the fabric over the edge and brushed this down too, to seal the edges of the plate and tension the fabric
- allowed this to dry thoroughly
- brushed some dried red oak leaves with heavy body white acrylic and pressed these on to the board in a few places (following on/alongside an idea I was developing for a linocut https://greenmangle.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/project-7-multiplate-print-overlaying-patterns/)
- added medium to the white paint in increasing quantities and continued brushing this on leaves and applying them to the plate, as the proportion of medium increased, the tone should decrease as the area is less shiny and should wipe less
- allowed everything to dry thoroughly for several days
My plate looked beautiful, but the contrast in texture from the silk background through the different paint layers wasn’t what I had hoped for. To print it, I:
- damped some heavy cartridge paper and left it between blotters to settle
- brushed the plate over with etching ink using an old toothbrush to really get into the textures
- wiped it across the plate and down with scrim, at right angles, to work the ink into the silk
- carried on wiping with scrim more gently, removing ink from the surface until the image started to appear
- wiped with yellow page paper and the heal of my hand until ink was removed from the shiniest areas but left in the other areas
- wiped the edges of the plate clean of ink
- printed the plate on the damped paper using my mangle on high pressure
The results were as disappointing as I expected. The texture of the leaves can barely be seen and the tones are far too uniform.
I printed the ghost just to see if the texture would show any better. Nope.
Before abandoning the plate completely, I reinked and after initial wiping, I polished areas of high tone locally with a cotton bud. This gave an uneven and very poor result, but at least I could see something.
The press was clearly capable of getting down into the texture of the plate, and the method is clearly capable of capturing great detail.
After inking my plate looked lovely – definitely one of those prints when the plate is much more interesting than the print.
I will have to try this again because the dreamy effect of the aquatint is worth pursuing if I can do it with domestic resources. This was clearly too ambitious and my next attempt will be a simple tonal strip of paints applied in different qualities and with varying body.