Come up and see my etchings…

What is it about the etched line that gets me?

I’m still not sure, but I think something to do with the scratched, ragged nature of it. Also, a certain, almost photographic nature to it, the same thing that attracts me to old silver type photos. A certain darkness.

Most of my ‘lines’ these days are drypoint etching lines. I make a simple plate (of either aluminium, plastic, or shiny drypoint card), printing it through a printing press (more often than not with monoprint and collage added at the same time- I love a multi tasking process!). Then I take my series of prints home to work on by hand, with either more collage and monoprint or drawing.

The process of printing a drypoint plate is satisfyingly messy and sensory. First, thick, usually black, ink is spread over the whole plate, then wiped away, leaving it only in the scratches that have been made in the plate. You can see a short video of the process here.

Wiping a drypoint plate is an art in itself- especially a metal plate, where the idea is that you leave the ink on the ‘burr’ of the scratch marks. You can also add monoprints as part of the wiping of the plate (Rembrandt used this technique). I always make sure to leave a lot of empty space on my plate for monoprint wiping and mark making. In fact you might be surprised how simple my printing plates are.

Drypoint is often seen as the less sophisticated of the etching processes- but what it lacks in ability to multiply (typically drypoint plates only last for about 5-10 prints) it makes up for in directness, darkness and gesture. Often used as a beginners version of etching- it was the first process I learnt many years ago- many people, including me, stick with it, or come back to it again and again.

Without access to a printing press during lockdown, I taught myself how to print drypoint at home, by hand. The process is simple, satisfying and requires a certain amount of muscle power!

I’m teaching my first, 5 week, online ‘Drypoint at Home’ course, starting on 31st October 2023, for Spike Print Studio. It’s 5 weeks of 1.5 hr online sessions combining tuition and time to print together, on Tuesday afternoons (recordings available). It’s £85 and you can book here.

You can see and purchase my new series of drypoint/monoprint/collage pieces, ‘Ramparts’, here.