Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let's Ink about This

copyright Hannah Phelps
Ocean Point Scene II
etching and aquatint on Stonehenge paper
6" x 8" image size

This print is my very latest creation. You can see it in person at the Continuing Education Student Exhibition at the New Hampshire Institute of Art close by in Manchester. I have enjoyed printmaking so much that when the school announced its new Certificate in printmaking, I enrolled almost immediately. I want to learn all the basics of the many types of printmaking, so I appreciate the discipline of following a program.

This semester, I am focusing on intaglio, specifically copperplate etchings. In case you don't know what some of these terms mean (and I didn't until I started making prints myself) I will back up and define some things. "Intaglio" prints are created by plates with deep grooves that hold ink. The ink is transferred to paper by using a tight press that pushes the paper into the grooves. In this plate, the grooves were created by burning lines and dots in copper using acid, which is called "etching". With intaglio, the marks you make on the plate are the marks you will get in the final print.

Often, etchings are based on line drawings, but the painter in me needs shapes and tones, so I also used a technique called "aquatint" to create the clouds, darken the trees and mimic some reflections in the water. This method uses acid to burn tiny holes in wider areas of the plate. The holes are so close together that when the ink is transferred to the paper, it acts a little like a wash of paint. I have included a close-up of the trees so you can see the dotted texture within the aquatint:

This detail photo showcases my favorite part of this piece. I was able to manipulate the aquatint to create a nice outline of tree shapes. You can also see the variation of colors in the ink a bit more clearly. Using multiple inks on one plate is called "a la poupee". I joked with a friend that this might be French for "makes a big mess", because when I smeared it on the plate, it sort of got other places too. It was worth it, though, because the inks mixed, creating wonderful depth and a nice atmosphere reminiscent of landscape painting.

There are other etchings in the works, so while this one hangs in the NHIA show, I will hopefully finish some more prints. When I do, I will share them, too!

P.S. If you want to know what "a la poupee" really means, the National Gallery of Art has a nice little definition posted here.


merci33 said...

I really feel the mood of Ocean Point II and those foggy colors are dreamy...just like the Maine I recall so well from years of camping along the coast.
Lovely to be exploring a new medium isn't...and I so enjoyed learning the new term (which... dang I can't really spell without looking again...let's just say the a la poupee.

Hannah Phelps said...

You spelled it right, merci33! I don't know how to get the correct accents to type, so you at least spelled it the way that I did.

Printmaking has been the best thing to happen to my painting it a while and they are informing each other, which is really fun.

Karen said...

Wonderful prints, and nice explanation about the process.

Hannah said...

I'm glad that you included such a detailed explanation of aquatint and intaglio--I always find its hard to hold the definitions in my mind. Including the pictures too was great.

Kadira said...

Hannah - what beautifully delicate work you do. I've never done any etching or print making except for the odd lino cut. Thanks for the explanation of the terms as I would have had to rush to the shelf and check up my artists handbook otherwise!