I lay the plate in front of me and sense it slowly with my hands and eyes. Where I "hang up", I linger, orient myself, seek connections to other places. With various tools, etching needles, moulders, scrapers, hand drills and polishers, I deepen and clarify the traces and expand them into a linear web. In this process, bundles, rays and hollows coalesce into an image network. This process, without any etching, is called dry point.

   Then the plate is covered with vernis satiné (a kind of fine wax layer). In the dry paper-thin layer, I draw with feathers and etching needles, I explore and complete the underlying network of lines, which sometimes glimmers through, with strokes, points, scratches.


   The plate is placed in the acid bath where the lines and marks are bitten into the copper, this is called etching.  I work mostly with nitric acid, mixed as the old masters did it, with salt or acetic acid added, depending on how fast I want to work and what effect I want to achieve.


   After the acid bath, nothing can be erased or corrected. What is there on the plate, remains there. It can be toned down or weakened using polishers, steel wool and charcoal, but not erased. For the aquatint process, I dust the cleaned plate with asphalt powder or rosin.


   So that the dust layer doesn't fly away before the next etching bath, I apply heat under the plate. The smaller grains of dust melt slightly and stick to the copper. After the next etching, surfaces emerge whose depth is determined by how long they were in the acid bath. In between etchings, I apply another coat of vernis noir to the various areas, thereby achieving light, middle or dark tones in further printings.


   Sugar lift, vernis mou, and acid tints are further processes. Their flexibility offers many opportunities for the artist to expand his visual vocabulary and find his own expression. During all these processes, I can only see the copper plate. Now, just before the printing process, the plate is cleaned.


   Using cheesecloth or tissue paper and last by hand in the process called wiping, the ink is removed from the surface of the inked plate. What lies in the etched areas is what will create the image: etching is an intaglio process. For my colour etchings, each colour has its own plate.


   On the printing press bed, the inked copper plate lies ready. The moistened paper is laid over it and turned slowly through the large wheel of the printing press. The heavy rollers slowly press the paper onto the etched plate. The moist Bütten paper absorbs the color from the depths of the points, lines and areas - an etching comes into being.

Copyright © 1999, Walter Ehrismann

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