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            Copper Plate Etching           

Copper Plate Etching

For over thirty years, watercolors have been my medium of choice. It is a spontaneous medium that, at times, can be very unforgiving. But the rewards of a fresh wash of color far outweigh the limitations of this transparent paint. Although there is little evidence of his use of watercolor, Rembrandt remains my painting hero. His work is dramatic, sensitive, detailed and profound. However, it is his simple use of line, the foundation of all art that has captured my admiration. There is no greater example of this than in his copper plate etchings. My inspiration for mixing watercolors and copper plate etching came as a result of an in-depth study of this master's work and the encouragement of a longtime friend and printmaker.

The process is a long one. It begins with a series of small watercolor sketches and black and white value studies. Using these preliminary studies as models, the work is then detailed in graphite and then rendered in line on a prepared surface.

The drawing is then transferred to a copper plate. The plate is exposed and etched in an acid bath. The acid etches or "bites" the lines into the metal. The length of time the plate is left in the acid determines the quality and weight of each line. The plate is removed from the acid, cleaned and polished.

Ink is worked by hand into the etched areas of the plate and then printed by forcing dampened etching paper into the depressions using an antique press. The ink is transferred to the paper and set aside to dry. This completes the etching phase of the art.

After drying and flattening, I take one print at a time and begin the gentle application of transparent and semi-opaque watercolors. Because of the delicate nature of the fine German etching paper, the method used to apply the paint is critical. A technique of scrubbing or the use of excessive washes or glazes will destroy the soft, natural fibers. To achieve a rich, even distribution of color, especially in large areas, without doing damage to the paper, brush strokes must be direct and deliberate ... and then it's hands off! Before a second of third wash is attempted, the paint must be completely absorbed and the paper totally dry.

As this process continues, slowly the etching and painting are blended into one cohesive work of art. After drying and careful inspection, I sign and number each piece. Due to this "hands on," labor intensive approach, the number of impressions is extremely limited. Every watercolor/etching is unique and considered an original work of art.
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