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Posts tagged ‘Etching’

Two Mackerels

Fish have always fascinated me. It’s not just how beautiful they look, with their silvery scales and feathered tails, their glassy marble eyes and their silky pink mouths, but they’re delicious too. There is nothing better than some plump fresh fish, simply cooked and eaten with a glass of white wine and a lot of sunshine, preferably in Mediterranean surroundings. And it is largely because I live so far from the Mediterranean but want to recreate that precise moment of bliss that I buy so much fresh fish from my local London fishmongers.

On one recent occasion, I went in wanting sardines, and came out with two mackerels. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but their beautiful black and silver bodies, with a almost zebra pattern towards the top of their scales so enticed me that I had to buy them. In the end we ended up eating them well seasoned with catalan pan con tomate, but not before I had taken a load of photographs by way of admiration of their beauty.

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Two Mackerels (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, etching and aquatint)

Two Mackerels (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, etching and aquatint)

Before long, these photos sewed the seeds of creation in my mind, and when I decided the time was right to start another etching project, I decided the stark simplicity of these two mackerels would make a perfect etched image. And here is the result – etched into Zinc, including the woodgrain which is, in reality, just small scratches onto the plate but which is meant to represent a chopping board upon which the mackerels lie in wait, ready to take centre stage in some culinary feast.

So that’s the etching done. Now for the exhibition. I’m hoping this one will go on show with others this September when I exhibit alongside the East London Printmakers – more details to follow. In the meantime, should you wish to buy one of my Mackerel prints, get in touch through the contact page on my website

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Desert Discovery of a Catalan Cactus

Now that the huge stresses and celebrations of my London solo exhibition of paintings and prints at The Strand Gallery in May have finally started to calm down, and those 42 sold artworks have comfortably found their new homes, I am moving on to a new even more positive period of creativity as I start to work towards new goals and projects. Foremost amongst them is printmaking, not least because in September I will be exhibiting with the East London Printmakers in London Bridge. This means that my paintbrushes are temporarily down, and instead I am spending more and more hours scratching into hard metals, carving into wood, dipping in acids and turning the stiff wheel of a printpress as I continue making new prints for these forthcoming shows.

Readers of The Daily Norm will know that I have been making gradual progress with my printmaking since I started dabbling in this extensive medium over a year ago. Now as well as etching, which has always been my favourite medium in which to work (largely because it enables me to capture all of the detail I love to pack into an artwork), I have also stated working with multi-plate woodcutting which has given me equal pleasure.

Catalan Cactus

Desert Discovery of a Catalan Cactus (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, etching and aquatint)

Desert Discovery of a Catalan Cactus (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, etching and aquatint)

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But in this next print in my series featuring the Norms, the little white blobs who are at the centre of this blog, I have returned to the medium of etching, here using aquatint for the tone, and zinc as the metal basis from which the image is transferred to paper. This latest print, Desert Discovery of a Catalan Cactus, was inspired by my February trip to Barcelona, and shows the Norms, in an arid dry desert, stumbling upon a cactus which bears a striking resemblance to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral.

Illustrating Gaudi’s masterpiece as a plant isn’t too far from the truth either – Gaudi famously drew inspiration from nature in designing his buildings, and here I am simply taking his most famous building back to nature, albeit that the familiar cranes which surround the still incompleted building are still present.

If you would like to purchase a copy of this limited edition print, contact me through my website www.delacy-brown.com.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Printmaking Progress IV – La Flamenca (copper etching)

Regular readers of The Daily Norm will know that I have been dabbling in printmaking in recent months, and in particular etching, inspired by the superb results achieved in the medium by the likes of Goya, Picasso and Lucian Freud. Well having dappled a little in zinc plates (I hesitate to say “mastered” – as my recent disaster when aquatinting a zinc plate was to prove), I decided to move onto a copper plate, which, because of its durability, is the optimum plate to use for a bigger print edition.

Departing from the Norms who feature on my previous etchings, I decided to follow my familiar passion for Spain, and flamenco, recycling the idea I had for a fragmented dancer in Composition No. 8, and this time etching a flamenco dancer with a free-flowing fluid dress making for the major attraction of the plate. In terms of process, the image itself did not involve a whole lot of etching. Rather, the detail came with the aquatinting and soft-ground applied thereafter. Once the initial dancer image was etched into the plate, I then took a benday dot stencil, the likes of which would have been used by Roy Lichtenstein, and applied a series of polka dots across the background of my plate, emulating the popular pattern of flamenco dresses, and adding variety of tone by dipping in acid for different lengths of time.

La Flamenca (copper etching on paper) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013

La Flamenca (copper etching on paper) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2013

In the lighter areas of the background (kept light through giving them less exposure to acid) I applied an intricate lace pattern using the soft-ground technique. This basically involves painting the plate with a protective liquid ground which is left wet. A piece of lace is then applied on top and the plate sent through the print press. This presses the lace into the soft ground, lifting it off the plate and leaving an impression of the lace in the ground, which is then etched into the metal when exposed to acid. I adore the result, creating a background which now includes both the lace and polka dots so characteristic of flamenco.

The final step then was to print my plate – I did so with a black ink mixed with a warming red to give a real flamenco flavour. I’m really very pleased with the result, so much so that I have decided to make this print a larger edition of 50.

The initial line etching

The initial line etching

Applying the dots onto aquatint

Applying the dots onto aquatint

Applying a lace softground

Applying a lace softground

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Stopping out the figure before final acid dip

Stopping out the figure before final acid dip

The finished plate

The finished plate

The finished print

The finished print

If you would like to buy one of my limited edition prints, they’re available now – in my Etsy store. See you there!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Printmaking Progress III – Editioning El Marinero

Readers of The Daily Norm may remember that in that optimistic time of Spring, long long ago, I discovered the art of printmaking. Having been inspired to give the medium a go by masters of the craft such as Lucian Freud and the ever dark-minded Spanish great Francisco de Goya, and having dappled at first in a little lino cutting, I very soon fell in love with etching, the technique by which acid is used to “etch” an image into a metal plate, which can then be used to print a whole run of that image (albeit seen back to front – something for which careful planning is required). You’ll be forgiven for thinking that my newfound love of the technique was short lived – after all, I haven’t posted any etchings since May, and have, quite unapologetically, become obsessed with gouache paint on paper which I have pursued relentlessly in the creation of my “Compositions” series.

Well, come the autumn, and with my summer travels, sadly, long behind me, I decided the time was right to re-enter the printmaking studio, not just to start projects afresh, but to finish off the ones I started all those months ago.

I have previously told you about etching the line image onto the metal plate (I used zinc, but other metals can be used and this will affect the number of prints which can eventually be made from the plate), and also about the aquatint process by which tone is added to the plate. The final stage of printmaking is printing and editioning – making sure that every single print is printed identically, so that a closed “edition” can be made, and sold through the aid of a single exhibited example.

The zinc plate with image etched into it

The zinc plate with image etched into it

First print - before the aquatint was applied

First print – before the aquatint was applied

El Marinero during the aquatinting process

El Marinero during the aquatinting process

Editioning is an intricate and time consuming process. You have to cut yourself paper of an identical size; bathe it in water to ensure the paper takes the ink, but dry it before printing to ensure the ink does not run. You have to smear the plate in filthy oil-based ink, and then gradually wipe it off again, leaving the ink remaining only in the lines. You have to clean the edge of the plate to ensure that the embossment of the paper around the plate is kept pristine. And finally, ensuring you do not dirty your paper with your inky-black hands, you have to run the plate, and the paper through the printing press. All this takes about 15 minutes per print, but once you get a system going, it’s surprising how easily the human body can become like a factory process.

I have now spent several sessions in the studio, making editions of the two zinc etchings I made back in May, and the result I want to share with you today is my first ever plate. When you last saw it, it was a line image only, with no aqua tint adding tone. Now the image is aquatinted and complete, printed as a limited edition set of 15 which, by coincidence, are now available on my online shop to buy.

And a nice close up of the image

The finished print

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The print, entitled “El Marinero” shows a sailor Norm holding a fish on a mysterious Mallorcan rocky beach. It’s an enigmatic image, with its empty shores and strange rocky forms, but one which I cherish as being my first dalliance into the world of etching, and inspired by the surreally-shaped coves of Mallorca’s stunning coastline. Now I am on my third and fourth etchings respectively (one in zinc, and one in copper) and I cannot wait to complete those and share them on The Daily Norm.

Details of how to purchase your own strictly limited print of El Marinero can be found on my Etsy shop. As a closed edition of 15, it’s an extremely limited set, and hopefully therefore an attractive art investment for your future, as well as a pleasing little gift for another, or of course, for yourself.

Printmaking Progress II: Aquatinting

Being a self-trained artist, and so lacking the basic overview which art college provides of the many mediums which an artist has at his or her disposal, I became so entrenched in the world of painting for so many years that my recent discovery of the world of print has come as a complete revelation. Now over midway through an intermediate course in etching, I have taken to the medium like a duck to water. For not only does the medium transfer all of the skills of draughtsmanship which I have been mastering over the years in painting and more recently sketch, but through the sheer narrowness of the needle upon ground it enables me to pack the kind of detail into my etched images that I love. So, in my now advanced second etching, of a Fortnum and Mason’s hamper balanced upon a craggy rock, I have been able to go to town on the detail of the wicker, the rock texture, the little Norms looking up at the rock and the mountain and sea in the background.

Over the last two weeks, I have developed my etched image from metallic reverse image in black ground, to simple line drawing etched into metal and printed in reverse, to an image now loaded with different tonal variety achieved through the process of aquatinting. I am not sure why the technique has the name it does – I imagined it to involve some sort of watery application, a little like applying watercolours to a finished print. But in fact it involves no water at all. Rather, aquatinting is the process by which tone is added to the etching plate through measured re-exposure to acid. It works a bit like the Benday dots which Lichtenstein made famous – apply thousands of little dots to protect the metal and when exposed to acid, only those areas of the metal not covered by dots will etch and turn darker as a result. Step back and with the light dots and the dark exposed plate combined you get a shade of grey. The longer the exposure to acid, the darker the plate becomes, as the distance between dots increases.

My finished tonal etching after aquatinting

My finished tonal etching after aquatinting

Following this rationale, aquatinting involved first the exposure of the whole plate to a kind of rosin dust which was allowed to settle upon the plate under controlled conditions (it’s very toxic, hence the rather attractive gas mask we were required to wear by way of protection). This was then hardened over a gas fire. Then we had to protect details of the plate which we wanted to remain white, before dipping the plate back in acid, gradually protecting more and more of the plate so that in its final dip into acid, the only part of the plate left exposed was the parts of the image I wanted to print the darkest.

The result is a plate now textured differently depending on the exposure to acid and then, once the ink is reapplied to the plate, an image which comes alive with different tonal shades. Owing to what is a fairly hopeless attempt to explain the aquatinting process above in words, perhaps the process will become clearer by looking at my finished print itself.

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You will see that the Norms and the highlights of the basket and rock have remained white – that’s because I covered those with a black “stop-out” before re-exposing the entire plate to acid. The next lightest shade is the sand – this pale grey results from a quick 15 second dip into acid. This was then covered while I re-exposed the plate, allowing the sky to go darker, followed by the basket, the shadows of the rock and so on.

And there you have it, my first finished etching with aquatint applied – I am so, so delighted with the result and thrilled that I have taken so naturally to the etching medium. I have a feeling that this will not be the last.

The etching before aquatinting

The etching before aquatinting

And before that, the initial image drawn into the "ground" layer

And before that, the initial image drawn into the “ground” layer

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Printmaking Progress I

I headed along to the Royal Academy of Arts yesterday for the London Original Print Fair. According to the website, it’s the longest-running specialist print fair in the world and yet, I am embarrassed to admit, I’d never heard of it before. Having been abundantly inspired by the prints room at last year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, I never realised that only two months before, the whole Academy is veritably given over to the heterogenous medium of printmaking. And it couldn’t have come at a better time – as I unveiled on The Daily Norm last week, I am now a very eager printmaking student myself, having completed a weekend’s beginners intaglio and etching, and now enrolled upon the intermediate course, with esteemed printmaker Victoria Browne my very enthusiastic and gracefully patient teacher.

©Trevor Price - The Feast II

©Trevor Price – The Feast II

Wondering around the fair, which comprised some 50 galleries and print dealers selling an array of prints from £100 works by lesser-known artists, to 5-figure editions by the likes of Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon (and what I wouldn’t do for one of those), it dawned on me just how fantastically versatile the medium of print really is. While after only 3 days in the attempt, I now feel sufficiently versed in lino printing and etching to at least understand the basics of the medium, I haven’t even got started on dry point, on lithographs, on soft-ground etching, on screen printing. Yet with a beginner’s understanding of at least some print techniques, I was able to enjoy this comprehensive show of prints with a knowing and enthusiastic eye, taking inspiration from the array of prints on offer, and even making a small purchase of a beautiful Cornish-inspired supper scene by distinguished print-artist Trevor Price which was relief-printed and priced mercifully at the lower end of the scale!

Meanwhile back at home my head is awash with ideas for my own future print creations and an eagerness to learn new techniques. This week I’m due to learn aquatint, a method by which tone is added to the basic lines of an etching. I’ll be adding aquatint to my current etching plate which I can now very proudly unveil. As something of a follow up to my first etching, this one is also set out a Mallorcan beach, and borrows form my Autobiographical Mobile painting in its motif of a Fortnum and Mason’s hamper atop a rock. Meanwhile. down below, a group of perplexed Norms look up at the hamper, as much confused by its appearance as they are slightly scared by its precarious placing upon the rock’s peak.

My second etching pre-aquatint stage (© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

My second etching pre-aquatint stage (© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The etching drawn into the  black "ground" pre-exposure to acid

The etching drawn into the black “ground” pre-exposure to acid

I hope to be able to show you an aquatinted version of this plate very soon! In the meantime, I cannot extol the virtues of printmaking enough – fill your homes, check out the print works of the great artists and attend print fairs everywhere – original canvases are so yesterday.

A Prelude to Printmaking – Part 1: Etching

I’ve never really paid much attention to prints, and still less black and white prints which, in a gallery full of paintings never seemed to capture my attention. All of this began to change around last summertime. The first trigger was the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition where, amongst the numerous galleries full of paintings of often rather questionable quality, I found myself inexorably drawn to the print gallery, a room packed to the rafters with prints of every conceivable style, technique and colour (and in fact bought two!).

Lucian Freud, Man Posing (1985)

Lucian Freud, Man Posing (1985)

The second trigger came on a visit to the Courtauld Gallery at London’s Somerset House, where a newly acquired collection of Lucian Freud etchings had been hung. I was completely entranced by these works, which, in their monotone black and white seemed to shift focus from what is usually Freud’s fleshy textured paintwork to the almost visceral, fervid lines and cross hatchings by which Freud had reimagined many of his painted portraits in this new medium. In particular I adored Freud’s etching Man Posing (1985) in which the use of etching as a medium seemed to me so artfully applied to capture every hair, muscle and contour of the figure’s naked body.

Completely captivated, I went home and that very evening researched the internet for tips on how to etch. I very soon realised that unlike painting, etching would not be so easy to self-teach, and promptly enrolled myself for a printmaking course at the Art Academy in London Bridge (there being no introductory course dealing exclusively with etching).

Having now done this short weekend course, I can unconditionally say that I am hooked on printmaking, and on etching in particular. On the course we undertook two techniques – one was relief work (we used lino cutting – which I’ll tell you all about in Part 2 of this post); the other was the much anticipated etching technique, something which I found every bit as enjoyable to execute as I had taken delight in looking at Freud’s finished prints.

Another favourite etching - Edward Hopper, Night Shadows (1921)

Another favourite etching – Edward Hopper, Night Shadows (1921)

The process of etching is surprisingly fiddly. Of a whole day’s work in the studio, I probably spent a maximum of around 45 minutes actually drawing out my image onto plate – the remainder of the time was engaged in preparation and printing. Etching uses metal (we used zinc) and an image is etched into the plate using acid. That plate is then plied with ink and used to print an edition. So how does it all work? Well basically, once you’ve got yourself a metal plate (and carefully degreased it), you apply a dark “ground”. This is the layer which protects the metal when it is placed in acid. Once applied, you use a needle to draw your image. It is this process which reveals the metal underneath which will then be “etched” into the metal once acid is applied. So the process of drawing into the ground is a somewhat perplexing one – not only do you have to plan the image in reverse, but you’re also working in the colour negative, cross-hatching into metal to create shadows on your print, when what you end up drawing appears to be light on dark.

Anyway, I’m getting a little techy and I’m sure what you actually want to see is the result. And here it is: Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish). I probably ought to think of a better title, so any suggestions are welcome.

Here’s the metal plate with the image etched into it.

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Then below, you can see what it looks like once printed: a series of prints which shows me experimenting with ink removal. In the first, I removed all the ink off the plate apart from the application of ink to the narrow etched lines. In the second, I left a little ink on the plate to create a moodier effect, and for the third and fourth left more and more, specifically targeting certain areas where I wanted more shadow. My favourite is probably the second or third. What do you think?

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) - print 1

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) – print 1

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) - print 2

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) – print 2

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) - print 3

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) – print 3

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) - print 4

Sailor Norm on a beach in Mallorca (holding a fish) – print 4

So that’s my first etching done, and with an intermediate course now booked, I cannot wait to create more and explore this new medium further. The etching is truly my oyster…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.