Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Lucian Freud’

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


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

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


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.

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.


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.

Lucian Freud Portraits

Roll up roll up for the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad. All the big wigs of the Brit-art A-list are in town, the banners are up, and the art posters line the saturated platforms of the underground as the PR machine goes into overdrive. As if in response to the cattle cry, the crowds have come to town –  the galleries are packed, the gallery restaurants have waiting times of over an hour, and the gallery shops are partitioned by huge queues of customers cashing in on memorabilia of these big-billed art shows. It’s all really quite stressful.

Next in line to meet my sampling eye was the Lucian Freud portraits retrospective at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Having been in the pipeline for some time, and organised in collaboration with the artist himself, the NPG’s exhibition gained additional poignance when, last July, Lucian Freud died at the ripe old age of 88. He did so working right up until the end, and his unfinished portrait of his studio assistant and dog hangs at the climax of the show.

Portrait of the Hound (2011)

There is no doubting Freud’s stature as a preeminent star of British art. When his painting, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold at Christie’s in New York for the sum of US$33.6million in 2008, it broke the record for the highest price paid for a painting by a living artist. It is consequently appropriate that he should be lined up along with the likes of David Hockney and Damien Hirst for blockbuster solo exhibitions which promise to showcase British art to the world. It is also appropriate that the show focuses on his portraits, for Lucian Freud is long associated with his unforgiving nudes, painted with a multi-layered impasto application of fleshy pale paint, striking often uncomfortable and usually unflattering poses, and portraying a deeply penetrated psychological profile cast free from boundaries, clutter or clothing for full and frank disclosure to the world.

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995)

Leigh Bowery (Seated) (1990)

In this show, the NPG give us plenty of raw unabashed flesh to stare at, as Freud’s emboldened, unrepentant portraits confront the audience rather than seduce. In the galleries, there was an almost tangible electricity in the air, as the scale of the show and the sheer number of these awkwardly posed nudes threw light on the often disconcerting relationships between artist and model, the somewhat fragmented and awkward relationship between artist and children, and the range of dynamic but often slightly disturbing characters on show.

Sunny Morning - Eight Legs (1997)

The paintings are never going to be easy to look at, not least because these are not ideological nudes. This is not like looking at the beautifully blended, perfectly shaped backside of the Rokeby Venus (by Velazquez) and appreciating the aesthetics of the scene. These portraits depict ordinary people, with very ordinary bodies in no holds barred portrayal, pubic hair out, penises dangling, sagging flesh. It would be like walking along the street and seeing everyone naked, their legs parted awkwardly, their private parts on full view. It’s not easy to look at, but these portraits are undoubtedly fascinating to view, just because they are ordinary people – people who have bared all to the artist and, through him, to the world.

Girl with a Kitten (1947)

Nonetheless, emblematically Freudian impasto flesh asides, my favourite paintings were those from the beginning of Freud’s career. In this delightfully chronologically curated show, the first few galleries, while packed, showed Freud’s fastidiously executed, perfectly drafted early portraits, when he used very fine brushes and paid close attention to every detail. Thus in the portraits of his first wife, Kitty Garman, you can see every hair on her head, and in the portrait of her wearing a yellow gown (with boob unceremoniously flopping out), each fibre of that gown’s toweling texture is painted. As Freud’s portraits grew less detailed and Freud’s preference was for thicker sable brushes, he still paid close attention to a number of background factors in his work. In Interior with Plant, Reflection Listening (1968) for example, the leaves of the plant are painted with excruciating detail – every millimeter of the plant, from its shiny leaves and rough edges, to the dying leaves and dried up ends, are perfectly represented by Freud. His early paintings have lost none of their intensity in being scrupulously painted – the sitters look tense, and the widened eyes, typical of Freud’s portraits at that time, are full of emotional anxiety and unguarded vulnerability. From the very beginning, Freud had an exceptional talent for painting simple portraits loaded with dramatic tension and emotional complexity.

Girl with a White Dog (1950-51)

Interior with Plant, Reflection Listening (Self-Portrait) (1967-8)

As the show goes on, the works become more ambitious and the nakedness more frequent. This is all very well, but what upset me was not the nudity, but the increased coarseness of Freud’s finish. From his Benefits Supervisor onwards, the texture of his paint finish becomes more and more lumpy which really made my stomach turn. In his 2007 portrait, Ria, Naked Portrait, the face of Ria appears disfigured by a mass of lumpy built up textured paint on her face, which looks more like the affliction of some terrible skin disease. The effect is the same in his final, unfinished painting, Portrait of the Hound (above) where the face of his studio assistant appears contaminated by the same warty contagion. It’s an unpleasant finish which rather repulsed me as I walked away from this show.

Ria, Naked Portrait (2006-7)

Still, this messy end did nothing to dissuade me of the overall merits of this show, and the superb skill which Freud demonstrated throughout his career. Through his paintings, he has created self-contained independent souls who appear to jump from the canvas and steal the attention of the viewer. In this way, Freud leaves behind a multifaceted legacy which will live on wherever his portraits hang. In the meantime, this opportunity to see so many hung together is truly a must-see, and so much more fulfilling than 5 million purple trees lauded down the road in Piccadilly.

Painter and Model (1986-7)

All images above are the copyright of Lucian Freud.