Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I have my degree in printmaking, and I feel that the process and techniques I learned from printmaking really influences how I draw today. I wanted to show how one of my favorite processes: etching, is done and how the quality of line and tone influenced Mouse Guard.

I'll be using this etching I did in college of Jim Henson as an example along with diagrams that represent cross-sections of the process at a microscopic level.

Line: (A): Etching is done by taking a metal plate (I used zinc) and coating it with an acid resist (these can vary depending on the desired effect, but that's not important for this overview). (B): Then the resist is lightly scraped away with a stylus or needle when an image is drawn on the surface of the plate so that the metal is exposed in the areas where the lines will be. (C): The plate is placed in acid and the acid will only etch a groove into the areas that are exposed. The longer the plate is in the acid, the deeper the groove becomes. (D): When the image is finished the acid and resist are removed and the plate is wiped with ink. The deeper etched lines fill with more ink, making them darker than the shallower etched lines. The surface of the plate is smooth and the ink wipes off clean. When run through a press, the ink transfers to paper for a finished print. This zoom-in of my Jim Henson print shows how his beard is made up of lots of overlapping etched lines.

Tone: (A): Instead of coating the entire surface of the plate, you can dust the surface with a powdered acid resist (this is traditionally called and Aquatint). (B): When placed in the acid, the tiny 'dots' of resist protect very small areas of the surface and allow lots of pits to be formed all around the protected peaks. (C): The ink wiped into and filling up the pits and wiped clean from the surface creates an area that has thousands of tiny white 'dots' in a field of ink filled pits. The surface would feel similar to sandpaper and depending on how deep the etch is, the darker it becomes. The backgrounds of the Jim Henson print as well as a lot of his facial tone was done with this process. You can see that depending on how evenly the resist goes on, you can get rougher or smoother results.

Printmaking forced me to think about the kind of lines or tones or patterns I wanted to make long before I made them. I had to prepare my zinc plates in advance for what process I was going to do first, and second, and third, and so on. Etched lines can be used for tone by overlapping them. Patterns can be formed with repeating line structures or careful application of acid resist. In this same way I now think about line and pattern and tone when I'm inking Mouse Guard. cross-hatching is like lots of etched lines, stippling is like an aquatint, etc.

Fan Art:
Though he has never done any etching, Jeremy Bastian is a natural fit for this post. He has the sense of line and use of line to create texture and tone, and the patience and methodical nature that a good illustrative printmaker needs. This gem he gave to me over the holidays. I left it at 150 dpi so that you could still see the detail. The mouse from hat ornament down to curl of tail is only 4.25". Wow! Thanks Jeremy!

Upcoming Appearances:*
Alaska Library Conference: March 4-7
CGS Supershow: March 27-28
C2E2 (Archaia Booth): April 16-18
Motor City Con: May 14-16
San Diego (Artist Alley): July 22-25
Baltimore Comic Con: August 28-29
*more 2010 dates may be added


Bo said...

Cool post. And some really wicked fan art there. Thanks again for the ongoing inspiration.

Sckraps said...

Yeah, wicked fan art, and also, totally dig your cross hatching in mouse guard. This post really illuminates where that influence sunk in and transferred!

Mayhem said...

Wow... some excellent work there David. Should I ask how long the etching took? Can't be a quick process now...

katie cook said...

great post. it's a really fun, informative read!

and holy mouse guard, batman... i didn't see that piece jeremy gave you! it's beautiful! (as is everything jeremy does... but wow!)

DPetersen said...

I think we can all agree that Jeremy Bastian is awesome! (He'll be doing a Legends of the Guard story!) here is a link to his site in case you didn't googgle him: http://www.jeremybastian.com/

Mayhem: The process is a long one. It's been so long I don't remember how long this took me, but I'd say a 9+ hours on the plate alone.

I had planned to post more of my prints, but had a hard time gathering everything together when I typed this. Perhaps I'll do a post some other time just as a gallery of my old college prints

George said...

David, I've been waiting for this post from you! I'm a practicing printmaker and within a few minutes of reading Mouse Guard I could definitely see the etching influence. I mainly practice lithography.

Thanks for sharing old prints. Do you ever get the urge to etch into metal again?

DPetersen said...

George: I have heard several printmakers say they could tell I was one of them when they saw Mouse Guard the first time.

And yes, I do get the urge to etch metal. I have an open invite from a local printmaker, but have not found the time to take a Saturday and go visit him in his studio.

George said...

Awesome to hear.
I'm going to have to arrange a print exchange in hopes of pressuring you to ink up a plate and crank the press.
It's for your own good.
And, maybe cause I'd like to see a print of yours in real life ;)

Blog Archive