Etching Workshop Experience at the Halaqa [Archives:1998/19/Last Page]

May 11 1998

A workshop was recently held at the Halaqa art center for graphic artists from all over the world. Under the expertise of some well known artists like Amin Nasher and Mahzer Nizar, artists were guided on how to cut, engrave and ink plates as well as how to use the torque properly. The beauty of this workshop was that people of various backgrounds were able to compare their methods and give advise to fellow artists. Etching is well diffused in the western world but here in Yemen relatively few people know about how its done.
Artists here use copper or zinc plates. The plate is cut to the desired size and the surface as in the case of the zinc has to be prepared and sanded before the incisions are made.
The edges are chiseled down to about a 45 degree angle to the plate and the corners are rounded. Various tools are chosen for the incisions, there are specialized engraving tools on the market. Obviously a wider point will cause a wider cut on the plate and a narrower point will do the opposite. Then for dry point etching, the plate is covered with a layer of black ink or any other desired color. Combinations of colors can be applied to get a richer effect. The die is then first cleaned with some gauze and the remaining ink is wiped cleaned with some onion skin paper if available.
I found myself using my bare hands to clean off the excess ink before printing. In Yemen artist supplies are expensive, so I didn’t mind the transformation and the results are just a good if not superior. The plate is then ready for printing; care should be taken to adjust the pressure on the torque cylinder before printing. A heavy grade graphic paper has been soaked prior to the printing and been blotted dry. This will facilitate the transfer of the ink to the paper. The torque is supplied with a special felt cloth used to cover the paper being printed. A register for the engraved plate is placed under the engraved plate to keep the plate in position.
There are other variations to dry point etching, such as in covering desired sections of the plate with a wax before inking and exposing various sections of it to a dilute nitric acid bath. The acid has the effect of making the incision more prominent. Some artists prefer to heat a certain resin on the plate before it is immersed in the acid bath. This gives a fine, bubbly effect to the biting action of the acid. Others prefer an iron chloride treatment or this in addition to the acid, as the biting is better. In the end what’s important is the desired effect.
By: Martin Dansky,
Yemen Times