Art Terms

So, I've written about editions and prints, and given you some of the arguments why they're good things to collect, own, possess and someday, maybe, even sell. For the beginner collector and for the sophisticate, they are all of those things, especially when the squeeze on the dollar is on. To help you with the infinite terms involved with prints and things in art in general, I'll publish a glossary of Art Terms to discuss in lay terms what can be confusing techniques. Starting alphabetically, I'd like to begin with the Aquatint.

By definition, an aquatint is produced with the same printing technique as an etching, except that the areas between the etched lines were traditionally covered with a powdered resin that protected the surface from the biting process of the acid bath (contemporary artists use spraypaint instead of powdered resin). The granular appearance that resulted in the print aimed at approximating the effects and gray tonalities of a watercolor drawing. Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variation of etching; and uses marks made onto a copper or zinc plate to hold ink. The process requires that an ink-loaded plate is passed through a printing press that holds a sheet of paper tightly against the inked plate, resulting in a transfer of ink to paper (the print). The process can be repeated again and again, depending on the artist's technical choice. Famous artists who employed this technique include Francisco Goya (image right, El sueño de la razòn, or The sleep of reason produces monsters, from his series, Los Caprichos, 1799).

The process requires an application of acid to make marks on the metal plate that will eventually hold the ink, and powdered, acid-resistant resin (or today's spraypaint) in the plate's ground to create a tonal effect. Variations in tone are controlled by the level of acid exposure over large areas, and the resulting image is developed by invidual large sections at a time, not as a whole. The plate must be heated to melt the resin, which forms a fine even coat, at which point the plate is dipped in acid, producing an even level of corrosion that is sufficient to hold ink. The Aquatint process is very similar to Mezzotint, an earlier printmaking method that was intensely laborious (a famous contemporary mezzotint printer is Yozo Hamaguchi). Printmakers favored Aquatint methods because of the watery effect of the process, ease of creating large areas of tone without time-consuming cross-hatching, and durability of the print plates.


ainesse said...

Hello Micaela
Interesting post about aquatint and well explained I thought too especially when people do not have any idea what so ever about printmaking and all that it involves.
You may possibly already be aware that many many printmakers absolutely hated the "rosin box" for purposes of distributing the rosin dust particles onto the (e.g. copper) plate. Things have moved on thank goodness now - in that artists can now use acrylic resist etch (a.r.e) which is applied to the plate using an airbrush and then put in to the ferric chloride bath to develop. It's so much better than that rotten old box. How I loathed it.!!

you will have to forgive me getting on my printmakers soapbox -- I'm OK now. I so prefer the progress thats been made where non toxic printmaking practice is concerned.


Micaëla said...

Thank you, Aine, for your comment and information about a.r.e.! It's good to know progress has been made for a non-toxic printmaking practice!