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Itching for an Etching

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have really wanted to get into etching since last year. This was first suggested to me by my tutor at the time, Paul Harrison, who recommended I look at the Tate’s collection of etchings Turner had worked on with engravers, which greatly contributed to the popularisation of his work. Turner was one of the last artists to work so closely with engravers to reproduce his work and capture the style of his work

In that vein, I wanted to first see how I could transpose one of my paintings into an etching. This would be a way to ease my way into etching, as I would already be very familiar with the image. It’s also in response to a talk by Fraser Gray we had as part of our professional practice series at university, where he discussed different way we might consider prints of our work, so that they carry more meaning for the purchaser; for his work, he sold swatches of the paint he had used for a mural he had done below the Tay road bridge, for example. In general, I also find the process of selling an etched print far more appealing than taking a picture of my work and sending it off to a company to be printed.

I ended up picking my painting Overlooking town, Snowfall as I had taken quite a “printerly” approach, laying down masking tape and slowly removing bits of it so as to work in layers. I thought this would lend itself well to etching.

I started by etching the plate. I did this in three different layers, in order to create depth, especially on the hill in the foreground. I enjoy how methodical the etching process is. I also love how you don’t know how it’s going to turn out until you print it, so you have to let go of control a bit.

I then used aquatint to shade the hills and houses and create some more depths, as well as aluminium foil to create noise.

This process was a bit more frustrating, as I found it difficult to make out the layout among all the spray paint dots. But I love how it turned outefore selling it, there’s a few things I would like to tweak, like the intensity of the twigs in the foreground, but overall I’m really happy with the finished result.

Once I had started aquatinting that piece, I went onto work on another etching as well. I chose a picture from the same series of pictures, which was a lot more moody. So far I’ve only done the lines, but I’m really happy with it so far.

Once I move onto aquatinting, I want to keep the tones quite subdued so as to keep the elusiveness if has so far.


Lyles, Anne, Colour into Line: Turner and the Art of Engraving (London: Tate Publishing, 1989).


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