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Just spit on it…

Intaglio Soft Ground Etching with spitebite

Intaglio Soft Ground Etching with spitbite


…and they did. At least the folks who worked this out a long time ago did. That’s why it’s called spitbite. Spite was used to dilute the acid and make it more viscus so it will stay where you put it. But today we just mix acid, water, and some Gum Arabic. The plate is prepped just like an aquatint with a fine layer of ground rosin. When the acid bites the plate you need a “tooth” so there is something for the ink to hold on to when the plate is inked to print. Inking is a whole other story we’ll get to later. The rosin was melted onto the plate and I was ready to start painting.

Yep, we’re painting acid on to the plate. The plan is to make a lovely, watery texture on the plate to print a more fluid shading. Adding Gum Arabic to the acid gives it a viscosity that keeps in where you put it and the water dilutes it. The theory is that you paint acid on areas you want darker first and let it develop. Then add more acid to the next darkest area and finally the lightest area you want some sort of tone.

I was pretty timid when I did the first run on this plate and wound up having to redo. That’s one of the issues right now is not knowing enough to know what a good etch looks like. I cleaned the plate and wasn’t happy so redid the whole process. I’m still working that out…so much to learn. I am happy with the results. Take a look at the texture here on this plate and compare it with the pears.

There are a couple of things this plate taught me:

  • don’t get emotional when things aren’t working the way you thought they would
  • take a breath and rethink what you’re doing
  • drawing right into the soft ground gives interesting results, we need to explore this
  • spitebite needs longer to bite that I thought it would, have patience

Let’s get back to etching. What else can you do?

Intaglio Soft Ground Etching

Intaglio Soft Ground Etching

I got a little side tracked. My photography is a joy to me and I love talking about it. Now I have two loves in my life, photography and printmaking. The photography is like an old friend or those comfortable shoes you can’t throw away. I understand it so completely that new ideas and accidents are a part of my discovery of it and makes it all new again.

With etching, everything is new, untested, immature. I like the Pears. Have I said that already? But what else can you do in an etching? They look kinda rigid. Can the etching be more fluid? What’s a spitbite? Now, that looks interesting. And a soft ground?

Time to try something else… Let’s see what this baby can do. The first thing to try is a soft ground. I used hard ground on the Pears. In that method you put a coating on the zinc plate and let it harden up. Then you draw into it with a stylist (a sharp metal stick). The hard ground is just that, hard. You’re scratching into it so the movement of your stroke is a bit stiff. The ground acts as a resist to the acid so only the places you scratched off are exposed. The soft ground is painted on and then you draw on it much more loosely when it’s still soft. That’s the way it should work. Mine went a little differently. (more…)

Instructor's Show

Montpelier Art Center Showcases it’s Instructors

In a wonderful display of talent, Montpelier Art Center shows off the diversity and caliber of_MG_6365 instructors that teach in this hidden treasure in Laurel Maryland. Tucked away on the beautiful grounds of historic Montpelier Mansion, the art center is one of three in Prince Georges County. Their classes include; drawing, painting, all forms of ceramics, printmaking, animation, graphic arts, sculpture, photography and bronze casting. Classes are not limited to adults. Montpelier host not only classes, but summer camps centered in the arts for children. (more…)


The Etching Experience

I’m focusing on two types of printmaking right now. Etching, which got me back into printmaking, and lithography. When I was in college, lithography and collagraphs were my favorites. I could never get the hang of etching. Now it is a challenge. How can I bring my style of working into the etching experience?

I have a broad stoke and am more focused on the texture of the line and contours than I am on subject matter. Etching seems to be a very controlled medium. It’s a little uncomfortable for me. My first etching was of pears. I made a photo of them years ago and really loved it so I used that image as a basis for my drawing. My first print is of the pears as a line drawing only, before adding an aquatint. (more…)

Goodby 2012

This time last year I was in such a state. I couldn’t decide what to do. I was a photographer for 30 years; the first 15 years as my major source of income and the last 15, well…, trying to get it back. (long story). I talked to Alyson Stanfield at Artbiz Coach and she referred me to Cynthia Morris at Original Impulse. I had a coaching session with Cynthia that changed my life!

I’m starting my art career from the beginning with a totally new focus. And I love it. It is strange not having a body of work to promote but that will come. I made a list of my accomplishment for 2012 and where I’m heading. It’s going to take a few years before I can give up the day job but that can wait. (more…)


I took a leap of faith. I trusted that the longing in my heart was not just a whim. That this need to create that has been part of my conscious and unconscious life for as long as I can remember had validity. I enrolled in a printmaking class at the local art enter. I was scared. I have found lots of ways to express my creativity that didn’t really stretch my abilities. I made photographs and lots of computer art but never tested my ability to draw. (more…)