A Few Words about Etching
Etchings are not reproductions – they are original works of art conceived and created by an artist who is deliberately using this chosen medium to create and effect which could not be achieved in any other way.
The image is created by the controlled erosion of the surface of a metal plate by acid. First the plate is covered with a specially prepared acid resistant ground of black wax or ground. The design is then drawn on the black ground with a sharp point or ‘etching needle’ to reveal the bright metal below. Aquatint is used to create tonal areas. In this process a dusting of fine-grained resin is fused onto the plate by heat to leave a grained pattern of bare metal. The prepared plate is then immersed in nitric acid which bites into the bared metal: the length of time the acid remains on the metal governs the depth of the line bitten. The deeper the line, the darker it will print. Those parts of the design which have been sufficiently worked can be ‘stopped-out’ with varnish to prevent any further biting while the remainder of the image is completed.
When printing, the plate is inked and wiped so that the ink remains only in the etched lines or areas. It is then printed under pressure onto dampened paper. The plate is re-inked for each individual print therefore each is unique. It is now less common for the artist to produce his own prints, but Michael Richecoeur prints each image himself ensuring that every print is a ‘one off’ by the artist. The plate and the printer evolve in their relationship so that as the edition is completed, usually over several months, subtle changes occur and the image, the plate and the printing process becomes unified, but never mechanical. The artist, if he is the printer, is constantly striving to express the original idea.