What is an Etching?
The artist coats the surface of the metal plate (usually zinc or copper) with an acid-resistant ground. Then, with a needle, the artist draws the image into the ground exposing the metal below. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which eats lines ("biting") into the plate. After the plate is bitten to the artist's satisfaction, it is cleaned, inked and printed.
The artist prepares the plate in much the same way as an etching, using a different kind of ground. This ground allows the artist, after laying a pice of paper on top, to draw the image with a pencil. The coating under the pressure of the pencil adheres to the paper which is then lifted off, exposing the metal underneath. The plate is then bitten in the same way as an etching.
Drypoint Etching: Drypoint, as the name implies, creates lines without the use of a mordant. The artist draws directly into the plate, creating a shallow line with a ridge of metal or plexiglass on one side. This ridge, called the burr, is the metal or plexi that is displaced as the line is drawn (similar to the furrow of soil thrown up by a plow.) The ragged surface of the burr catches more ink than the shallow line beside it; indeed the burr prints a velvety dark line which is the characteristic beauty of drypoint. But because the burr is fragile and wears away after only a few passes through the etching press, the number of prints in a drypoint edition is usually very small.
Original Etching Print is an Original Artwork:
The Print Council of America issued a guide establishing a criteria for an original etching print:
- The artist alone must create the master image on the stone, or whatever material would be used to make the print.
- The print - if not printed by the artist- should be hand printed by someone under the artist's direct supervision.
- Each impression should be approved and signed by the artist and the master image (the matrix) destroyed or cancelled. The original print is not a copy of anything else, not a copy of a painting or another print. If an artist chooses to copy his own work, originally done in another medium, it would be a print done after an oil (or other medium). An original print is a creative endeavor by the artist and therefore is as valid an expression as is any other form of visual art - may it be a painting or a sculpture. The original print is a work of art in it's own right.