This is one of my favourite etchings so far. I’ve combined a (typically for me) detailed line drawing with a tonal – aquatint – background. It was inspired by the fantastic wild flowers we saw when we were in Normandy in April this year. Cowslips belong to the primula family – wild primulas if you like – and seeing them in such abundance was up-lifting. What etching, of course, doesn’t really do so well is capture the colour impact these flowers have, especially against the fresh, spring green of the grass around them. I will try out some chine collĂ©e on this plate when I get a chance.

What’s aquatint?

If you haven’t heard of aquatint before, it’s an involved process which allows you to achieve (layers of) tone. Whereas normal etching involves drawing through wax to allow the acid to “bite” the zinc plate behind (great for line drawing), aquatint is different. To achieve the tones, you put your zinc plate into a very dusty box. It’s dusty because it’s filled with tiny little particles which you disturb before putting your plate in. After around 15 minutes, these particles – made of resin – settle on your plate. You take it out and the first thing you do is to “cook” the particles onto the plate to fuse them.

Then, you have to decide what you don’t want the tone to apply to. In the case of this etching, I didn’t want the tone to go onto any of the careful line drawing part. So I “stopped” that out with varnish to protect it against the acid. The plate then went into the acid for a very short time to achieve the lightest of the greys you see in the image. I then repeated the stopping out process to allow me to have progressively darker tones, with repeated acid exposure until I got that rich black for the background.

This etching is available to buy.