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Copper Plate Etchings


Copper plate is a medium that's still relatively new to me - this includes both drypoint and etching. I took a soft ground etching workshop with Antonietta Covina-Beehre last year with pleasing results, but I haven't much experience with the medium beyond this. Etching involves a chemical process using copper plates, hard or soft ground (or bitumen 'stop out') and a ferric chloride bath, whereas drypoint involves scratching or mark-making on the bare surface of the plate. This was my first time engaging with a range of techniques, but I was excited to get started. The focus of our learning for this project is on how to create tone (similar to our lino project). I stared with a dry point image, and had a handful of tools to play with, including a diamond point tool and a range of roulette wheels. I continued with the theme of time and impending death, and used the bird from the first poem in 'Four Quartets'.

Next, we learned about hard ground and aquatint techniques. I had a lot of fun with this, and so had a bit of fun with my designs. I decided to go with merging worlds, removing animals from their usual habitat and encountering other creatures in unusual circumstances and environments. A crossover into different worlds, so to speak.

I then decided to go with another poem in TS Eliot's 'Four Quartets'. I realised I wanted to focus on the theme of time again - as a multilayered phenomenon - but I also wanted to focus on the motif of water that the third quartet, 'The Dry Salvages' focuses on. Much of the imagery used in this piece was included in the design.

The Dry Salvages: Part 1

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable. Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting. His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom, In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard, In the smell of grapes on the autumn table, And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us; The sea is the land's edge also, the granite Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses Its hints of earlier and other creation: The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale's backbone; The pools where it offers to our curiosity The more delicate algae and the sea anemone. It tosses up our losses, the torn seine, The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices, Many gods and many voices. The salt is on the briar rose, The fog is in the fir trees. The sea howl And the sea yelp, are different voices Often together heard: the whine in the rigging, The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water, The distant rote in the granite teeth, And the wailing warning from the approaching headland Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner Rounded homewards, and the seagull: And under the oppression of the silent fog The tolling bell Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried Ground swell, a time Older than the time of chronometers, older Than time counted by anxious worried women Lying awake, calculating the future, Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel And piece together the past and the future, Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception, The future futureless, before the morning watch When time stops and time is never ending; And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning, Clangs The bell.

#etching #aquatint #drypoint

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