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Catherine Brooks Class

Soft Ground Etching and Soap Ground Aquatint

  • Instructor: Catherine Brooks
  • Age: 18+; For intermediate level intaglio students
  • Enrollment: Maximum 10; Minimum 6
  • Dates: Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6 from 9:30 – 4:30 each day
  • Cost: $285 (No discounts offered)

In this 2-day course we will cover two intaglio techniques: soft ground etching and soap ground aquatint. These processes can be combined on one plate or used on separate plates to be inked in different colors for a multiple-plate image.

Soft Ground Etching

Soft ground is a golden, waxy material that protects the plate from acid. Made of wax, tar, rosin and petroleum, it never fully cures but remains receptive to direct and indirect marks. Where you mark, the ground will lift, thus exposing the area to acid. When a soft ground is drawn into — through a piece of thin paper — the etched mark will have the character of a pencil or crayon. The amount of pressure you apply with your hand when drawing and the hardness of the drawing tool, along with the etching time, will determine the density of the mark. The mark can therefore be subtle, sketchy, graphic or expressive. Soft ground will also receive textures from fabric, fibers and your fingers.

Soap Ground Aquatint

Soap ground aquatint is one of the most painterly intaglio techniques. Made of soap, white pigment, oil and water, when mixed together, soap ground is a thick paste, which is applied like paint to the plate. Soap ground is an imperfect ground that is permeable to acid because the ground never fully cures and because it has small bubbles where acid can enter. A basic principle of soap ground is that where you paint white on the plate, you will see white in the print. The paste can be applied over the entire plate and drawn into, like hard or soft ground, or diluted with water and applied in loose or brushy marks. Thicker application will protect the plate from acid and thin, watery application will be quickly penetrated in the acid bath, allowing for an infinite tonal range.

About the Instructor: Catherine Brooks, author of Magical Secrets About Line Etching and Engraving, the Step-by-Step Art of Incised Lines (CPP 2007), is a former Crown Point Press master printer (2002-2009). Over the past twelve years, she has facilitated numerous collaborative print projects with renowned American and international artists, including Mary Heilmann, Julie Mehretu and Chris Ofili. Catherine was first initiated into the traditional craft of etching during an apprenticeship with French Maître d’Art, René Tazé, after receiving her BA in printmaking in 2001 from the Evergreen State College. In 2011 Catherine received her MFA in printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. She now enjoys working as an artist-printmaker and instructor.