Would you like a quick, cheap, simple and eco friendly way to make etching plates?
Scraper board etchings could be just the thing you are looking for to perk up your printmaking life.
Preparing traditional etching plates is quite involved, uses specialist materials and takes considerable time and expense. Of course if you want to produce a big edition of prints you need to use metal plates.
However if you want to grab a few plates to work on while you are out and about, and produce a few experimental prints scraper board etchings are ideal.
A museum residency provides inspiration
I discovered this technique during a printmaking residency at Bradford Industrial Museum. I was exploring scratches and marks left by the weavers on their looms. Some marks were caused by working the looms, some were intentional graffiti.
This kind of everyday archaeology fascinates me. Have a look at your old kitchen chopping board for a good example of inadvertent traces you have left on your environment.
People everywhere like to make their mark and will scratch letters, shapes, images and dates into any surface using whatever tool is handy.
An old pack of scraper board (‘scratch board’ in USA) I found in the back of a cupboard gave me the idea.
I invited my fellow Inkers Printmakers to create scratch marks, the only instruction was ‘try making some marks on this scraper board’.
They immediately set to and scraped with a variety of improvised tools.
At this stage I had no plan apart from collecting scratched marks to use in the residency at the museum.
A nice surprise
Once I had a collection of little scratched tiles it was a short leap to the thought “I wonder how these will print”.
Answer; Fantastic! What a lovely surprise, the incised lines held ink beautifully, (Hawthorns of course) and the surface wiped clean to produce a lovely tone.
I printed the scraper board etchings as intaglio prints on top of each other in different colours to emphasise the idea of marks building up over time.
Displaying scraper board etchings
To display all the tiny prints I made a concertina book with split pages. This is a great dynamic structure that moves with a will of its own!
Have a look at the video to see the book in action
First get your Scraper Board
You can buy scraper board from many art suppliers. A good place to look is Jacksons Art Supplies. Be sure to get the black and white version; “This artist grade board is handmade with a heavy China clay coating on illustration board (heavy card) to ensure a hard, smooth, white coating which is then sprayed with a good coat of semi-glossy black India ink.
You can have a go at making your own but I think if you are using it for etching it is probably not worthwhile as it is a real job to get it smooth and even.
Scraper board etching is portable; you can easily carry a supply of scraper board with you and draw in situ so the image on your plate will be immediate and spontaneous.
It is accessible; safe, and easy to scratch with improvised tools for anybody whatever their age or ability.
It is cheap.
It is environmentally friendly; the plates are made from card, clay and ink.
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Try it and let me know what you produced!
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