Working in a Series

Left: photo of part of an abstract design on a copper etching plate with aquatint applied
Right: photo of a print of the same plate
(left) Close up of the rosin coating for aquatint on a 3″x3″ copper plate (right) Print of the same plate after applying the spit-bite etching technique

These days I’ve been working multiple plates at a time in my etching practice. I’ve never worked this way before; at most I may have had two plates on the go, but mostly I focused on one at a time. I’m not sure why this was; some combination of impatience to finish it and begin printing, and preciousness over the materials, maybe.

But working on multiple pieces at a time, you learn faster. You can apply what you’re learning to each piece, giving them a chance to be better than they may have otherwise. When you become stuck on one, you can jump over to another one, giving yourself some space instead of spinning your wheels on the stubborn one.

I know working on multiple pieces at once is the best approach for many artists. I’ve given it a half-hearted try here and there but never really stuck to it. Perhaps it’s because it’s often referred to as ‘working in a series’— it sounds as if they all have to relate or be of the same ilk. It’s daunting.

After the long, forced break from etching due to the pandemic, I assessed my supplies and discovered I had many small plates that I prepped ages ago and left for another day. It seems foolish to treat them as precious commodities*, so I’ve been letting loose. At the moment I have 5 plates in process and plan to begin more soon. 

Semi-abstract landscape print of an etching using sugar-lift and spit bite techniques
Semi-abstract landscape in progress using sugar-lift and spit-bite techniques

I’ve been experimenting with new techniques on all of them and having a lot of ah-ha moments. They’re each helping to make the others better.

The mind needs to to process and percolate; one needs to step away sometimes. Whether that’s going for a walk, doing a bit of reading, or moving on to another drawing or painting or plate, it’s often the best thing you can do for your art.

Have you experienced a transformation similar to this, whether by working on multiple pieces at once or some other epiphany in your practice? Let me know in the comments.

I hope this missive finds you well, and thank you for reading! 

Close up of an print of a barn and silo, made with line etch and aquatint on a copper plate
Close-up of part of a 9″ x 3″ landscape created using line etch, spit-bite, roulette, and dry point

2 thoughts on “Working in a Series”

  1. Good to hear from you again. I always enjoy your art and your musings about making it happen.

    What you say about giving your mind a bit of space, of walking away from a piece for a while, is familiar to me with both writing and music. So many of my ideas develop while I’m walking or driving or doing chores. Some ideas sit for twenty years before they are ready to go to the next step!

    I like the landscapes!

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