August 6th, 2013

At this year’s Park City Kimball Art Center’s Art Festival we discovered a wonderfully talented emerging artist named Julia Lucey, from just North of San Francisco. Her works are unique to Gallery MAR, as this is the first time that we have featured an artist who works exclusively on paper.

Ms. Lucey’s etchings are all originals, which also makes her stand out in the printmaking world.

Etching, a form of intaglio, is a printmaking technique developed over 500 years ago. An etching is made by using acid or a salt to bite into the surface of a flat metal plate. The longer the plate bites, the deeper the bite is, and the darker the mark. Most other printmaking techniques, such as relief (linoleum block, woodblock) and silkscreen, only produce one tonal value per plate, but with etching, many values from the lightest grey to the darkest black and many different types of marks can be created on one plate.

From the artist:

I use a combination of hard ground (line) etching and aquatint, but most of my animals are made using only aquatint techniques. I love aquatint because I can create a plate that has unlimited use of different grey tones and can create almost a painterly line.

To create a hardground line etching, I paint a thin layer of hardground, which is acid-resistant, onto my plate. I use an etching needle to draw my image, exposing the plate below the ground. I then put the plate in a tray of acid. I pull the plate out every few minutes to apply more hardground to areas where I want a lighter line and then put it back in to the tray to make the remaining lines bite deeper.

To create a large area of one solid tone to the plate, aquatint is used. Similar to hardground, I apply an acid resistant substance to my plate. This time it is an even dusting of finely ground pine rosin. I melt the rosin onto the plate using a torch. This creates a dot pattern on the plate. If I did not do this and simply exposed a large area of the plate to acid, it would simply create a large area, where ink would not sink into the plate in the inking/printing process and the eventual print would be all-white.

Now I can begin painting with the hardground to form my image. First, I paint out the white areas and then submerge my plate in the acid. I take the plate out after a few minutes and then paint out the lightest grey areas. Then the plate goes back in and out until I reach the darkest area of my image. You can see how I made my elk plate through the aquatint process below.


Now that I have etched my plate I can print it. First, I need to bevel the edges of the plate so that they do not slice through my paper (or worse the etching blankets).  Now I can apply ink. I use a wide flexible plastic pallet knife, but a cardboard chip works too, to apply a layer of ink over the whole plate. Next I use a fabric called tarlatan to softly push the ink into the areas that I bit with acid. After most of the ink is distributed I use the palm of my hand to gently remove any excess ink.  Depending on the size of the plate, this process can take up to an hour.

Now that my plate is inked, I put it on the etching press. My paper has been soaking for at least an hour (depending on the type) in water. I blot the paper and place it over the etching plate. On top of the paper I place wool blankets and then pull the plate through the etching press. The intense pressure of the steel drum on the press pushes the soft damp paper into the bitten areas of my plate that contain ink and my image is printed.

For many of her images, Ms. Lucey must ink several plates and printed then in an overlapping fashion.  On some large pieces, she has over 250 plate impressions.

Ms. Lucey received her BFA in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute, and the inspiration for her art from her years spent backpacking and working in Wyoming and Montana. As an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute, she has focused on traditional etching techniques and aquatint to create images dealing with the evolving issues of wildlife, its dissolution, and the attempt by many to direct its path.