Jean Bardon – Etching process

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Jean Bardon – Etching process

The process of producing an etching is a long, complicated and painstaking business! The techniques involved are virtually unchanged since medieval times. In this age of Digital prints, it is important to stress that all my etchings, from start to finish, are produced entirely by hand.

From the initial drawing made with a pointed drawing tool, on an acid resistant ‘ground’ which I will have applied to a copper plate, which I have cut to the size I wish to work on, to the biting of the lines I have drawn by immersing the plate in nitric acid, to applying powdered resin (the Aquatint process) to the plate in order to create tones, then biting it further in ferric acid, to fix the tones, and finally colour proofing and printing the final image – all is done in the age old traditional fashion. An edition number is decided on – I normally print editions of 30 – and then, each time I pull a print, it must be inked up entirely by hand, sometimes using as many as 14 colours on the one plate, before rolling it through the printing press.

All this takes time and patience. Only the truly dedicated persist! In my case, I have recently started applying a 23.5 carat gold leaf background to some of my etchings. This again is done by hand. I start by painting the areas I want to gild with red watercolour paint to provide a rich base. Next I paint a gold leaf size (glue) on to these same areas, and finally I apply the sheets of gold leaf which, with the aid of an Agate burnisher, adhere to the surfaces I have primed with glue. I like to allow some of the red ground to show through.