About the process of making Tango I, tango II, Tango III, Tango 4 Limited edition etching by Garry Shead.
The process of multi-plate colour etching, as used in Tango I, involves the artist drawing parts of the image on each of the three plates. In other words, some information is on a plate which is inked up all over in yellow, some of the marks and tones are red and are drawn on the second plate, while the main or key information (lines and dark tones) is drawn on the key plate and printed last.
To make the key plate, Garry Shead first does a loose pen drawing onto the first zinc plate. The zinc plate has on it a very thin emulsion or coating, through which Garry then scratches the line drawing. These lines expose the plate underneath, and Basil can then etch them in nitric acid to establish them in the plate. The plate is usually proofed (printed) at this stage, so the artist can see what his drawing looks like.
The next stage on the key plate is to put in the tones. Some areas of Tango I are light in tone, whilst others are very dark indeed. A light coat of rosin powder is applied to the plate surface and melted on. Garry paints a resist onto the plate to protect the areas which are to have no black tone. The plate goes into the acid for a short time. Then a further resist is applied to areas which are to remain fairly light. Into the acid goes the plate for a second time. This process is repeated until only the darkest shadows are still exposed to the action of the acid. These areas of the plate are etched for the longest time in acid and are bitten the deepest. Garry is able to study a proof of this tonal state and actually scratch and smooth back areas which he feels are too dark.
The whole image is then transferred to plates #2 and #3 and lightly etched so he can see the outlines. Areas of the yellow plate which are to be yellow in the print are then given an aquatint and etched. Areas of the red plate which are to have red tones on them are also aquatinted and etched. Now the three plates are ready to be proofed together for the first time. They are each fine-tuned by the artist. This stage took place in Wollongong and Darwin for Tango I.
The editioning of the prints takes place once the artist has approved the final proof. Two printers worked together on the printing of Tango I : with the printing of the 75 etchings taking around a week’s work.
Some of Garry’s coloured etchings take even longer to print, owing to the number of separate plates which need hand-inking for each print.
The techniques described here have been in use for around 500 years. Rembrandt is still regarded as one of the finest etchers to have lived, whilst Goya is renowned for his use of the tonal aquatint process. Basil Hall Editions and Northern Editions (where Monique also works) are two of Australia’s specialists in multi-plate colour etching.
Etching House has a full range of the Tango series etchings by Garry Shead.
Copyright © Garry Shead