The Craft of Etching from Etching House by the master etcher Norman Lindsay

The Art of Etching continued –

The copper plate is then held face up over a gas or oil burner till warmed sufficiently to melt the etching ground. The ground is a composition of bitumen, which, through a covering of fine silk, is rubbed over the surface of the copper plate making a thin coating.

A pad, called a dabber, made of white kid padded with cotton wool, is dabbed forcibly over the ground, spreading it thinly and evenly over the surface of the copper plate. The ground must be applied perfectly smooth and even or it is liable to lift from the copper in the acid. The smoke, but not the flame, alone must touch the ground, or it is liable to be burned and so crack off under the acid. The ground is blackened so that the copper line will shine through it when the design is drawn on the copper with a needle point. The preparation of the plate requires considerable experience before it can be done efficiently. Etching House has always admired the technique and skill required to do etchings in this traditional way. The next operation is to transfer the design in outline to the blackened ground. An effective method of achieving this transfer is to blacken a sheet of tissue paper with soft lead pencil to act as a carbon copying paper. This is placed over the plate and the pencil design for the etching pinned over it and traced lightly with the etching needle. The plate is then ready to be needled.

As the hand must never touch the ground, a support is placed across the plate for the hand. If a very delicate technique is necessary it must be drawn under a magnifying glass of about a four-inch focus. This enforces an extremely cramped posture on the etcher while working on a plate. Etching House believes Norman Lindsay was amongst the best etchers if not the best in the world, Garry Shead is clearly a brilliant etcher and plate maker, his oil paintings are self explanatory, simply brilliant, this led Etching House to be dedicated to Norman Lindsay, Garry Shead, Lionel Lindsay as well as some other master etchers.
Continuing, there are various methods of needling a plate, too involved to be discussed in a brief note such as this. The method employed in the etchings here has been to etch out the fine grey tones first, and by a series of re-etching to add the half-tones and blacks.

The etching itself is done by placing the plate in a solution of dilute nitric acid which bites only into the parts of the copper exposed by the needling. While in the acid it is carefully timed by Norman Lindsay, and this is the most anxious problem he has to face, for if he miscalculates he may either under-etch or over-etch the passage in the acid, and thereby ruin the result of a week or more of careful work in needling the design.

No amount of experience can give him assurance over his timing. He may have got a hard copper plate which etches slowly or a soft one which etches too quickly. The acid is constantly weakening as it works on the plate, and Norman Lindsay must keep adding fresh acid to try and keep it at an even strength. Having no means of testing its strength, he must trust to luck or cunning on equal terms to get the result he wants, and he can only be sure of that by wiping off the ground and taking a proof of the plate. If the result is a failure he has no resource but to discard the plate and start all over again with a fresh one. If the result of the first proofing is satisfactory he re-cleans and reground the plate and sets about working on the next section to be etched, and so on, proving and re-grounding as he goes till the plate is finally completed.

If the technique employed is one dealing with delicate tones and elaborate detail he may be a couple of months over one plate; and that he may discard finally if dissatisfied with its lack of the quality he has sought to achieve. Garry Shead may use 5 to 9 plates and up to 50 or 60 colors to do a final Etching, Norman Lindsay mostly did black and white etchings.

Etching House wishes to keep this traditional technique of doing art alive as long as possible as it is a skill we are loosing today.


News from Etching House Paintings prints Etchings Photography –


Etching House specialize in fine art paintings, etchings, prints and fine art photography, with fine art Landscape work by Jason Benjamin, Fine art Photography of Landscape and nature by Paul Woolveridge, contemporary fine art photography by A.I.P.P master photographer David Oliver and Robert Billington who have brought some amazing limited edition prints to Etching House available in colour and black and white. Etching House is a leading supplier of Australian fine art photography, fine art, etching, prints by the iconic artist such as Norman Lindsay, Jeffrey Smart, Garry Shead, John Olsen, Jasper Knight, Hugh Sawrey, Michael Leuing, Margerat Olley, Tim Storrier, Charles Blackman, Ray Crooke, Pro Hart, Sidney Nolan, David Boyd, Frank Hodgkinson, Arthur Boyd along with works of fine art by Jamie Boyd, Lin Onus, Jason Benjamin, Fred Cress, Melissa Egan, Barbie Kjar, Malcolm Jagamarra, Clifton Pugh, Sidney Nolan, Anthony Lister, Helen Norton, and Salvatore Zofrea.

Etching House also may provide professional framing with services available in Melbourne and Sydney, Etching House Ships directly door to door as well as by Australia Post. Etching House anchor artist are Norman Lindsay, Garry Shead, Jeffrey Smart John Olsen, Etching House believes in getting the artists archive of work out to the Australian Public for future generations to enjoy, a prime example is Norman Lindsay which Etching House has over many years promoted heavily for the love of art.

Etching House by arrangement may call to your office or home if requested and show selected works. If you are looking for art for investment or just enjoyment please let us know, Etching House Buy Sell Trade and consignee works for sale. Etching House also supplies a network of Galleries around Australia with selected stock on a wholesale and semi wholesale basis, talk to Etching House to see if you are eligible for this product.

Etching House has over 25years of experience in the field of buying selling and trading in Australian fine art paintings, etchings, works on paper and fine art prints.