Before she was Ms. Peach, she was Ms. Lime, an unfinished sketch I threw into my luggage (and bent!) as I packed for San Francisco and the intaglio printmaking workshop at Crown Point Press.
Diary of a Stealth Sketcher
“Aquatint” is a method for creating areas of even tone, similar to watercolor washes, on an etching.
In fact, early printers called it “aquatint” because its effects reminded them of watercolor. Artists as diverse as Goya , Picasso, David Hockney, and Chuck Close have done great things with aquatint.
It starts with a metal plate, powdered rosin, and an aquatint box.
This is rosin. It’s made by boiling pine stumps and distilling the resin. (Not by me! I leave that job to the experts.) Those lumps look like rocks, but rosin is very brittle. You can easily pound it into powder.
The finer your powder, the more delicate your etched tones will be, but pound it too fine and you won’t have much tone at all. It’s good to mix some coarse powder in with the fine stuff.
I like a challenge.
Recently I have been getting together with some fellow painters to work on portraits. We paint for 3 hours, and the challenge is always to finish before the last bell rings. After holding a pose under lights, the model is surely done, but are we? These portraits are teaching me to focus.
I call this one “Spooky Light” (oil on linen panel, 11 x 14.)
The old flashlight-under-the-chin trick did weird things to the model’s features. I liked it! It gave me permission to go for maximum drama.
Our model returned for 2 more sessions, so we had 9 hours to finish this portrait. That gave me time to develop the flesh tones, shadows, and some facial details. However, for the next portraits I only had 3 hours each. I had to up my game.