What is Etching?

Etching is a fine art process used to produce an original print. It is an intaglio technique meaning the image is established below the surface of a metal plate. The artist makes a drawing on the plate using many different techniques and materials. The artist covers parts of the plate and leaves other parts exposed. The plate is then immersed in a bath of corrosive acid and the exposed lines and tones of the artist’s drawing are bitten into the surface of the plate. The resulting grooves, tiny marks and holes are then filled with printing ink by covering the entire plate with colour and wiping the surplus away. The ink charged plate is then covered by a sheet of dampened paper and passed through an etching press where immense pressure transfers the image from metal to paper.

Etching has been used by artists for centuries and for centuries and the process has not changed much since before the Renaissance. Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Morandi and Hockney all produced important works in the medium. Printmaking and particularly etching has become very popular in Ireland over the last few decades through the establishment of half a dozen print studios around the country. West Kerry is already well familiar with etching through the printwork of Niall Naessens, Tomás Ó Cíobháin and Maria Simonds-Gooding.


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