Plastics (Health in The Arts)
Many Media in One: Acrylic paint products today
The illustration shown above was made by etching a brass plate in Edinburgh Etch and printing with Akua inks on Hahnemuehle paper.
The variety of marks, washes and reticulations was created by using a combination of the following resists:
Over two decades ago Keith Howard started etching with waterbased products. Initially, this move was driven simply by a desire to avoid the toxic hazards of traditional intaglio printmaking. To the great excitement of artists, his explorations showed that acrylics could not only emulate the aesthetic created by conventional etching methods - with ease - but could even extend creative versatility. Traditional intaglio printmaking has a strong linear bias, but is lacking in painterly possibilities. By contrast, Acrylic Resist Etching introduces a new breadth of painterly mark making to the intaglio medium while retaining all of its essential graphic qualities.
Safe Photo Etching for Photographers and Artists
Keith Howard, 1999, Wynne Resources, Alberta
Properties of Acrylics used in Etching
Acrylics brushed, poured, rolled, or sprayed onto a metal plate form a strong bond with the plate surface. During etching, acrylics do not tend to chip off along the edges of the eroded intaglio, as is the case with oil-based resists and, if required, can even be left on plates during printing. In the liquid state acrylic grounds can be easily cleaned from brushes or work surfaces with soapy water, but become water and mordant resistant once they have fully hardened.
Acrylics can also acquire self-texturing and tonal qualities when they are diluted rather than used neat. This unique property is exploited in acrylic resist etching techniques such as the "destruction ground" or the diluted SOFT GROUND. Both of these are designed to conjure up reticulated wash effects on the print which resemble lithography or wash painting, whilst infusing them with the depth and crispness that is unique to intaglio printmaking.
The acrylic wash process works like homeopathy: the more diluted the solution the more potent the effect. For a standard acrylic resist wash medium, dilute about 1 part acrylic medium to about 50 parts water. This will yield a black after about an hour of etching in Edinburgh Etch. Lighter tones are created by filling in with more concentrated layers of acrylic medium. The rust colored Hunt Speedball Screen Filler is Keith Howard's preferred wash medium. Lascaux make a dedicated wash medium which is ideal as a wash resist on zinc and steel plates.
1 : 50 = Acrylic Wash Medium
Richard Hamwi: Chime, 1983, (Spandorfer)
watercolor and collage.
"I use acrylic medium and adhesive because it is
nontoxic and has long-lasting conservation properties."
PVA glue, (polyvinyl acetate), was invented
in 1912 by a German chemist,
and is one of the oldest and most widely used polymer
binders. It is both archival and normally safe to use.
PVA emulsions are synthesized from vinyl actetate monomer, which is toxic.
Cheap PVA glues or mediums may possibly be contaminated with residual VA.
Vincent Finazzo, Delineation I, aluminum etching, 2008
Safer Stripping with Orange Zest Solvents - sample
An acrylic hard ground can be stripped off in a strong soda ash solution (1 part crystals to 3 parts warm water). Or use a citrus-based safe solvents now on the market (such as 'D*Solve', 'CitraSolv', or 'De-Solv-it') many of which can remove acrylics, etching grounds and hardened ink and paint.
'This truly revolutionary solvent was formulated as an alternative to petroleum-based turpentines and thinners. It is made from 100% renewable agricultural resources of soy, corn, and citrus, and is non-polluting, non-carcinogenic, and bio-degradable. Less than a teaspoon will thoroughly clean a large plate. DSolve will even strip dried ink from etched lines.'
There is a growing number of such citrus-based solvents on the market. The key ingredient, D-Limonene, also known as orange oil, the safe and innovative solvent extracted from orange peel, can be purchased directly from the citrus industry. For example, see www.citrusdepot.net. This solvent is more powerful than mineral spirits, strong enough to dissolve hardened acrylics, oil paint, printing ink, (and even some plastics) with ease, yet medical studies have found no carcinogenic or neurotoxin hazards comparable to the petrochemical solvents. Users should, nevertheless, still handle the solvent with care: ensure good ventilation/use vapor mask and take fire precautions when using the new orange oil solvents. Unlike oil-based products, orange oil is considered biodegradable.
Some big brand 'orange' or 'citrus' solvents are mixed with traditional solvents, such as Naphtha or Glycol Ether, and cannot be considered a 'safer alternative'.
For more information click on our Safe Solvents page
IMPORTANT: ALL LIQUID, VOLATILE, HYDROCARBON-BASED
SOLVENTS REQUIRE SOME FORM OF RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
(this includes both petroleum products, but also bio-based solvents,
such as ethyl alcolhol, soy/ethyl/methyl lactate, orange oil,
and many others)
below, a recent, 'eco-friendly' product, Eco-Solve,
made for artist use: 'NaturalEarthPaint'
"Does not irritate the skin
Does not emit harmful vapors.
Soy-based" (company quote).
Make up a Spray Aquatint and Hard Ground (based on this polymer) as follows:
(from: A pilot study to evaluate VOCs outgassed in polymer filaments, Shari Cheves, 2014)
Inherent Instability in Monomers and Polymers
"Plastic polymers are created from monomers almost exclusively derived from crude oil with far-reaching impacts on the health of humans and the environment. These highly reactive monomers form stable bonds in polymers through polymerization, though the chemical reactions are never quite complete. This inherent instability contributes to the release of residual monomers, plasticizers, ame retardants, solvents, and other additives as polymers degrade.
Based on the toxicity of monomers, research has defined the most hazardous polymer families as polyurethanes, polyacrylonitriles, polyvinyl chloride, epoxy resins, and styrenic copolymers. Monomers and other by-products are released through various modes of degradation such as heat. Nitrogen-containing plastics such as nylon and polyurethanes typically release hydrogen cyanide; chlorine-containing materials such as polyvinyl chloride typically release hydrogen chloride; and polystyrene, polyesters such as polycarbonate, nylons, and polyurethanes may be more likely to degrade into their original monomers."