Anne VanOppen -
plant impressions into soft ground
Soft Ground impressions
Making soft ground impressions is very much a ready-made technique using found objects and materials. Rather than creating marks by manual means the artist selects suitable textured materials and surfaces which are then pressed into the etching plate. The great sensitivity of the acrylic soft ground allows materials as delicate as tissue paper to transfer their surface texture to an intaglio print and even lightly touching the ground will produce very detailed finger marks that will etch and appear on the printed image. Virtually any material that is thin and soft enough to travel through an etching press without causing damage can be used. Soft ground impressions taken from plant leaves are particularly successful as the image will show the leaf's texture, structure and outline in graphic detail. Other materials typically used include pieces of scrim (tarlatan) or other woven fabrics, wire mesh, feathers, textured papers, steel wool; whatever else the artist considers appropriate.
Materials with a fine dot or mesh can also be used to bring about tonal areas on the plate in a way similar to aquatint. It is not uncommon in workshops lacking an aquatint facility to make soft ground impressions of sheets of sandpaper which are then etched and stopped out in stages to produce a spectrum of greys up to a dense black. Particular care has to be taken when metal objects or other hard objects are used for taking soft ground impressions - a coin can make an indelible impression on an etching press roller!
Products and equipment needed to make soft ground impressions: