Techniques



Pencil drawing

Usualy academic artists, often use precise techniques to realistically portray the texture, structure and lighting of objects from reality together with imaginary elements, challenging our perception of the world and stretching the boundaries of our imagination. Pencils, because of their accuracy can be daunting but equally beautiful, ideal for photo realism.


Woodcut
The woodcut is the art of engraving on wood by hollowing out with chisels areas of a plank of usually cherry wood, pear, apple or boxwood, leaving a design on the surface. The transfer of this design onto paper is achieved by inking the surface with typographic ink and applying pressure with a press. The woodcut technique was used for decorating textiles in China as early as the 5th century AD and by the 15th century it was applied to religious images and playing cards in Europe. The finest exponents of the woodcut in 16th-century Europe were the Germans, Albrect Dürer, Hans Holbein and Lucas Cranach.
By the early 19th century woodcuts were largely supplanted in commercial work by the technique of wood engraving (a more exact process where the design is incised on the end of a hardwood block) and it wasn't till the latter part of that century when artists rediscovered woodcuts as a medium of artistic expression. Among these were Edvard Munch, who used softwoods, and Paul Gauguin who achieved interesting effects by sanding the wood. The Japanese, traditional masters of the woodcut, must be acknowleged as important forerunners of much of the work done by westerners thoroughout the 20th century.


Linocut
The linocut is a printmaking technique similar to that of the woodcut, the difference being that the image is engraved on linoleum instead of wood. Since linoleum offers an easier surface for working, linocuts offer more precision and a greater variety of effects than woodcuts. Long disparaged by serious artists as not challenging enough, the linocut came into its own after artists like Picasso and Matisse began to work in that technique.


Lithography

This is the printmaking technique invented by Senefelder in Germany in 1796 which takes advantage of the repulsion between oil and water to transfer an image from a smooth limestone surface to a sheet of paper. It is considered one of the most authentic means of artistic reproduction as it prints directly the touch of the artist's hand. On the other hand, sheer production numbers detract somewhat from its appeal to collectors, as the method permits practically unlimited editions. The first artists who left their mark on the lithographic tradition were mainly French and go from the early Delacroix and Géricualt to Daumier, Degas, Manet, and especially Odilon Redon.
The advent of color lithography in the mid-19th century saw significant work by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. The American expatriate, James McNeil Whistler produced some remarkable views of the River Thames in England while his compatriots of the firm of Currier & Ives were papering the United States with their own characteristic lithographs. Other 20th-entury practitioners have been Edvard Munch, the German Expressionists, and the Mexicans José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.



Etching
Etching is a method of making prints from a metal plate, usually copper or zinc, which has been bitten with acid. The plate is first coated with an acid-resistant substance (etching ground or varnish) through which the design is drawn with a sharp tool (burin or other). The acid eats the plate through the exposed lines; the more time the plate is left in the acid, the coarser the lines. When the plate is inked and its surface rubbed clean, and it is covered with paper and passed under a cylindrical press, the ink captured in the lines is transferred to the paper.

The first etching on record was that of the Swiss artist, Urs Graf, who printed from iron plates. Albrecht Dürer, though a consummate engraver, made only five etchings, and never really dominated the technique. That was left to later artists like the Italian Parmigianino and, of course, Rembrandt, perhaps the greatest etcher of all time... Later adepts of acid etching were Tiepolo and Canaletto in Italy and, of course, Francisco Goya in Spain. The 20th century saw important bodies of work by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Georges Rouault.

Drypoint
Drypoint is an engraving method in which the design is scratched directly onto the (usually copper) plate with a sharp pointed instrument. Lines in a drypoint print are characterized by a soft fuzziness caused by ink printed from the burr, or rough metal edge lifted up on each side of the furrow made by the etching tool. Drypoint is most often used in combination with other etching techniques, frequently to insert dark areas in an almost-finished print.



Mezzotint
Mezzotint or "black manner" is the technique which, contrary to the other methods in use, works from black to white rather than white to black. This is achieved by laying down a texture on a plate by means of a pointed roulette wheel or a sharp rocker. The burrs thus created trap a large quantity of ink and give a rich black. The mezzotint artist then scrapes away the burr in areas he wants to be grey or white. The process produces soft, subtle gradations and is usually combined with etching or engraving which lend clean-lined definition. Historically the technique has been associated with England, and is often referred to as "the English method."



Aquatint

This technique is so called because its finished prints often resemble watercolors or wash drawings. It is a favorite method of printmakers to achieve a wide range of tonal values. The technique consists of exposing the plate to acid through a layer (or sometimes succesive layers) of resin or sugar. The acid bites the plate only in the spaces between the resin particles, achieving a finely and evenly pitted surface that yields broad areas of tone when the grains are washed off and the plate is inked and printed. A great many tones can be achieved on a single plate by exposing different areas to different acid concentrations or different exposure times. Aquatint techniques are generally used in combination with etching or engraving to achieve linear definition. Aquatint was little favored by etchers until Francisco Goya used it to such great effect in his celebrated edition of 80 etchings entitled "Los Caprichos." After Goya the technique was used extensively by Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro.

In sugar aquatint, also called "sugar lift," the artist uses a sugar-ink mixture to draw with pen or pencil on a surface treated with resin. When dry the drawing is covered with a layer of varnish and when dry introduced into a hot-water bath which exposes the drawing in the resin. The plate is then bitten in the acid bath and the resulting print has a soft, painterly look.



Monotype

Monotype is a one-off technique in which a flat surface on copper, zinc or glass is painted with oil colors or ink and then passed through the etching press. The process permits only one copy; thus "monotype." Modern monotypes take advantage of a wide variety of materials including perspex, cardboard, etc., with artists creating veritable collages on the surface, then printing them for surprising results.
 

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