Hand-Painted Etchings? Here’s the What, Why & How!

I was thrilled to have a very successful open studio event at the end of last month, where I was asked lots of questions about my work and especially about my recent hand-painted etchings. So I thought it might be a good idea to provide an example of what they are and explain a bit about how & why I produced them. It’s been making these (and clearing out my plan chest of etching proofs!) which has preoccupied much of my time this year, but it’s also been something I’ve really enjoyed doing too.

Below is an example of a state proof etching I was loath to throw away, but didn’t want to sell as it was. I had a drawer full of them from 4 years of working on this and about 30 other different plates at the Dunfermline Printmakers Workshop.

Cellardyke Shoreline (etching & aquatint)
Cellardyke Shoreline (etching & aquatint)

It can be an expensive business putting a plate through its various stages before finalising it, as I like to use decent paper for the proofs that come near the end of the process. Anyway, I decided back in January to do something productive with all those failed etchings that were taking up precious studio space. It was time for a bit of colouring in! Below is a finished hand-painted etching from the same plate as the one above. This one was done using a mixture of watercolours and pastels.

Cellardyke Shoreline (Evening Song)

As I had several of each I decided to experiment with colours and mix up the media a bit too. Here’s another from the same plate using gouache and watercolour.

Cellardyke Shoreline Sunset
Cellardyke Shoreline (Sunset)

You can see how different the same composition can become with a little imagination and a willingness to take a risk or too. They were going in the bin otherwise, so it’s no risk at all really. I must have painted somewhere in the region of 30 of these over the year using a variety methods, including the larger Edinburgh ones of Dean Village and The Old Town (see below), the plates for which were produced specifically with hand-painting the prints in mind. I’ve found it great fun and quite liberating to just take risks and throw colour at them to see what happens. It’s also been good to experiment with different ‘feelings’ or atmospheres in each. So they’ve all ended up as distinctly separate and individual pieces. I might take inspiration from some of the more successful ones for future oil paintings, but that’s for later next year.

The Old Town, Edinburgh (2)
The Old Town, Edinburgh (2/10)

I’m planning on getting back into the etching properly again in 2017 and I’ll no doubt be making a lot more duff proofs in the process … so watch this space for more hand-painted etchings!