Etchings

collage of black and white etchings by printmaker Colin Bailey
Etchings by Colin Bailey

Etching is one of the oldest and most satisfying forms of printmaking and in the hands of a expert can deliver intricacies of line and tone unrivalled by any other fine art printing process.
Etchings are the prints produced by etching an image on a copper or zinc plate, using acid, filling the textures of the image with ink and then printing it on to paper by running it through a heavy etching press. please see my what is etching? page for a step by step description of the process.

The two etching techniques I employ are Hard Ground (the most basic form of etching) and Soft Ground. I rarely use aquatint. The techniques I describe here are traditional methods adapted and modified to a modern domestic environment. Virtually everything apart from the printing can be done at home with suitable care and little space. The modern table top press is now capable of printing etchings that match those done on heavy studio press (at least for small plates) and so there is now no reason why even the printing cannot be done at home!

I will be adding further information about etching shortly…. Meanwhile here is a small gallery of what I consider to be some of my best etchings, done over a span of 40 years; from Kings Cross to Rye and then Hastings.

KINGS CROSS SKYLINE 1 - St Pancras station clock tower rises  above the courtyard of Midhope House on the Hillview estate in Kings Cross in the 1980s. Limited edition etching  by Colin Bailey
KINGS CROSS SKYLINE 1 -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

The Neo-Gothic Clock tower of St Pancras station station rises above the courtyard of Midhope House: on the Hillview Estate, Kings Cross, in the 1980s St Pancras station Limited edition etching print by Colin Bailey
These 1890’s tenement blocks were “decanted” in the late 1970’s by Camden Council pending demolition. They were rapidly squatted by the survivors of the Tolmers Square and Huntley Street squats who fought a drawn out and often bitter battle with Camden council to save the buildings. Grudgingly granted “short-life” status in the 1980s they went on to taken over by a Housing Association the following decade and thoroughly restored.. The Hillview estate is still home to many of these original squatters who have raised families in the flats originally condemned by Camden council as unfit for families!

St Pancras station clock tower rises above washing hanging out to dry on washing lines strung across the courtyard of Midhope House on the Hillview estate in Kings Cross in the 1980s. Limited edition St Pancras station etching print by Colin Bailey
END OF THE LINE – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
St Pancras station clocktower dominates the Euston Road, London.in the 1980s Limited edition St Pancras station etching print by Colin Bailey
ST PANCRAS CLOCKTOWER – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

I moved into a squat on the Hillview estate in Kings Cross whilst I was at art school in the late 70s and after a year’s evening classes in the etching department at Working Men’s College in Camden, after I left College, I started what was to become my series of King’s Cross etchings and spent the next 6 years working on them.

ST PANCRAS FROM THE REGENTS CANAL  - Breakfast smoke rises from a barge moored on the Rents Canal, behind Kings Cross. St Pancras station's famous clock tower rises in the distance Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
ST PANCRAS FROM THE REGENTS CANAL – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
KINGS CROSS SKYLINE 2 - View from the North behind Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. The Gothic Clock tower of St Pancras station station stands silhouetted against a troubled London sky.
KINGS CROSS SKYLINE 2 – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
HILLVIEW BALCONIES - Sunlight casts geometric shadows on the balconies of Midhope House on the Hillview Estate in Kings Cross, London Etching by Colin Bailey
HILLVIEW BALCONIES – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

With hindsight this was a ridiculously ambitious project, involving large 12 inch by 16 inch copper plates, Litres of Dutch Mordant and the use (if not yet ownership), of a heavy etching press. Luckily I become voluntary assistant to the etching tutor (Steve Gettler) and had access to the College press as well as one at the Architects Association where he also taught etching.

FINAL CURTAIN - A tattered net curtain billows out from the broken window the partly demolished Mount Pleasant sorting office, Kings Cross Road, London. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
FINAL CURTAIN – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
WEATHERED DOORWAY, RYE - Detailed etching of the splintered and weather beaten wooden doorway on the Strand Quay in Rye. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
WEATHERED DOORWAY, RYE – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
DEMOLITION - The skeleton of a building being demolished in Covent Garden in London in the 1980s Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
DEMOLITION -Covent Garden, London 1980s – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

I learnt a lot from that etching class; watching students try things that should have worked but didn’t and things that shouldn’t have worked but did! I ended up teaching the class and together we worked our way through Lumsden’s The Art of Etching and wasted an awful lot of copper and Zinc! I carried on with the big copper plates producing a series of etchings of Demolitions ( of which there were quite a few in London in the 80’s)

ANTIQUE SHOP, RYE - Peeling paintwork (before it was repainted!) round the windows of an antique shop in the Strand at the bottom of Mermaid Street in Rye
ANTIQUE SHOP, RYE – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
Prints Available
SMOKE ON THE WATER - Hastings pier continues to smoulder, wreathed in smoke the morning after the fire in October 2010. Etching by Colin Bailey
SMOKE ON THE WATER – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey Prints Available
WATCHBELL STREET - View down the cobbles of Watchbell Street in Rye to the Hope and Anchor and Udimore in the distance.
WATCHBELL STREET – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
Prints Available
TCALLING TIME - he Piranesi-esque mechanism of the clock in the tower of St Mary’s in Rye -Limited edition etching by Colin  Bailey
CALLING TIME – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

I moved to Rye in 1994 and one of my first purchases was an etching press, which, 6 years later after buying my first PC (I don’t think my Atari 1040st counts!) and discovering the internet, decided my domain name for me!

ALL SAINTS STREET HASTINGS - Looking up All Saints Street , Hastings, with its raised pavement and Tudor buildings. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
ALL SAINTS STREET HASTINGS -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
HILL STREET, HASTINGS - Etching by Colin Bailey of Hill Street looking down towards St Clements Church and Swan Terrace in Hastings Old Town
HILL STREET, HASTINGS -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
NETHUTS AND FUNICULAR - Hastings East Hill funicular railway, seen from the net huts on the Stade
NETHUTS AND FUNICULAR -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
HIGH STREET HASTINGS - The High Street Hastings, with its raised pavement opposite the FILO (First in last out) pub. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
HIGH STREET HASTINGS -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

The Coast
In Britain, the southern half of the coastline is slowly sinking (on the east coast, at the rate of half a centimetre a year). This and the constant action of the wind and sea results in a rapidly eroding and moving coastline. The rocks that crumble from the cliffs at Fairlight are slowly ground down to shingle and sand which is moved along the coast through a process known as longshore drift to end up at Dungeness. The groynes that counter this movement are subject to a constant pounding and grinding down from the action of the waves and last around 50 years before being replaced.

EVEN KEEL - Splintered, flaking and peeling paint and wood on the keel of an abandoned fishing boat on the beach near Dungeness. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
EVEN KEEL – Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

By the Sea

RYE BAY GROYNES - Groynes at low tide on Winchelsea beach near Rye with Dungeness in the background
RYE BAY GROYNES -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
STICKS AND STONES - Low tide at Winchelsea beach near Rye, the weather-beaten groynes stand in silhouette against the headland at Fairlight, East Sussex.
STICKS AND STONES-Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
Prints Available
TIME AND TIDE - Weathered and wave beaten groyne on Winchelsea Beach .TIME AND TIDE -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
TIME AND TIDE -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
WINTER FIELDS, NEAR RYE - Snow covered field between Rye and Winchelsea beach past Camber Castle. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey.
WINTER FIELDS, NEAR RYE -Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey

The slow and inexorable deterioration of manmade objects over time have been a reoccurring theme in my work since I first started etching – from the demolitions I observed as London was extensively redeveloped in the 1980s to the crumbling, rust streaked groynes and dilapidated fishing and farming equipment of East Sussex. I have always been fascinated by the relentless and patient punishment that nature exacts on man’s constructions of metal, wood, cement and stone.

SALOME TUMBLING - Veiled nude tumbling in a sea of crumpled sheets and cloth drapery. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
SALOME TUMBLING- Limited edition print by Colin Bailey
WEAPONS OF MASS CONSTRUCTION - Abstract etching, with an  ominous feeling of construction at an unspecified scale. Limited edition etching by Colin Bailey
WEAPONS OF MASS CONSTRUCTION- Limited edition print by Colin Bailey

I think maybe it is time to explain more about what etchings are, and what they are not ; the techniques, the terminology and the distinctions between hard ground, soft ground, engraving , mezzotint, photogravure and indeed the whole process…

See what is etching? for further information

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