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. All the limited editions here are etchings printed from copper plates and I only use the most traditional acid; Dutch Mordant.
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.
Etchings of Kings Cross
To view a larger/higher resolution image, read more information on the image and view purchase options please click on image
KINGS CROSS SKYLINE 1
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
Sunlight casts geometric shadows on the balconies of Midhope House on the Hillview Estate in Kings Cross, London.
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.
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!
END OF THE LINE – 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.
ST PANCRAS CLOCKTOWER – St Pancras station clocktower rises majestically above the Euston Road, London, in the 1980s.
ST PANCRAS FROM THE REGENTS CANAL
Breakfast smoke rises from a barge moored on the Regents Canal, behind Kings Cross. St Pancras station’s famous clock tower rises hazily in the distance.
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.
Borrowed presses. Acid and copper
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.
Demolitions and weathering
I learnt a lot from that etching class; watching students try things that should have worked. Some didn’t and some things that shouldn’t have worked 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)
FINAL CURTAIN – A tattered net curtain billows out from the broken window the partly demolished Mount Pleasant sorting office, Kings Cross Road, London.
WEATHERED DOORWAY, RYE – Detailed etching of the splintered and weather beaten wooden doorway on the Strand Quay in Rye.
DEMOLITION – The skeleton of a building being demolished in Covent Garden in London in the 1980s
The textures and random shapes created by nature breaking down man made objects has always fascinated me, whether it be the bleached and splintered wood of an old fishing boat or groyne, the faded cracked paint on a wall, or the layers of peeling wall paper laying bare the history of a demolished building. I was particularly drawn to these on exploring the coast on moving to Rye – this was the front line between man’s constructions and the elements! Out along the beach near Winchelea beach there is a fenced off area where paint samples are tested against the effects of wind, rain, sun, cold, salt air and ultimately time. See coastal textures for paintings exploring this theme
Etchings of Rye
After moving to Rye in 1994 one of my first purchases was an etching press, and so, 6 years later when I got my first PC and connected to the internet It seemed a good idea to put the two together and call my new website Ryepress.
MERMAID STREET, RYE
A view down the famous cobbles of Mermaid Street in Rye, East Sussex, one of England’s most picturesque streets.
The Flagship image of any Rye gallery – I have done this as paintings, both oil an acrylic and also a smaller hand coloured edition which has long since sold out.
See Down Mermaid Street for the Giclée print
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.
WATCHBELL STREET, RYE
View down the cobbles of Watchbell Street in Rye to the Hope and Anchor and Udimore in the distance.
WINTER FIELDS, NEAR RYE
Snow covered field between Rye and Winchelsea beach past Camber Castle.
The Piranesi-esque mechanism of the clock in the tower of St Mary’s in Rye. (To date the largest etching I have ever done at 12 ins x 18 ins)
Please see Prints of Rye for the colour reproduction prints of paintings of Rye
Etchings of Hastings
SMOKE ON THE WATER
Hastings pier continues to smoulder, wreathed in smoke the morning after the fire in October 2010.
EAST HILL SNOW
Snow covering the roofs of the Old Town, Hastings looking toward the East Hill with its funicular railway.
ALL SAINTS STREET HASTINGS
Looking up All Saints Street , Hastings, with its raised pavement and Tudor buildings.
HIGH STREET HASTINGS
The High Street Hastings, with its raised pavement opposite the FILO (First in last out) pub.
HILL STREET, HASTINGS
Etching by Colin Bailey of Hill Street looking down towards St Clements Church and Swan Terrace in Hastings Old Town.
NETHUTS AND FUNICULAR
Hastings East Hill funicular railway, seen from the net huts on the Stade.
CROFT ROAD, HASTINGS
The corner of Croft Road coming up from Swan Terrace opposite St Clements Church.
Please see Hastings Old Town for the colour reproduction prints of paintings of Hastings.
Etchings of Coastal textures
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. Groynes last around 50 years before needing to be replaced and the process is a constant cycle of renewal.
The slow and inexorable deterioration of manmade objects over time has 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.
Splintered, flaking and peeling paint and wood on the keel of an abandoned fishing boat on the beach near Dungeness
STICKS AND STONES
Low tide at Winchelsea beach near Rye, the weather-beaten groynes stand in silhouette against the headland at Fairlight,
RYE BAY GROYNES 1
Groynes at low tide on Winchelsea beach near Rye with Dungeness in the background.
RYE BAY GROYNES 2
Weathered wooden groyne buried in the shingle at Winchelsea Beach near Rye
TIME AND TIDE AGAIN
Giant rusted bolt holding together weathered and wave beaten groyne on Winchelsea Beach
Please see Coastal Textures Paintings for the colour reproduction prints of paintings of Coastal textures.
Etchings of Nudes and Abstracts
More recently I have been experimenting with different textures, both with a small series of veiled nudes and with completely abstract etchings.
Although totally different in subject, these etchings were an attempt to explore the range of textures possible using soft and hard ground teetching techniques on a copper plate. In the case of the semi-nudes, I chose this subject because of the challenge of rendering veils and drapery I wanted to explore the transparency and flowing element in these details, having been inspired by similar textures successfully conveyed in marble. Eschewing the use of aquatint in these works, the final image is achieved by redrawing the whole work many times on the same plate using both hard and soft ground, biting in acid each time, and building up the image tonally using many layers of interlaced lines.
What are etchings?
For an explanation about what etchings are and what they are not; the techniques and the terminology, The distinctions between hard ground and soft ground, The difference between etching and engraving and Mezzotint and drypoint, Photogravure and indeed the whole process, please see what is etching?