Researchers: Katie St. John and Liv Stanislas
Room Temperature: 67 degrees Fahrenheit
Humidity, etc: Dry, No Humidity
Materials: 4″x 6″ Copper Plate 0.032 Gauge, Sodium Carbonate, Ivory Bar Soap, Tide Powdered Laundry Detergent, Seventh Generation Dish Soap, Guerra Titanium White Pigment, Titanium White Oil Paint, White Gesso, Linseed Oil, Vegetable Oil, Water, and Graphic Chemical Bone Black Ink.
In this experiment we are looking to create and test as many different Soap Ground recipes as we could come up with, in order to expedite the process of elimination for recipes. At the same time we are exploring all the textural and tonal ranges of each recipe to see which is most like the original White Ground recipe.
Plate Preparation (surface prep, ground application, image making process, etc.):
Burnished out significant lines, Steel wool sanded then Putz Pomade applied; Cleaned with 7th Generation Degreaser
Degreased with soy sauce, backed with contact paper
Sprayed acrylic aquatint through an airbrush onto the plate, then heat-set the aquatint in a hot box for 20 minutes before adding soap ground, plate sat for over 1 week
Soap ground recipes:
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp, Water ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp, Vegetable Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp, Linseed Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp, Vegetable Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate 1 tsp, Gesso ½ tsp, Vegetable Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate ½ tsp, Shaved Soap ½ tsp, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp, Linseed Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate ½ tsp, Shaved Soap ½ tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp, Linseed Oil ¼ tsp
-Shaved Soap 1 tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp, Water ¼ tsp
-Shaved Soap 1 tsp, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp, Linseed Oil ¼ tsp
-Sodium Carbonate ½ tsp, Seventh Generation Dish Soap ½ tsp, Guerra ½ tsp
-Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap 1 tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp
-Tide Powdered Detergent, Guerra Pigment ½ tsp, Linseed Oil ¼ tsp
-Tide Powdered Detergent 1 tsp, Oil Paint ½ tsp, Water ¼ tsp
*Shaved Soap was grated on a typical kitchen grater, smallest size grater available, and then crumbled by hand to a consistency of short-grain rice. The Crumbled soap at this point is two weeks old.
Application of the shaved soap ground:
The grounds that were largely made up of Sodium Carbonate were grainy and hard to work through to a smooth consistency. This yielded a visibly grainy texture on the plate, where you could see individual granules of the the sodium carbonate. The dryer mixtures like the Sodium Carbonate and Gesso or the Sodium Carbonate and Guerra Pigment were barely workable and made a streaky texture on the plate. The oilier that the mixtures containing Sodium Carbonate were, whether mixed with Oil Paint or with just added Linseed or Vegetable Oil, the easier they were to work with. The mixtures that contained Shaved Soap were much more workable. The soap makes the application of the grounds really smooth and much more water soluble, allowing more painterly application. The same was true of the mixtures containing the Tide detergent they were smooth and easy to work with.
Evaluation of plate preparation
Etching Bath notes
39 degrees Baume ferric chloride
Etched in horizontal bath with agitation every 2 minutes or so
Time in bath: 23 minutes
After bath evaluation
When in the acid bath the grounds made with sodium carbonate visibly bubbled in the bath and lifted much more than the other grounds. The shaved soap grounds, like before, did not lift at all.
Removal of grounds (chemicals used and evaluation of effectiveness)
Removed residual soap grounds with 7th Generation degreaser and wiping with rags
Placed in stripper bath for 15 minutes to remove the aquatint
Placed in deoxidizer bath
Inking methods (type of ink used, modifiers, wiping/rolling techniques)
Ink: Graphic Chemical Bone Black with no modifiers
Tarlatan wiping with a short paper wipe to finish
Paper type: Hannemuhle Copper Plate Bright White, ⅛ sheet
Soaking time: 25 minutes
Press (blanket set up and pressure): Pelican Press with 2 sizing catchers; 0.8 pressure
Conclusions: The grounds that were mostly Sodium Carbonate created a granular texture in the plate or a streaky texture and there was a noticeable breakdown in the ground. In places, like the Sodium Carbonate, Oil Paint, and Vegetable Oil mixture, the ground broke down so quickly in the bath that there aren’t any true whites. The Shaved Soap grounds, like expected, worked more like a stop out than a Soap Ground. But, the Shaved Soap mixed with the Sodium Carbonate both with the Guerra Pigment and with the Oil Paint, yielded results that were most like the original White Ground recipe in textural detail, value, and breakdown. The Tide based grounds were similar to the the Shaved Soap and Sodium Carbonate recipes, in that they held texture and value, but were much smoother.
Each ground recipe that we used yielded a different texture and range of value from one another. Perhaps, instead of looking for a single recipe to use to replicate the original recipe for White Ground, we could be looking at all the textural possibilities that we’ve found with all of these different recipes. We could be pushing the mixtures trying to find all the different possible looks available with Soap grounds, that could be used together on one plate to create an image. A new end goal could be to compile a list, with examples of all the different possibilities in White Ground.