We’ve been experimenting with several different substitutes for traditional soft ground. Originally a safer substitute for traditional soft ground etching consisted of a mixture of water-based block printing ink and several acrylic mediums (see Acrylic Resist Soft Ground experiments). However the problem that we encountered with this formula was that we only had a 20-minute drawing time before the ground hardened. This was not enough time to develop a well-defined drawing. We received the BIG (Baldwin Intaglio Ground) from the printmaker Andrew Baldwin of Trefeglswys Print Studio in Wales. The ground comes in either scarlet red or black and has the consistency of ink. We have had great success with BIG as a hard ground and began a series of experiments with both the Red and Black BIG for use as a soft ground for drawings.
There are many advantages to the BIG ground including: the ability to be used as a hard and soft ground, longer open time for drawing, and a far superior ability to capture tone. Our experiments developed a process that fully utilizes the soft ground aspect of BIG. We tested different transfer papers, drawing utensils, and varying ground applications. We compared the relative effectiveness of the red vs. black ground.