BLTC Press Titles

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

The Bhagavad Gita


Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


by Earl Howell Reed


Before attempting the serious practice of your art it is desirable that all preparations be complete. The studio should be conveniently arranged and properly lighted, and the required materials easily accessible. You should be physically and mentally comfortable, and be imbued with inspiration and enthusiasm, without which successful creative art work is impossible. A psychological element enters into what you are about to attempt which is essential to success. Petty annoyances and interruptions of any kind should be strictly guarded against, as many fine plates have been ruined or made impossible by even slightly disturbing influences. Artistic inspiration, like a delicate plant, can only come from fertile soil, and it must have congenial environment if it is to bear a flower. A valuable idea is often lost for lack of means of immediate expression. Keep

some grounded plates in your plate-holders, ready for the needle, so that your ideas may not be impeded or diverted by mechanical preparations when the impulse comes.

After you have etched a few plates you will fall naturally and readily into the method and will not have to bother yourself as to the best way of managing some particular detail of the process. You will soon discover a path of your own which you will habitually follow. It is not necessary that your materials, tools, and methods should be precisely like those of somebody else. After you have obtained a good working knowledge of what is to be used, and how to use it, you will have no difficulty with the practical side of the art, although the detailed explanations which are desirable in a text-book may seem a little complicated at first. When you have found a particular formula, tool, or method which answers your purpose perfectly, adopt it, and do not waste time and energy in concerning yourself with any other. The field, apart from the materials and methods, is large enough to attract your finest thought and greatest talent.

Preparing the plate.—Clean the plate thoroughly with a rag and turpentine; and afterwards go over it with a clean cloth charged with whiting, so that no traces of grease or foreign matter of any kind may be left upon it. Remove all the specks of whiting without touching the surface with your fingers. When the plate comes from the manufacturer it usually has a "mirror finish." It is apparently clean but if you examine the turpentine rag after applying it to the plate you will find it somewhat soiled. In order to insure the perfect adherence of the ground it is frequently necessary to reduce the "mirror finish" with turpentine and willow charcoal.

In applying the charcoal, rub it in the direction of its grain. You will soon find the angle at which it will work. Keep the slight grain made by the charcoal on the copper in the direction of the length of the plate, unless you have a reason for wanting it to run the other way. The charcoaled surface is a little rougher than that left by the buffing wheel on the new plate, and would show a slight grey tint in printing. It can be removed at any time with a felt block and finely powdered pumice-stone. The "mirror finish" can also be destroyed with emery flour applied with a rag charged with turpentine. In grounding a very highly finished surface you will sometimes discover little bare spots where the ground fails to adhere, no matter how thoroughly and carefully it is applied. You can often avoid this by cleaning off the ground with a rag, while melted, without the use of turpentine, and regrounding. The best plan, however, is to get rid of the "mirror finish" in the first place, for it will not be desirable at any time.

The matter of texture on the surface of the plate will be considered in another connection. We are only concerned with it now in relation to the ground, which naturally adheres better when the copper is not too highly finished.

If the plate has been exposed to the air for a long time it has probably become oxidized and discoloured. Use the charcoal and turpentine until you have an even bright surface, which is necessary to enable you to see your drawing properly when you get to it.

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