An etching is an original print created by hand using a metal plate. The plate is prepared with acid-resistant wax ground. The artist draws directly on to the plate through the wax to expose the metal beneath. The plate is immersed in acid and the exposed metal is ‘bitten’ to create the engraving. The plate is then inked up and run through a heavy etching press to transfer the ink from the engraved metal onto the paper. It is a traditional art form dating back to the 16th century.
Each etching requires meticulous planning and Guy Allen explains ‘hours, weeks and months are spent in the preparation.’
Carefully choosing the plate to fit his composition, Guy works on circular, square and rectangular plates exploring the relationship between the metal, the etching and his subject matter.
Guy uses a pointillist technique on the plate and each piece is made up of a series of tiny dots. This stippling effect creates a soft, evocative finish perfectly suited to capturing the ‘quirks, strength and fragility’ of his animal subjects.
Stepping up to the press it is only when the first proof goes to print that the piece is allowed to fully emerge and evolve. ‘After weeks of intense preparation,’ Guy explains ‘it is the not knowing that excites me, the unintentional element that often makes a piece work.’
Continually challenging his medium, Guy combines etchings with screen printing, aquatint and gold-leaf, adding colour, texture and a more tonal quality to the work. The richness of the gold-leaf highlights the natural beauty and iridescence of the insect and animal world. While the circular movement in the layers of colour provides a fluid, sweeping contrast to the intense precision of the etching.
Once the piece is complete the printing process is repeated several times over and the work is part of an edition. Each edition is limited and the works are individually numbered and signed by the artist.