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WPA Collection: Graphic Arts Processes

 

Offset Soft Ground - An Intaglio Process


         Cuyahoga by Kalman Kubinyi
        Offset Soft Ground, 7 1/2" x 10"


An important new process is the offset soft ground, a tonal process resembling lithography more than ordinary soft ground. (As in lithography, the drawing is made with dark crayon so the artist can see the probable result instead of working blindly as in the case of etching). The advantage over lithography is that the drawing on paper is made obverse and reverses on the plate to come back obverse in the proof, a great advantage in portraiture. One has absolute control over the most delicate passages fugitive even in experienced hands. The darks have the richness, depth, and the velvety quality of aquatint; large editions can be made without injury to the plate or loss of delicate tones. It does not take an expert to pull large editions as in the case of lithography. In this type of soft ground the drawing is made on a piece of paper with charcoal, conte or similar crayon. A special soft ground is rolled on the plate. The drawing is transferred to the copper plate, coated with a special soft ground, by applying the pressure of the etching press. The plate is now dusted with asphaltum which sticks to the plate only where the crayon dust of the drawing has not already stuck. The plate is rinsed, dried, and heated, until the asphaltum becomes a very hard ground. The offset of the crayon drawing which is still imbedded in the ground is now washed out with cotton and alcohol, leaving bare copper wherever this drawing had been. The areas of bare copper are broken up with an aquatint ground and the plate is bitten with or without stopping out. The plate is now printed like any other intaglio plate. This process was invented by Alexander Von Kubinyi of Munich.

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