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Behind the print: "Plane Gold"

Peter Wareham's prints explore the drama in landscapes, cityscapes, still life scenes and interacting figures. He explains how he made "Plane Gold", a beautifully expressive etching and relief print that captures the glow of autumn sunlight on London plane trees.

"Plane Gold", etching and relief print by Peter Wareham

What made you decide to make "Plane Gold"?

I think London planes are the most decorative of trees, with their colourful bark, autumn leaves and seed balls.

It’s an etching on steel and it’s on a large scale - 50cm x 65cm. How did you go about making it?

The autumn leaves and branches are drawn and exposed on the steel plate, then deeply etched with 6:1 strength concentrated nitric acid. The whole etched and wiped etching plate is then rolled over with relief ink. The scale makes this a particularly impressive image. Etching provides a particular sharpness and contrast.

Peter Wareham's featured artist show at Greenwich Printmakers

Why did you choose to etch on steel? Was it for plate tone, colour stability etc?

Yes, it was for colour stability. Zinc and copper are soft metals, so the metal is rubbed off into the inks and the colours, eg. yellows, develop a slightly green hue. Steel is more stable for colour.

Also price – steel is much cheaper than copper or zinc, which is a consideration when working big. It is, however, more of a challenge to etch and aquatint.

Is some of the ink metallic? It seems to shimmer.

You noticed the golden shimmer of the leaves. I have rubbed golden pigment – iron pyrite powder – onto the dry print leaves, which I have spray fixed.

Did the scale of the print make you change how you worked at all? I imagine even just with the weight and size of the plate, it created some challenges. What made you want to work at that size?

Each print size presents its own challenge. With large plate of this size in strong acid, the main concern is foul bite, where acid bites through thinly stopped-out areas. The plate is very heavy and you need a large bed press to print it.

Peter Wareham at Artichoke Print Workshop in London

London plane trees appear in several of your prints. Do you feel a particular connection to them?

I see a lot of London plane trees when I go on my walks in Brockwell Park. I think London planes are the most decorative and numerous trees in all the London parks.

"Winter swimmers at Brockwell Lido", etching/relief print by Peter Wareham

As well as serene trees and still life subjects, you also like to explore the drama of busy London scenes, such as your "Millennium Bridge" and "Winter Swimmers at Brockwell Lido" prints. Do you tackle that in a different way? What do you look for when you’re thinking about ideas to make into prints?

I can see the decorative and dramatic elements in scenes of landscapes and cityscapes. I have always got my sketch pad and 2b pencil with me in case I see a scene that I think will make a good print.

"Millennium Bridge", etching and aquatint by Peter Wareham, from a view from the Tate Modern

Peter Wareham's featured artist show runs at Greenwich Printmakers until January 30 and his wonderful etchings and relief prints are available in the gallery all year round. For more information, see his artist's page .

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