Despite the name of this blog, I hadn’t yet done a print of a squirrel. So, with a shiny new A5 zinc plate to use, I started off etching a squirrel, inspired by a CC0 photo by Ilnur Kalimullin.

But I’m not very good at drawing foliage, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to play with soft ground. This is a wax resist, but has some added ingredient to keep it softer. This means that you can draw in it with pencil, or press objects into it to get the impression.

As always, rolling on the ground seems to be the hardest part of this process.
First I had to strip off the hard ground, then degrease the plate again (as I discovered after trying to roll it out the first time, the ground doesn’t stick well to greasy areas!) You have to use different rollers and hotplate (I think only because the ground ends up all over the hotplate, you don’t want to contaminate the plates). If anything, soft ground seems harder to apply, but as I wanted dappled leaf and fur effects, I eventually decided that I could justify any bad coverage and just went for it.

I added rosemary needles and some leaves from a flower arrangement. I’d been planning to just press the leaves into the resist, but Lois the technician at Hotbed Press reminded me that you can run the whole thing through a press instead to get a better impression. Instead of covering the plate with tissue paper (used to protect the press blankets from excess liquid) you use baking parchment (to absorb any oily residues).

Then you simply bite the plate as usual. I think the result is great, lots of detail from the pressed in leaves! Also the rosemary scent is delicious.

squirrel and leaves

To print, I inked up in two colours. I really like the effect, though I didn’t wipe carefully enough. One of the prints is on Himalayan lokta paper. This is really thin, but handled the wetting and printing fine.

squirrel on lokta paper

Unfortunately, then the prints went missing. Either they got filed in the wrong drawer, or I forgot which rack I put them in (apparently this regularly happens to actual squirrels with their caches of nuts too!) But hopefully they will turn up at some point.

Update: Jen found the squirrel a few weeks later! It may have had some other prints sitting on top of it.