Looking at and drawing ice cores at the National Ice Core Lab and University of Washington’s IsoLab was a beautiful and intimidating experience as an artist. My original attraction to this subject was the rich and long history that the cores contain. I have spent cold hours rendering several of the cores with a certain accuracy . The patterns are regular yet variable, reflecting the specific conditions present when the ice formed. I wanted to allow for this variability in my etchings, so I went back to the freezer at the IsoLab to perform some experiments.
I hoped to capture freeze patterns onto etching plates. Etchings are printed from plates with textures that hold ink. These textures are made by the artist using various resists and then exposing the plate to a corrosive or acid to etch away metal. Some resists are solid and are drawn into to create lines; some are open matrices to create pattern and tones. I was hoping to get a resist to freeze into crystalline patterns and then etch the patterns into the plate.
Eric Steig very generously invited me to the lab to look at some of the cores and made the freezer available to create these experiments. Graduate student Peter Neff pulled out cores for me to view He and lab manager Andrew Shauer graciously answered my many questions. During my first visit to the freezer, I prepared several small test plates to see what (if any) materials would produce interesting results. Most of the resists froze into interesting patterns, but simply melted when brought out to room temperature. I needed to find a material that would not only freeze, but dry while in the freezer.
Though lithographic liquid tusche is not often used as a resist, it was the only material that I got to freeze and then dry while frozen. Back in my studio, I experimented with several etching methods to control how easily the tusche lifted in the acid. To insure that it dried, I left it in the freezer for several days at -35C. After lots of fiddling there was success. The tusche held onto the plate long enough to get a nice etch. I now have a plate to combine with other images in my evolving series of work about ice.