hand colored etchings and paintings by Frank Nichols, award-winning artist and FHSU printmaking instructor for 32 years
Frank Nichols received his M.F.A. from Wichita State University and began his career as an instructor of printmaking and art education at Fort Hays State University in 1967, retiring as a professor in 1999.
He was a charter member of the High Plains Printmakers and his work in the areas of drawing, painting and printmaking were widely exhibited in solo exhibitions as well as in over 250 competitive exhibitions across the country through which he earned numerous awards. Until his death in May of 2013, he continued to work 8-10 hours a day, producing new and exciting work in his home studio.
The gallery of images below includes both Frank's outstanding artistry as a printmaker as well as the acrylic paintings he transitioned to as his creative medium when he chose to limit his work with the physical rigors of the printmaking process. Following the gallery of images is his own description of the process of hand-colored etchings.
COMMUNITY STILL LIFE
hand-colored etching (24"x18")
The initial black and white etching was made from a copper plate. Using a variety of coatings on the plate, the original drawing, textures and values were bitten into the metal with a hydrochloric acid mixture. The coatings are called “grounds” and one must use a specific ground for each effect. For example, if lines are wanted, a ground made for producing lines is used and the lines are etched as a separate process. The image is completed by carefully building the different effects with different grounds. Before the plate is finished, it will have been immersed in the acid many times. The amount of time in the acid determines how dark the image becomes.
The finished copper plate is printed by covering the plate with ink and wiping the plate until the only ink remaining is that which is retained in the lines and crevices etched into the metal. Paper is placed on top of the plate and they are passed through a large press capable of great pressure. The paper is forced into the lines and crevices containing ink and the print is made. The ink was made from a combination of carbon, vine ash and pulverized charred bones. The paper was made from an all-rag pulp with a neutral Ph factor. I usually use Arches Cover or Rives BFK, imported French papers with an international reputation for excellence.
Color may be achieved in a print by actually printing the color, but I prefer to use the hand-coloring method. The print is dampened and taped to a hard surface so it will maintain its flatness through the painting process. Watercolor brushes are used with very thin acrylic paint mixture. I have a few studio secrets about the mixture I use. The painting process is as creative and demanding as the initial creation of the image on the plate. While the initial image of the print is always seen through the transparent layers of glazes, it is possible to make many changes in form and composition. Elements can be refined or added.
The completed hand-colored etching is one of a kind, original art work and, therefore, carries no edition number. Because of the intricacy of the painting process, it would not be possible to exactly duplicate the work.