SUGAR LIFT AQUATINT
Condensed milk is mixed with Indian ink. With this sugar mixture a drawing is made on a copper plate using a brush or a dipping pen. (The plate is first degreased so that the water-based ink and sugar mixture sits on the surface and does not ‘crawl’ into dots and blobs.) When the sugar and ink mixture is dry, a thin coating of acid-resistant varnish or ground is painted over the plate, covering the drawing. When this ground has dried, the plate is placed in warm water. The water somehow penetrates the ground to the sugar, which then expands and bursts through the thin varnish layer, lifting it off the plate. The water dissolves the sugar and ink mix, revealing the plate below. The plate is then placed into a special box filled with a fine ground resin. The resin is agitated and sifts down to settle on the plate. The plate is heated until the resin melts onto its surface. The plate, now ready for ‘biting’, is placed in a bath of acid that eats into the areas that held the sugar and ink mix. The fine specks of resin dust adhering to the plate form little islands around which the acid bites. If the plate is left in the acid for a short period—say anything from twenty seconds to five minutes—the eating away of the plate around the resin particles is very shallow, resulting in a light grey tone when the plate is printed (more on this in due course). If the plate is left in for a longer period—say forty minutes—a dark grey or black tone is achieved.
This text by William Kentridge appears alongside the illustration of this print in William Kentridge Nose: Thirty Etchings, edited by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen and published by David Krut Publishing in 2010.