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Art of Etching

Ilse Noor's latest etching plate

“Etching or intaglio appeals to me as it requires discipline and a lot of concentration,” says Ilse Noor. Etching (also known as line drawing etching) and aquatint belong to the Intaglio family, which is a printmaking technique whereby a design is incised in the surface of a copper, zinc or steel plate using a variety of methods.


Etching and aquatint are chemical intaglio methods where acid is used to incise the surface of the metal plate, while engraving, drypoint and mezzotint are dry techniques using etching needles to create lines in a metal plate. 

Etching tools: Intaglio needle, felt cloth and magnifying glass
Etching printing press
Etching tools: ink blotter, wax ball, roller and scalpel
Ilse applying intaglio ink to the copper plate

Pientre Graveur


Ilse Noor is a true pientre graveur (artist engraver), a term used in the 17th and 18th centuries to denote that the artist was the designer, engraver, etcher and printer.


This meant that the drawing of the design, would be executed by the artist with a plate’s size in mind. Rembrant, Durer, Schongauer and Seghers are famous examples of peintres graveures.


Today the division and delegation of these different steps is often done to hasten production of the print, so the existence of the pientre graveur in the true sense is a rare phenomenon.


However, there has been some recent interest in reviving the peintre graveur in European art circles.

"States of work" (Zustandsdruck)


The etching plate defines how the work is produced. This results in the Zustandsdrucke or 'states of work'.


They show all the changes that the plate undergoes before it is finished being worked on and ready to yield a print. ‘State of work’ allow one to witness the creative process of the artists mind. (see creation of the sea shell in Ilse's work below)




Even after the artist’s death a plate could still undergo different states by being retouched by other persons.


“Therefore to protect his edition and protect the interests of the collector, the artist must always cancel the plates by scratching each surface thereby destroying them after an edition is finished so that further impressions, if made wrongfully will have these scratches and no longer be of value,” says Ilse.


Ilse at work
Ilse at work
Ilse at work
Ilse at work

State 1

State 2

State 3

State 4

Etching plate's lifespan


The life of the plate also depends on the type of plate used. Ilse uses copper plates as they etch easily, but yield a good number of prints.


“With a copper plate you get up to a 100 prints before the plate is worn down and can no longer be used. With zinc between 15-30 and with steel up to 300”, explains Ilse.

Copyright reserved. The copying of images both photographic and/or pictorial is prohibited, unless with written permission from the owner. Copyright 2021

Website designed by Natalie Noor-Drugan, London, UK.  Photography by Halim Rahim Fine Photography, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 



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