Picking up from the last post: I decided that the problem with the soft ground was not drying it thoroughly. To that end, I visited a local printmaking shop that I have access to, which has a hotplate. I rolled up a degreased copper plate with graphic chemical water-based relief ink, and drew into it via a piece of newsprint. This is what the drawing looked like:
I dried the plate completely on the hot plate, at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes. Before I etched it, I did some random dissolving of the resist around the drawing, using some of the water/soda ash stripping solution. And because the resists was now a hard ground, I picked up an etching needle and drew lots of fine lines into the image. I etched the plate in three stages: 15 minutes, then rinse in cold water, 10 minutes then rinse, 10 more minutes. When I proofed the plate, it looked like this:
Conclusion: the soft ground lines came out about 80% etched; the hard ground lines came out perfectly; and the variety of tones in the background is extremely satisfying. The only tweak I would make is to add some acrylic screenprinting medium to slow down the drying time, in order for the last softground drawing marks to register. Other than that, I feel confident that I can now take this ARE soft ground into the classroom.
This is my studio blog. I also have another blog, Praeterita, which contains more general art-related posts.