Diverging Paths

Last Saturday wasn’t the only time I’ve sketched at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. Several years ago I created a soft ground etching of two diverging pathways as they snake their way along the hillside. Creating etchings plein-air is surprisingly easy with some planning. I prepared all my materials before hand, including my metal plate and acid bath.

When I arrived at the cemetery, I spend a good half hour walking around admiring the beauty of the twisted oak trees and the paths that weave through them. After finding a good place to sketch, I sat at the path’s edge and sketched directly on a piece of paper covering a soft ground etching plate. With the pressure of my conté crayon on the paper, my sketch was transferred through the ground to the plate below. Once the drawing was finished, I removed the paper and put the plate directly into an acid bath I had prepared in a plastic container. After a few minutes, the acid etched my drawing into the plate, creating indentations into the metal that ink would stick to when printed.

The Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place, almost park-like. My etching, Diverging Paths, shows the afternoon sun casting lengthy shadows across the paths and grave sites. I feel as though I’ve adopted this area as a place to visit my mom who died a few years ago. Since her ashes were spread in the desert botanical gardens of Arizona, I don’t have a local place to visit her. My mom loved the morning sunshine and I like to think of her resting among the violet colored sweet-pea flowers that populate this hillside.