Printing my first stone…

I’ve gone a bit off-track with my posts of late – excitement about artist books took over for a bit there! So back to lithography. I’ve got a backlog of posts about various processes I’ve been learning. So here’s the first – printing my very first litho stone. (This was actually over a month ago now – how time flies!).

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The drawing on the stone was made using hard and soft litho crayons and rubbing block. Unfortunately I forgot to document the processing of the stone – I’ll have to do that with another one. When it came to taking the first prints, I was amazed by the amount of detail the stone retained – it was so true to the original drawing, but after a few more the image started to fill in in the non-image areas, and it was evident that the stone needed some more etching, (despite having had two gum etches already). This is in order to de-sensitise those areas to grease, so that when the oil-based ink is rolled on, it only adheres to the greasy image-areas.

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Stone filling in – evident from the grey tone on the non-image areas. This is why it’s important to really look at and try to remember your image before processing and printing, so that you know which marks should and shouldn’t be there.

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Applying a further gum etch to the stone with a paint brush. A strong mix of gum arabic and nitric acid is applied to the strong areas of the drawing and non-image areas to clear out any grease, and a weaker mix is used for delicate areas of tone, so as not to clear these areas out completely.

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Stone etched back and ready to proof again.

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The stone is printed with a 50/50 mix of ‘Noir a Monter’ (non-drying black ink) and Crayon black ink.

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A leather nap roller is used to roll the ink. When using any black ink other than non-drying, the roller should be thoroughly scraped after use to avoid it drying out and ruining the roller.

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Pulling a print from the stone – Ink is rolled on to the damp stone, damp paper is placed on top, and once run through the direct transfer press the paper is pulled from the stone to reveal the printed image.

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My first run of lithographs! I was really happy with how they turned out – especially seeing as they were only a test.

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So amazed by the fine detail – something unobtainable with any other print technique. The key is processing the stone so that all the subtleties of the drawing are retained.

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Morris under his favourite lamp.


Printing a litho stone…

Here is a little video of me printing a test litho stone last week. The image is made up of a series of squares in which I have used a different drawing material or technique to produce a different mark. I was really pleased with how it came out, but it might need a bit of etching back this week. It gets slightly tedious about half way through but bear with it! Hopefully it gives a little insight into the printing process, with some nice music as an added bonus. There’s also a photo of the finished print underneath.

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Stone Lithography – Experiments with transfer paper.

It was the 4th week on my internship at Leicester Print Workshop this week, and I learned how to transfer a drawn image to a litho stone using transfer paper. I’ll attempt to show the step-by-step process…

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Transfer paper is made by painting a 50/50 solution of gum arabic and water onto paper, leaving to dry, and applying another layer if necessary. The paper is then drawn onto with litho pencils, crayons, rubbing block, etc.

The drawing on transfer paper is taped to the stone using gum strip. Depending on how thin the paper is it may be necessary to run through the press a few times at this stage to flatten the paper, (ensuring a protective piece of polythene is laid between the stone and paper so that the drawing is not transferred yet).

The drawing on transfer paper is taped to the stone using gum strip. Depending on how thin the paper is it may be necessary to run through the press a few times at this stage to flatten the paper, (ensuring a protective piece of polythene is laid between the stone and paper so that the drawing is not transferred yet).

The stone is dampened with a clean sponge, the image laid onto the stone and run through the printing press 3-4 times at a pressure slightly lighter than normal printing pressure.

The stone is dampened with a clean sponge, the image laid onto the stone and run through the printing press 3-4 times at a pressure slightly lighter than normal printing pressure.

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The paper is dampened on top quickly and gently, before running through the press a further 3-4 times. This process is repeated until the gum on the underside of the paper is wet and fluid enough to transfer from the paper to the stone, along with the greasy drawing. A corner is lifted up to check, and when the image is successfully transferred, the paper is lifted up to reveal the drawn image on the stone.

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At this stage the drawing is much more fragile than if the drawing was made directly on the stone, so heat is applied the encourage the grease to absorb into the stone.

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A second drawing transferred to the stone.

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Detail of the stone. This drawing was made on transfer paper using a hard litho pencil.

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A final third drawing is added to the stone. The stone is then gummed and processed. This will be my next step – I’m looking forward to seeing the results!


Week two learning lithography – Photo-litho test plates and drawing onto my first stone. And a cat called Morris who likes to sit in the kitchen sink.

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A test plate exposed to an ink wash on drafting film for varying amounts of time, ranging from 9 – 18 light units. Very much like photo-etching in that the longer you expose the plate, the lighter the image becomes. But SO much more detail than photo-etching, and no need for aquatint or halftones as these plates produce continuous tone because of the way they are printed.

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Resulting prints from the test plate. Due to the nature of the printing process, more detail is revealed from the plate the more prints are taken – showing here the first print taken above, and the 9th print taken below.

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My first drawing onto stone, experimenting with dry drawing materials such as litho pencils and crayons and rubbing block to create subtle tones. We also put a first gum etch onto this stone, so it will ready for it’s second gum etch next week.

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Morris.


New beginnings and the formation of ideas.

This week I started my post-graduate internship at Leicester Print Workshop. It was a busy couple of days, and I felt as though I absorbed a massive amount of information in such a short space of time, so looks set to be an intensive year, and I can’t wait!

Seeing as this is a bit of a new beginning for me, it has brought me back to some ideas I was mulling over at the end of last year, but never got the chance to post about, about how a piece of work begins, or how an idea forms – another recent topic of conversation at the print workshop.

For me, it has always been a kind of intuitive thing. But talking to other artists has brought to light that fact that every individual goes about it in a completely different way. This may be pretty obvious, but its not really something I’ve thought about in much depth before, and its made me examine my own way of working in more detail. I wanted to try to describe how an idea forms for me – just to see if I could articulate it in a comprehensible way. Without a better way of describing it, an image tends to appear to me, (not by some divine light shining down through the clouds – it’s usually very mundane). This could be sparked by anything – a throw away comment someone makes, a song lyric, a sentence in a book, a texture on a wall, the way one piece of furniture might sit compared to another, or a conversation which seems to recur coincidentally time and time again. This then tends to result in a fairly clear image of the piece of work I want to create, although inevitably that image changes through the subsequent processes of sketching, mock-ups, proofing, etc, often resulting in an outcome which is totally different to that which I intended.

In contrast, I was talking recently to a couple of artists who work rather differently – without any clear image of how they would like the work to look. Instead they let the materials and marks on the paper, or brush strokes on the canvas, guide them through the image-making process. I really admire people who can work like that, and I think it can add a sense of freshness and vibrance to a piece of work, and prevent work from going stale.

In contrast again, I know some artists who have a very rigid idea from the start of the piece of work they want to make, and do not deviate from this original idea and see it through to the end. This I also admire, as it involves a determination and blinkered vision which I’m not sure if I possess.

In short, I think it’s really important for an artist to be aware of how and why an idea forms, and to consider the ways in which that idea could be best interpreted and fulfilled – whether to stay true to the original vision, (if there is one), whether to deviate and explore alternative avenues, or whether to start from scratch and let the work grow organically. This also harks back to my previous post about working within the constraints of a particular medium.

These are definitely ideas which I’ll be considering throughout this year, and I am really excited to see how the lithography process will influence my work.

I started off this week learning about photo-lithography, and below are the resulting prints from my first ever photo-litho plates. Ok so I think I need a bit more practice!

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