Last weekend I taught my first Photo-Plate Litho at Leicester Print Workshop. It went really well – there were 7 students on the course, (one of which has already joined up as a member to come and do more!), and all had brought a great selection of images with them to work With. Some had brought digital images such as photographs and scanned drawings, printed as a positive onto acetate. Others brought hand-drawn images to work with, made by drawing onto transparent drafting film with materials such as pencil, graphite and crayon, and guache and acrylic paint for wash-effects. Very fine detail in both drawn and digital images can be picked up in this process.
The positive transparency is taped to the photo-plate, which comes pre-coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. The plate is then exposed to UV light. The light is blocked by the opaque image areas, and passes through the transparent non-image areas. When the plate is then developed, the non-images areas wash away to leave bare metal underneath, and the image areas – where the light was blocked – stay on the plate. This creates the image on the plate.
Gum Arabic is then applied to the plate to help establish a chemical difference between the image and non-image areas. The plate is then printed by first washing off the gum, then keeping the plate damp while rolling on lithographic ink. The plate can be printed on either a litho press or an etching press. Damp paper is usually used to ensure as much detail as possible is picked up.
Plates can be printed in black and white or in colour, and some of the students from my course went on to do another day the next day with LPW lithography technician and artist Serena Smith, where they made more plates and experimented with printing a number of plates in register to produce multi-plate prints.
I’m really looking forward to teaching the Photo-Plate Litho course at West Yorkshire Print Workshop on 19th October.
Here are a few photos from the weekend…
So after a bit of a break during July, I’ve been back at Leicester Print Workshop in August, working on stones as usual. I can’t quite believe how the months are flying by. I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, and I’ve got a big backlog of process photographs to upload, so I’ll be trying to catch up with that in the next few weeks and doing a few more posts.
I had some good news at the end of July – my application for funding from the Arts Council to help me complete the internship was successful! It was such welcome news to receive, and topped off an amazing, and very welcome, summer holiday! The funding will help me to use the remaining months of the internship to create a series of new lithographs for exhibition in 2 solo exhibitions in 2014 – one at the LCB Print Depot in Leicester, and one in the gallery at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. More details about these to come.
I will also be running and assisting on a number of workshops and talks during 2013 and early 2014 to help spread the lithography word – all detailed below…
Sat 21st September 2013
Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at Leicester Print Workshop
Sat 19th October 2013
Introduction to Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at West Yorkshire Print Workshop
Sat 26th / Sun 27th October 2013
Stone Lithography Weekend Workshop at Leicester Print Workshop (Assisting tutor Serena Smith)
Sat 23rd November 2013
Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at Leicester Print Workshop
Weds 15th January 2014
‘Stone Lithography’ short film screening and artist talk at Leicester Print Workshop
Tues 18th March 2014
I will be giving a talk and demonstration at West Yorkshire Print Workshop to accompany my solo exhibition.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my progress and where you can see my work, you can also sign up to my mailing list.
Another post to follow soon…
Over the past few months filmmaker Bill Newsinger has been in and around Leicester Print Workshop, filming and documenting the lithography process. This film is the end result.
Working with Bill has been a pleasure – a funny, strange and intriguing process, with his endless enthusiasm for the subject matter always shining through.
From the start we both seemed to have a similar vision of how we wanted the film to come across, and I’m so pleased with the end result. The film portrays the lithography process exactly how I see it, and will hopefully help those who watch it to understand exactly what the process involves, and why I love it.
Big thanks to Bill for having the idea in the first place and being so cool to work with, to Leicester Print Workshop for being so accommodating and encouraging the collaboration, to West Yorkshire Print Workshop for allowing me the opportunity to take up the internship, and to Serena Smith for teaching me everything I was doing in the film!
I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently, so to make up for that I’m planning on doing a good few posts over the next few weeks to try to catch up a bit!
This post documents my first go at colour printing from a stone:
- The first thing to say is that printing in colour is so different from printing in black and white. Each ink acts very differently, some being very runny and needing to be stiffened before use, others being so highly pigmented that lots of extender is needed to tame it a bit.
- Another thing I learned is that you very rarely use opaque white when printing in colour. It tends to dull colours down and decrease their vibrancy. Instead, the coloured ink is made more or less transparent using extender, making use of the natural luminosity of the paper being printed on.
- Paper stretch is a major factor when printing in colour and in register. This is especially noticeable when using damped paper to print onto. As such, dry paper is usually used. However this tends to result in not as much detail being picked up from the stone as when printing in black and white.
- In this case, I made a test stone by first applying gum arabic to the stone to mark it out in sections – wherever the gum was applied would not take the drawing. I then used a variety of different drawing materials to fill in each square, including hard and soft litho crayon, turps tusche (grease suspended in turps), water tusche (grease suspended in water), liquid litho ink, and techniques such as scratching into the gummed stone and rubbing turpsy black ink into the scratched areas.
- I then processed the stone and printed the first colour. It is important at this stage to ensure that each print you take is registered well. This is usually done using the pin registration technique, which I’ll do a separate post on in due course.
- I then re-worked the stone, using soap wash, pumice and scratching back, and printed the stone again in a different colour on top of the first print.
- When printing multiple stones in colour, you inevitably get colours mixing, and this is a very exciting part of stone lithography. It’s going to take a lot of practice to be able to accurately predict what the resulting colour will be when one is layed on top of another.
After printing my first stone, my next task was to re-work the image. This means that once a stone has been drawn on, processed and proofed, you can go back to it and make amendments by adding to or deleting the drawing.
Some amendments can be done during the proofing stage, and the stone can continue to be printed straight afterwards. However with others the stone will need to be gummed up afterwards and left overnight before proofing again. This all depends on whether the method you use is abrasive or not.
Non-abrasives: The stone can be printed straight away after using these techniques.
– Etching the image back. This has the effect of increasing the contrast in an image, getting rid of the lighter tones and tending to leave the darker tones. Using a strong-ish gum etch, (a few drops of concentrated nitric acid in gum arabic), paint the etch onto the areas of the image you wish to alter. If you don’t want to have a harsh line where you paint the etch, apply plain gum first and them work into it with the strong etch.
– Soap Wash. This method creates painterly marks which will print very dark with a slightly grainy effect, almost like an aquatint. Using a bar of ordinary household soap and some water, paint the soap onto the stone using a paintbrush. Use as little water as possible and dry thoroughly with a hairdryer, before quickly damping the area with a sponge and rock first of all with a non-drying black nap roller. The rocking ensures that the soap is not picked up and transferred to other areas of the stone. Keep rolling until the painted area is fully visible. This technique, as I have found out, takes a fair bit of practice to avoid the soap wash migrating and smearing everywhere when it is damped and rolled. If the area is too dark, a strong etch can be used to lighten it. Or, if a soap wash is used over an area of existing drawing, it can then be etched back to reveal areas of the original drawing underneath.
Abrasives: The stone will need to be gummed and left overnight after using these techniques, as areas of un-processed stone have been revealed.
– Scraping back the image. This deletes areas of drawing. Using the side of a scalpel blade, scrape away parts of the image. It may be necessary to scrape quite hard and create some dust!
– Pumice powder. This has the effect of lightening areas of drawing. Damp a nylon kitchen sponge scourer, dip into the pumice powder and scrub the areas to be lightened. The ink will be scrubbed off first, so keep going a little bit further after that.
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!).
As promised, here is the first in my collection of artist books. It’s been fun photographing it. More to come soon.
1. “Construction”, by Thom Walker, 3 hard-ground etchings spread over 6 pages and hand bound in an edition of 12
This is one of the first ever artist books I acquired. ( We actually did a swap). I love the intricate, illustrative drawings, and although I have had it for a couple of years I only realised when I looked at it to photograph it that each drawing leads on from the next, and I always notice something new whenever I look at it.