Back to the grindstone.

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

Sat 15th March 2014
Introduction to Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at West Yorkshire 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…

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A fantastic little film about stone lithography

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!


Stone Lithography – Printing in Colour

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.
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Some sound advice from Peter weaver in ‘The Technique of Lithography’

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The re-worked test stone printed in register on top of the original stone.

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Morris the cat in his house.

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Re-working a stone

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.

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Stone before re-working

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Stone being re-worked, with a test stone, and gum etches behind.

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Areas of soap wash before being rolled with ink.

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Re-worked stone, with areas of soap wash, etching and scraping.

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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.


My Collection of Artist Books

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.

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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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