Lithography Exhibition at Tarpey Gallery

I’m really excited to be showing some new litho work in this group show at Tarpey Gallery in October. The common link is the lithography fellowship at Leicester Print Workshop, which was for me a transformative experience. 

The work I’ll be showing is all based on time spent lurking around Canadian woodland – noticing, observing, reflecting, and being present. 
There will be some fantastic work on show, highlighting the creative possibilities of lithography. 

More info on Tarpey Gallery website: http://tarpeygallery.com/exhibition/a-study-in-stone/


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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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!


Thinking within boundaries, working within constraints.

So I’ve got a bit of news – in January 2013 I’m going to be starting an Internship at Leicester Print Workshop in Stone Lithography! It’s one of the only printmaking processes I’ve never had a go at before, and I’m really excited because it’s one which relates the most, in my mind, to drawing. One of the things which made me apply for it was doing a print swap recently with artist Lisa Hecht. I sent her one of my artists’ books – ‘Corners’, in return for her beautiful lithograph ‘Blue Damask Bed’, (above – sorry for the not-great photo). I think it’s actually a photo-lithograph, but it was the quality of the print which captured my attention – the way the ink sits on the paper is different to any other printmaking process, and the layering and colour really inspired me.

Over the past few days, as the news has had a chance to sink in, and as I’ve been in the process of editioning my print for this year’s 20:20 print exchange, I’ve been thinking about my last blog post, and what I said about choice of technique to suit the idea being a large factor in the success of a print. I still think this is very important, however, there is something to be said for working within the boundaries and constraints which a particular technique provides, whether it be drawing onto stone, carving into wood or lino, or etching a metal plate. This seemed particularly relevant as the print I was editioning was a very small, simple hard-ground etching which I made a while ago, as a tester for a series of small etchings of items of household fixtures and fittings. The drawing sits just within the boundaries of the metal plate, confined, almost restrained by it. But there is a certain domestic comfort in that.

The finished print, hard-ground etching on zinc, inked in yellow-brown with a colour roll-over and printed on off-white hahnemuhle paper.

It might be that an artist chooses a particular technique for the very reason that they want to be constrained – they want the process to determine the outcome of the work, to take them on a journey. The outcome may not be one which is expected or anticipated, but that’s what makes it so exciting! Printmaking for me is a constant process of inquiry, discovery and repetition, and the more I learn about it, the more ideas for new work I get, so I’m proper chuffed to have this opportunity to develop my skills further!

I’ll be posting regular updates on here from January detailing the progress of the internship, so keep checking back!