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!).
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.Posted: January 18, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Working in a print workshop means that I inevitably spend my weeks having conversations about printmaking with a variety of different people. It’s interesting the way the same topics of conversation seem to arise again and again.
Recently it has been the question of what makes a good print. Of course there isn’t a definitive answer – it’s purely subjective – but for me a big part of the success of a fine print lies in the choice of technique. It’s a consideration which in my opinion is too often overlooked.
Perhaps it comes from having a reasonable knowledge of some of the main printmaking processes, but usually when a print really stands out at me, it is either because I can see a strong connection between the subject matter and the process used to create it, or because that particular image could not have been created in the same way using any other technique, thus adding to its unique quality. There is a huge contrast between prints where you can see the technique has been been employed and manipulated by the artist in a creative, thoughtful, individual way, and prints that have been made with a particular technique purely for ease of reproduction. (Although with this statement I seem to be heading towards the territory of ‘what is an original print’ which is a hot topic of debate among printmakers, and one which I may attempt to tackle in due course.)
When I start a new piece of work, it is usually because a particular image or idea has appeared in my head, and while spontaneous, sometimes frantic preliminary sketches are extremely important, I still try to find the time to stop and ask myself questions about my original idea. What is the most important thing I am trying to communicate? What process and materials are best used to communicate this idea and why? Is it the process of making the print, or the finished outcome which is more important? Is it important that it is a multiple at all? These are questions which need not always be answered, but if it is apparent from the print that the artist has considered these aspects, it is likely that the viewer will also ask these questions – and in my opinion that usually makes for a very interesting piece of work.