Wednesday, June 18, 2014

(Mis) Adventures in Lithography

With home ownership and a workshop looming in the very near future, I anticipate this will be the last print I pull in Bloomington before school recommences.  This image is part of an ongoing series and the first two pieces went quite smoothly.  However, just when I thought it was smooth sailing, I ran into this ugly fellow.  The key layer started off pretty well...

but I couldn't leave well enough alone and kept futzing around until I over-worked the drawing.  Plus I slightly under-etched it in the processing stage, so the end result was definitely darker than I had initially intended.  While not so bad in itself, it took on a significantly different mood than the others in the series.  I also waged an ongoing battle with the dark areas filling in and had to modify my ink a couple of times and re-etch the stone half way through the edition.

The image on the left is filled in while the right image shows the correctly printed piece.

Oh well, printing always has a way of keeping me humble.  I think as the series progresses that this image will still has a place but it will sit at the further end of the dark spectrum.  Tomorrow I'll print its border and savor the process of graining this particular image off the stone.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Adventures in Lithography

With the move into our new home rapidly approaching and much of July to be spent at the aluminum plate litho workshop at the Tamarind Institute, I am taking advantage of these precious early days of June to work on some of my own prints.  As my first foray into the world of blogging coincides with the preparations to print a new layer, I thought I would briefly illustrate the steps of making a lithograph.

I started work on a couple of images knowing that I wanted eventually to give them a decorative border.  This week I set out to complete this design.  It took a surprising amount of tweaking and revising before I finally settled on a satisfactory pattern.  After tracing the drawing onto a litho stone (smoothly grained limestone) I drew out the pattern with a greasy ink (autographic ink).

The piece of wood on the left is a homemade bridge to keep my greasy little hands from resting on the stone surface.  Since the stone holds grease at this point, finger/hand prints will soak in and eventually print.

Once the image was complete, I applied rosin and talc to protect the drawing and then smeared a mixture of gum arabic and nitric acid over the surface.  The gum and acid convert the limestone into a grease-resistant, water absorbent layer while concurrently reacting with the drawing to release grease into the stone, creating a water-rejecting grease-absorbing area.

Although the physical appearance of the stone doesn't really change dramatically, this is when the real magic takes place.  The gum/acid mix are stirred up, moved over the surface with a small sponge, and buffed smoothly across the surface with bundled cheesecloth.  At this point the surface is "closed" and is no longer receptive to grease.

After waiting for a bit, the drawing is stripped away using lithotine and a layer of asphaltum is smeared across the surface.  The gum is washed away and ink is rolled across the moistened surface, adhering to the greasy spots (the image) and leaving the non-image area clean.

No matter how many times I do this, the moment of seeing the image reappear on the stone is always a bit magical.  When the image is fully inked a second etch is applied, then it is off to print!

For the printing process these steps are repeated- the image is washed out with lithotine, asphaltum is smeared in, the gum layer washed away with water, and ink is rolled onto the surface.

Once the image is fully inked a piece of paper and a greased tympan are placed on top, the stone is cranked through the press and the image is transferred to the paper.

The border adds the final touch to the prints and I was really pleased with how it all turned out.  I'm saving this stone so I can utilize this border on each print in the series.

Hopeless Heroes (Cain)  7.5"x10"                               Hopeless Heroes (Jr) 7.5"x10"