This blog will describe the method of creating a stone lithograph and depict the image making or drawing process on the stone. I have prepared stone for printing and processed hand pulled stone lithographs in the past I normally use the services of a master lithographer for the processing and printing. I have been working closely with Muskat Studios and Carolyn Muskat for several years. She has great local litho studio so I leave the printing process to her and I concentrate on the image making. color selection and design.
The first step in any artwork is to decide on the size of the print and the color scheme. I choose a stone of the proper size which is typically 4- 5 inches more in length and width than the image to allow for paper and margins. While I have done color lithographs I prefer the pure values of black and white and its simpler than color processing. I have always liked black and white and that is probably why I have been attracted to lithography in the first place because you can achieve an immense variation and gradation on the stone and there is just something cool about drawing on a rock! So this blog will provide a depiction of the image making process and the buildup of values. I am going to make a bold statement- "Drawing on a Lithographic stone is hard. Painting is easy compared to drawing and applying values to a litho stone". If you can draw on a litho stone you can paint. (I expect to get some feedback on this and everyone is entitled to an opinion.)
The first step is drawing. Creating an image that will be something you want to make copies of in a print format. Figure 1 is the initial drawing on tracing paper for The Artist's Dream.
Once the tracing is complete it is transferred to the stone with iron oxide paper. You place the iron oxide paper over the stone and then the tracing paper over the top of that. You then use a pencil and go over the lines and transfer them to the stone.
Figure 2 depicts the initial transfer of the lines into the stone.
The first thing you will notice is that the image on the stone is a mirror reflection of the drawing. This is important because anything that is drawn on the stone including lettering and numbers such as shown on the ruler will have to be a mirror reflection of what is in the final print. It can get somewhat frustrating if you are not used to writing backwards. The line drawing is red in color due to the use of iron oxide. Iron oxide does not reproduce when the stone is etched to make the lithograph but allows ability to re-draw the image on the stone.
I use various grades of grease pencil. Grease attracts grease and water repels grease which is the primary chemical process in lithography. The grease pencils have to be very sharp when you begin the drawing process. It usually requires a sanding pad to sharpen the pencils. So every lithograph that I make requires drawing the image at least twice! Its not as simple as a sketch or a drawing since you need to think through color and the way the image will look in the final.
Figure 3 and Figure 4 depict the development of the drawing on the stone. Figure 4 shows the final image prior to processing the print.
Note that Figure 4 shows the reverse lettering on the eraser and the ruler.
The master printer develops a number of proofs based on the values and gradation of the drawing. I work with the master printer to choose the paper and the number of ink passes to create the correct balance and density for the image and the prints. Each print to compared to the approved proof to determine whether its acceptable for inclusion in the edition.
The final print of the The Artist's Dream, 10" x7", edition of 25.
Michael Wilson has been creating tessellation art for over 40 years and is preparing this blog to share thoughts on the subject.