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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lithography 1, Victoria 0

My printmaking class was on Tuesday this week and just happened to coincide with a super-busy day at work. You might be able to tell from my sketch that I was feeling a little stressed by the time I made it into the studio.

This sketch started out as an old woman, turned into an old man, turned back into an old woman wearing a scarf around her head, then not, then squiggles, then... well, this thing is pretty much the worst thing I've ever drawn in my life.

Despite my disastrous sketch, the class was fascinating. I had no idea how lithography worked before the class and even after three hours of apprenticeship I'm still pretty in the dark about the details. The one thing I did fully absorb is the incredible amount of labour that goes into preparing and printing a lithograph. Any art process that starts with the slow and meticulous grinding of tiny metal particles against a large, flat stone is bound to be a time consuming process, but last night I discovered that stone grinding is only the beginning.

My shorthand of the very complicated process is something like this: Grind stone until perfectly flat, draw on stone using grease-based pencils, cover stone with talc powder, cover stone in gum base, etch stone with acid and gum base mix, clean off gum base, dry stone, transport stone to press, clean grease pencil drawing off stone, add chemicals including a tar like substance 'used to pave roads', remove tar substance, wet stone, ink stone, wet, stone, ink stone (repeat x 5), print stone.

Best upper body workout in town! However, for a girl who's already head over heels for etching, lithography is a pretty hard sell. It's more labour intensive, requires a lot of materials, and, based on the examples I saw in the studio, doesn't really suit my aesthetic. Granted, I did see one incredible litho print that perfectly replicated the soft, tiny strokes of a pencil drawing and THAT definitely impressed me.

The printing process still ended with a very gratifying slow peel of the image off the press. However, I quickly learned that the downside of printmaking is that when you make a crazy old lady drawing you end up having to take home four crazy old lady prints.

So lithography is probably not a medium I'm going to pursue in the near future. I'm happy to have seen the process though, if only to appreciate the work that is involved the next time I see a lithograph hanging in a gallery.


  1. Thanks! It really did feel like a losing battle. Screen printing... totally different story. I'll be posting about it soon!