"Fearless. Hopeful. Astonished." Lithograph Process

fearless hopeful astonished lithograph process print blot title image

First, a little background...

Sometimes in life, the best advice is the simplest:

“Make decisions based on love, not fear.”

I've been reminded of this gem over and over recently from various sources (okay, Universe, I get it!) and I think it's about time I listen up, take responsibility and make a more conscious effort.

In my own life, I have experienced the results of letting go of thoughts and decisions based in fear and how it can immediately open up your world and allow another dimension of clarity to enter your life.

I have been amazed at the light hearted nature of my environment and the ease at which life unfolds for me in these instances...

...but the change has never been in the actual reality around me, it has been the perspective in which I view life.

This change in your perception creates a change in the world, because you are able to view it through a different filter than before - a perspective of freedom, love, clarity and awe, instead of fear and doubt and labeling.

This print is a reminder to keep moving forward with love and hope, so that we may continue to be astonished by the beauty unfolding in front of us.

I'm super pumped to share the process of creating this print with you, so let's begin!

Doing the damn thing!

Lithography is a very traditional and careful process of making images.

The entire principle of lithography is based on the fact that oil and water don’t mix. (This will come in handy later!)

1. Graining the Stone

In order to prepare the stone's surface to draw on, I first had to grain the litho stone down to a smooth surface.

This is basically like sanding the stone, but instead of using sandpaper, I'm using an abrasive called carborundum grit (aka silicone carbide) and the weight of a second, smaller stone to smooth down the surface. 

I usually use another stone to accomplish graining so I can prepare two drawing surfaces at one time!

I use four carborundum grits to achieve my needs: #80, #100, #180 and #220.

I put the carborundum on the stone with a little bit of water, then take another smaller stone (one that is easy to maneuver) and create a figure eight motion on top of the larger, bottom stone. 

print fearless hopeful astonished lithograph process graining stone
I repeat the process of adding carborundum and water to the stone and graining for 8-10 cycles (two or three for each grit), washing off all remaining grit in between.

It is extremely important that the litho stone is completely flat and of a consistent thickness.

Any variation in the surface can cause the image not to print correctly or the stone can break under the intense pressure of the press. (Not cute!)

2. Drawing on the Stone

Next I took the flat, blank litho stone and transferred my drawing onto it. My drawing consists of three hands, which represent fearlessness, staying hopeful and being astonished by the outcome.

It’s important to remember that the drawing will be reversed when printed, so you have to draw it backwards on the stone!

You can see the grey color of the stone in the hands below. The tan/yellow color around the hands is gum arabic. I use the gum to protect the rest of the stone from receiving any drawing, because now that the stone is prepared it is very receptive to marks!

print fearless hopeful astonished white lithograph process drawing

Using gum arabic and lithographic rubbing crayon, I build up layers of grey using a resist method. 

Rubbing crayon, like any lithographic drawing material, is greasy and will attract ink. This is the basic idea behind lithography as I mentioned previously.

print fearless hopeful astonished white lithograph process drawing two

First, I block out the areas that I want to stay white with the gum before putting down a layer of grey with the rubbing crayon.

Next, I put down more gum arabic to block off darker areas, let it dry and add another layer of rubbing crayon.

Layer by layer the drawing is built up on the stone.

print fearless hopeful astonished white lithograph process drawing hands

By the time the drawing is done, there are so many gum layers and crayon that I can't really tell what's happening anymore.

This is one of the reasons why I love this process: the reveal during the etching process.

I also love it because it helps me to not overthink the drawing. If I can't see it, what is there to overthink? I am forced to go with the flow...

print fearless hopeful astonished white lithograph process drawing three

3. Etching the Stone

Etching the stone “fixes” the greasy image into the stone’s surface.

A very precise chemical solution of nitric acid and gum arabic is massaged into the stone for several minutes (see below), then the extra is wiped away and the stone is left to sit for several hours.

This is a very careful part of the entire process, and one that can make or break your image. If you etch the stone too hot, all of the detail and subtle greys will be lost; if you don't etch it hot enough, the image will fill in with ink and become much darker, losing subtleties still.



print fearless hopeful astonished lithograph process etch stone

After the stone is etched, the greasy image will attract the greasy ink while the white areas attract water and therefore repel the ink.

The chemical makeup of the stone’s surface has now been altered so that the image can be printed hundreds of times if needed. (Fancy right?!)

4. Preparing Paper and Mixing Ink

In between etching and the next step, I tear all of my paper down to the right size and prepare it for printing!

I mark each piece with registration marks so that they will all be printed the same for a consistent edition.

I also mix ink now. For this print I'm using black ink, so I just added modifiers to the ink to make it the right consistency.

5. Second Etch and Inking up the Stone

After the stone has had some time, it endures a second etch to really make sure the image is set and ready to print.

Now the stone is placed on the bed of a litho press. Oil-based printing ink is applied to the stone using a roller. (You can see rollers behind me in the gif below. They look like hella-fancy, hella-expensive rubber rolling pins.)

The stone is kept damp using large sponges while the image is being inked up.

Because grease and water don’t mix, the greasy ink adheres to the greasy drawing but is repelled by the damp blank areas of the stone, allowing the background to remain white. (I told you that point was important!)


6. Printing the Stone

I set the pressure on the litho press for this specific stone. This allows enough pressure for printing the image well without damaging anything else along the way.

A sheet of paper is placed on the surface of the stone, followed by two sheets of newsprint and then a flat plastic board called a tympan. The tympan allows the stone to go through the press smoothly and protects the print itself.

Once all of this is done, the stone, paper, and tympan sandwich is sent through the press and the finished print can be removed from the stone!

It takes a few trial prints for the image to print correctly and consistently. 

Once I feel good about the way the print is looking, I repeat the process of adding ink and printing the image to create an edition! 


print fearless hopeful astonished white lithograph

on White Rives BFK - PURCHASE IN SHOP 


print fearless hopeful astonished cream lithograph

on Cream Rives BFK - PURCHASE IN SHOP 

print fearless hopeful astonished grey lithograph


And now it's up to you...

What kind of world will you live in today?

Remember, only you have the power to control your perspective, your world, your destiny...

Just try it for today and see what happens when you make decisions based on LOVE and not fear! You may just be astonished by the outcome.

Also, comment below to let me know what you think about this print and the litho process, and share this post if you thought it was interesting!

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