Artist's Lithographic Process


The lithographic process was invented in 1797 by Alois Senefelder as a method of printing musical scores but then developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as a technique which produced most commercial and fine art imagery. This same technique was used by artists such as Honoré Daumier, Toulouse -Lautrec, Picasso and, with the revival of lithography in the 1970's, artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and David Hockney.


Lithography is based on the premise that oil and water do not mix. An image is drawn on the stone (limestone) with a grease -based pencil or ink. It is chemically treated so that only the oily image attracts ink and the non-image areas will not as long as a thin film of water is maintained on the surface of the stone. The printing surface is relatively flat which distinguishes it from the other common printmaking techniques such as wood block (relief), etching and engraving.

I use a multicolor printing process that requires each color to be applied separately, one on top of the other to produce a full range of color and tonal values. In order to do this, I must visually separate out the primary colors of blue, red and yellow and any other colors necessary to produce the atmospheric effects in the skies and shadows.

Images are derived from drawings done at the scene which are brought back to the lithographic studio to be drawn on the stones. The drawing is done in black (the only color available in lithographic pencils) but envisioned as blue and, after processing, is printed in blue ink on all sheets of paper using a registration system to ensure that every color printed afterwards can be placed accurately. I also pull an impression on clear mylar to assist me in registering future colors. After resurfacing the stone (or using another stone) the printed mylar is positioned on the stone, and the major outlines are traced onto the stone using a non-active conté backed paper. The drawing is done again with the intention of printing in red which requires altering the relative values since some areas might need more or less red. This is then processed and printed in red ink on top of the blue. Because the paper has 1/4" holes punched on all sheets which were aligned on pins of this size, all subsequent printings can be reigistered very accurately. This procedure is repeated as many times as necessary to produce the desired results (usually between four and six printings). No photographic process is used at any time and all color separations are conceived and drawn without any technical assistance.

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