This past weekend I had the pleasure of being on the other side of a teaching table for once...I attended a lithography class with visiting artist Deidre Hierlihy from Ontario Canada at the Barracks Store in the wonderful Enniskillen Castle....its an amazing venue but I will come back to that in a minute!
So Deidre is visiting the Fermanagh/Omagh region on residency and I did mention her recently in a previous blog (see here) as I meet Deidre at the HAMBLY & HAMBLY showing of the successful, annual "1ft sq" exhibition, in which I was showing some of my wax & pigment monotypes from my #shapeoflifeseries that had travelled from the STRULE ARTS CENTRE in Omagh to the Hambly gallery in Enniskillen.
At the Hambly showing Deidre did a talk with slides about her work to date as part of a presentation by the local council and arts office by way of introduction into their (and their partners) ARTSLAND initiative focussing on inclusion.
Having seen Deidres wonderful printmaking skills first hand I was chomping at the bit when I saw the outreach programme of events for her visit included a number of print workshops, and especially her Lithography masterclass.
I arrived at the gorgeous castle site bang on ten o'clock for class, there was a small group of 6 of us, and Deidre herself, working from a large fit for purpose space within the inner courtyard know as the Barracks Store. After a brief introduction into the process, the materials involved and the small table top press Deidre proceeded to demo the print making process and before we knew where we were, we were away .... now traditionally litho is a stone printing process, laborious, masterful and precise...for the purposes of the class and with the onset of modern materials and greener practices we worked on polyester plates with oil based etching inks using soap, vegetable oil and coffee grounds as our cleaning agents ....the only chemical in use was citric acid and/or Gum Arabic for our water bath...good huh!
I won't go through the entire process here however there are great reference videos on youtube (as always) that will give you an idea of our process check HERE and look up printmaking with a Pronto Plate - its a brand of polyester plate, there are various plates, and brands of plates on the market for this process, so do check around the other references showing the process and of course if you are really interested do please look up Stone Litho - fabulous to watch and I imagine immensely satisfying to the print maker, there is a terrific intro video HERE .
We worked for several hours, I started with a very simple image, I was concerned with learning and understanding the process and not bothered in class about creating a perfect print...anyway my first attempt on newsprint was very telling! Not enough inking, my second was a mess, too much ink and not a damp enough surface...even the application of the link for Litho is different then my usual back and forth with a roller...you roll with pressure to ink and lightly roll in reverse to pick up any excess! Toothpaste was my white out when my inexperience left a finger print on the plate or the ink stained and left a blemish due to the lack of repelling surface water...but eventually I created a plate where the ink application was fairly even and I had learnt so much in the process of trying to get there!
An additional element to the day was an introduction to the use of chine colle to our litho print. This is the application of coloured or patterned papers (washi papers in this instance) adhered with the use of wheat paste to our inked printing plate, and put through the printing press to add colour to our final image. Again so many lessons learnt...the idea is to paste the coloured paper and lay it on your already inked plate with the paste side facing up...when run through the press the paper will adhere to your printing paper and the ink with print on top of this coloured paper as it adheres to the printing paper ....well that's the theory....but again inexperience showed, too much paste, forgot to work in reverse, colours used too dark to correctly see the ink overprinted on the papers.....but eventually we got there.
Whilst others were happy to create second prints after we broke for lunch, I was interested in the degreasing and additions I could add to this one same plate. I was also interested in pushing the image on a de-greased plate - would the faded original marks made (after degreasing) re-ink as shadows? What if I freshly drew over them in a gradated way, heat set and bathed and inked them again? Could I offset my print plate and ghost print onto the same paper print to create multiples of the image drawn....to what effect?? Needless to say others went home with a collection of prints they might not be ashamed to show off, not me, I left with a lot of mucky very averagely drawn prints but with a large and far reaching understanding of how this process works, its initial limitations (to my mind) as well and its extensive uses and possible adaptability in terms of my own interests and current practice.
How could I not have enjoyed the day, My many thanks must be extended to Deidre for her extensive knowledge and unwavering answering of my far too numerous questions. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Enniskillen Castle...Go Visit if you haven't already , its a wonderful sight and with a great coffee shop, visitor centre, 3 museums, a gallery and numerous displays on offer right by the water on the River Erne and with free onsite parking it's well worth the visit.
This class has encouraged me to sign up for others, a day like this refills the well..I'll keep you posted.
Contemporary Visual Artist working in mixed media/encaustic based in the drumlins of Co.Monaghan. Ireland.