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Lithographic printmaking: Key points

Article published by the magazine Grabado y Edición n.48

When talking about lithography it is common to hear things such as: “Oh, it’s really complicated” “It takes a lot of know-how” and other opinions that reinforce the idea that this technique is within reach of very few mortals enlightened by some arcane knowledge…

What is true and false with that? I hope the reader will draw their own conclusions having read the article.

The printer specialised in lithography certainly has a different way of tackling the work than other printers but that is not a surprise, it could be said of any discipline. What does characterise this technique then? The fortunate outcome of an edition, leaving aside the interminable and useless list of preparation formula for the matrixes, is perhaps due to three less technical and more human factors; respect, sensitivity and passion.

The stone and the plate require respecting some preparation times, followed by pauses. These pauses are necessary to ensure the matrix is stable during the edition, skipping them owing to impatience or delivery deadlines is a kind of “lack of respect” that will undoubtedly have negative consequences. Sensitivity substitutes strict formulas in lithography. Whether the climate is humid or dry, whether the matrix has just been prepared or has been kept for a while and other many possible variables that cannot be ignored during the lithographic printing process. Paying attention to all the details that may affect the behaviour of the matrix avoids problems that are often labelled “inexplicable” or “mysterious”.

Some might wonder what passion has to do with the repetitive process of printing a series of identical copies? A vocational printer puts their heart and soul into each and every copy with the right amount of concentration and energy. When I refer to passion, I’m also referring to containment, not over doing something, avoiding what does not add anything. It is without doubt easier to appreciate these ideas “on the job” while working in the printshop, with the smell of ink in the air and the uncertainty of beginning to lift the first proof from the stone. Even so, I will try to summarise some of the points I take into account for the editions.

To read the complete article download this pdf:
Lithographic Printmaking Key Points.pdf

Maribel Mas, Madrid 2015