Lithography at VCA

Regina Wilson and Kathleen Korda were invited to participate in a collaborative printmaking workshop at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, where they worked in partnership with students and printmaker Adrian Kellet to produce two special edition prints.
Although Regina and Kathleen are familiar with both screen printing and etching techniques, having collaborated in the past on a series of prints with Basil Hall Editions, the art of lithography presented to them a new challenge and a world of new creative possibilities. Facilitated by Durrmu’s Printmaking Coordinator Annie Studd, Regina and Kathleen were exposed to the process of printing from limestone - which is highly technical and involves a number of complex steps.
Part one involves design and drawing. Initially, the artists drew their designs onto aluminium plates using ink and crayon. The final images were later painted onto limestones using brushes and printing ink. Limestone is a special medium with a surface that is smoothed over to look and feel like paper. This technique has been used in lithography for hundreds of years, and the artists were privileged to be provided with limestone blocks that were 150 years old. These lithographic stones are expensive and hard to come by, and were a special experience only presented to the artists at VCA.


The second part of the process was all about preparation of the limestone surface for printing. This process was laborious and involved a team effort from students and Adrian. First, the limestone surfaces were covered in printing ink, which was then washed off to reveal the image underneath. Interestingly, the artists learned that limestone printing is unique in that small errors can be ‘erased’ after the ink is applied, and as such images can be updated mid process - something that can’t be done with etching and screenprinting. Next, the surface was coated in a layer of gum arabic and buffed until it had been fully absorbed into the surface of the limestone. Finally, the image was then pressed onto paper - voila!

Regina and Kathleen were thrilled to have been given access to a learning environment fitted with state of the art equipment and teachers. As usual, the highlight of the day was the opportunity to focus on creating the design for their prints, which were intricate and with lots of highly detailed linework. Like drawing and bark painting, the printing technique results in pieces that possess a beautiful duality. Completed works are clean and finished - and yet, there is always evidence of the artist’s hand present in the image. Observers can see the human quality of each piece, and will feel the artist’s unique personality shining through. Similarly, prints are wonderfully effective at celebrating the symbol or icon - an important aspect of the visual language that our artists use to tell their stories.
Regina and Kathleen’s finished pieces are testimony to this fact. Regina’s finished work depicts three large, detailed message sticks, and Kathleen’s work depicts a series of tiny clap sticks that together formed a complex pattern. Although both works are quite different - the effect of their images is striking, and will be printed in bright yellow and pink hues respectively.
Similarly, the opportunity to collaborate with students was a valuable experience for Regina and Kathleen. The knowledge exchange that took place in the printmaking room represented a solid learning experience between people with very different skill sets - one that will result in a series of beautiful artworks.