Drawing Botanical Illustration: Experiments in Lithography

I have been interested in learning lithography techniques for a long time.  I discovered a print studio and workshop near my home, and I decided to give it a try. Of course I would be drawing botanical illustration.

All I knew about lithography was that it was based on drawing with an oil crayon on stone. Since I love to draw I thought this would be a technique for me, rather than other print techniques that require cutting to create an image. Here are the steps involved in this printmaking method.

  1. Prepare stone (A  2 inch thick limestone that can weight 20 lbs or so depending on size). To prepare the stone sand to smooth and erase the previous image. Stones are used over and over again for even 100’s of years!
  2. Use various sizes lithography oil crayons to create your drawing. I was excited to learn that a Faber Castell polychromos Dark Sepia pencil works on the stone! Please note that the image you create, when printed, will be in reverse.
  3. I drew my two images from a live flower just as if I was creating a botanical drawing. I used my grisaille technique and drew my flower with form and structure accurate, and a consistent upper left light source.
  4. After the drawing botanical illustration is complete, the stone is etched by rubbing a liquid acid to set the oil crayon into the stone.
  5. Next the stone is coated with an oil based ink
  6. Finally the paper is  put on top of the stone and the stone is squeezed through a press to create the image. A typical edition is about 10 to 12 prints.

In traditional Botanical Illustration when lithography was used, often the prints were hand colored after printing with watercolors. I decided to hand color my lithographs.

I then decided to create a grisaille botanical drawing on paper in my usual drawing technique to compare the lithograph to a drawing. I also scanned my drawing, printed a copy on watercolor paper and hand colored my giclee print for comparison to the lithograph print.

To push this technique even more and in homage to the tradition of Old drawings of Botanical Illustrations, I added in an aged paper background. Here are my two comparison peony prints.

Here is some of my hand colored lithographs. I have colored them based on different color peonies.