Art 365 Curriculum Development - Colorado Sate University 2019-2020
While teaching ART 365, a course in traditional lithography, a need for curriculum advancement in incorporating digital design elements arose. During the summer of 2019, a new body of research began involving the use of digital laser-engraving technology to make images on traditional Lithographic Bavarian Limestone. Over the course of four weeks, twenty-two test was ran resulting in a wide array of successes and failures. The data set collected indicated steps which was easy to replicate and were utilized in producing a predictable methodological approach to creating laser-engraved images. Working with other staff members within the department, I was able to design and develop a new project in ART 365 encouraging digital design within classical Lithography. This body of research was the first implementation of this technology in ART 365.
The fall semester of 2019 was the first time this technology was incorporated into the curriculum. The first group of students to use this technology in the course experienced upwards of a 90-95% success rate with the technology and the methodology developed. The project was designed to introduce basic digital design elements into the course and no previous knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or CorelDraw was required for the students' success. Basic tutorials and demonstrations for creating both raster and vector-based imagery accompanied the project prompt. The demonstrations gave students the proper amount of information needed in order to make a successful images. The feedback from the students and the work produced during the new unit was overall positive with important critical notes to better serve the next course. Because of the successful research and methodological development, this is now a permanent unit within the curriculum of ART 365.
A brief overview of the process: Students were instructed to prepare their Lithographic stones with the traditional method of graining, polishing, leveling and beveling. Once this was completed, Gum Arabic (a traditional Lithographic compound), was applied to the surface and buffed clean. After the initial application, a thin sheen of Gum Arabic dried and remained on the surface of each stone. The Gum Arabic acted as a buffer between the raw stone and the laser. The laser then cut through the thin Gum Arabic layer and exposed the raw stone underneath at different depths and densities. The areas which were cut by the laser were then able to be processed and printed traditionally. Once these steps were completed, students were instructed to wheel down their stones to the digital fabrication labs and work with the instructor and shop-tech to begin processing their raster or vector files.
Once the files had been brought over from either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, the students would work one-on-one with either the shop-tech or instructor to convert the files in order to be imported into the laser-engraving software. The stones were then measured with precision on all dimensions (length, width, and height) to ensure an accurate cut. After all of these steps had been executed it was time to “print” (cut) the image using the technology. The average cutting time for each image ranged from 8 to 22 minutes (depending on size). Being each stone has a different density, every laser-etch required different specifications to fit the needs of individual stones. The original data set acquired in the previous months provided all of the information needed to ensure success.
After the laser-etch is complete, the students brought the stones back to the printshop and began to process the images with the traditional lithographic techniques. Adding grease to the images was vital to their success in processing. Once the images were processed in the printshop, the students began rolling-up their stones in both black and color inks. If the stones were laser-etched and processed properly, students experienced a high level of success with printing the images. In the spring of 2020, ART 365, will be the second group of students to experience this unit involving digital design within the classic stone lithographic process.
A brief video has been prepared below showing some of the processing steps (in the printshop) after the laser-engraving had been complete. Please feel free to email me with any questions regarding this process.
Student Example: Hannah Van Belkum, ART 365 Lithography Fall 2019