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April 26, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The workspace at Grindstone Lithography Studio/Workshop is made up of a few workbenches, a heavy press, some stones, carving tools, various chemicals and a place four men call their own. Beige paper with black markings that have a slightly faded look to them are displayed around the studio. These are lithographs, made by drawing with grease crayons on limestone and then transferring the image onto paper.
Frank Stack explains lithography methodically, clearly having completed the process many times in his 74 years, so much that his fingers peel from the chemicals. He took Vox through the process of making a lithograph.
1. First, an image is drawn in reverse on the limestone, using a grease crayon.
2. When the picture is finished, a solution of different chemicals is painted on the drawing so the oily ink, applied with a roller, is attracted only to the oily crayon drawing. The rest of the surface repels the ink.
3. The stone being used as a press is sponged with water. This helps prevent the ink from sticking to areas that don’t have an image.
4. Paper is then run through the stone press, the strength of which, according to Stack, “takes the texture off of paper.”
5. Finally, the lithograph is complete. The stone can then be reused to print copies of the drawing and be ground clean for another drawing.
The walls of the studio are dedicated to the work of Frank Stack, Byron Smith, Jeffrey Moore and Robert Friedman. These men formed a friendship through their shared love of drawing landscapes at weekend figure drawing classes at MU that were taught by Stack, 74. Friedman, 55, an art professor at Stephens College, found out about a dormant press previously used in lithography classes at Stephens. The idea for the studio suitably followed.
These men, some retired though all still creating art, opened the studio to practice their passion of lithography and eventually other art forms such as woodblock printing. The studio had its grand opening the weekend of April 20 for members of the community to look around, buy drawings, watch demonstrations, meet the lithographers and sign up for summer workshops.
It takes a minimum of two people, preferably three, to successfully complete a lithograph. The studio allows the process to be as swift and organized as possible and gives the artists room for drying racks, a grinding stone, press and chemicals.
“Lithography is like team artwork,” Moore says. “Drawing is an art you can do anywhere, anytime. Lithography is an operation that once you start, you can’t stop.”
Despite the team effort of lithography, each has his own artistic style that comes across through his artwork. Stack, the veteran of the group, is known for his work with comics and animated figures as well as his time spent as an art teacher at MU. However, Stack’s work in lithography focuses on landscapes with intricate detail presented in each scene.
Friedman, describes his work as being based more on surrealism than the other men. He says he enjoys making prints inspired by academic nudes and adds his personal style to each image by using a fluid method of mark making.
Byron Smith, 51, is a native of Columbia and was a student of Stack’s at MU. Smith printed his first lithograph in a printmaking class in the ’80s. It is a lithograph of Rock Bridge Park and now hangs in their studio. He is soft-spoken but tells tales of both failed and successful arts business ventures that show he has made his mark in the Columbia arts community.
The latecomer to the Columbia arts community is Jeffrey Moore, 49, who used to own a gallery in St. Louis. His experience in lithography only dates back to the summer of 2011, when he made his first lithograph, a self portrait. His jovial and sarcastic personality seems to tie the others into a working machine rather than just a group of friends.
The men have obvious chemistry, and each is quick to point out the skill of everyone but himself. They joke Smith is a delicate butterfly, Stack a cantankerous old man, Friedman elusive and Moore a rookie.
The studio has become a home away from home for this group, and the possibilities of what the future holds are as unpredictable as the artists themselves. As Moore says, “The beauty of working with artists is you don’t know what you’re going to get.”