disclaimer or something

A mummy-hand holding, (former) biker gang affiliating, hippie influenced semi crunchy granola mom's ramblings and reminisings on an off-kilter life

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Like a Rock

I was never much of one for symbolism, whether written or painted; to me, a bird meant a bird not a supernatural omen of oppressive forces or whatever. I prefer to be more overt.

So when I took a class in lithography and made an image of my hand, wrist cut open and spewing out Stabbing Westward lyrics which were not covert in their suicidal themes, one would think, "oh she is really depressed". Yet it occurred to no one, not even me at the time.

Let me preface this with a fact: I was not and never have been suicidal. But maybe the subconscious artistic side of me had some issues, that I will never know.

The lithograph announced to the world, "I'm depressed, detached, help" yet like the rock it was made on, it stayed silent, cold, impenetrable like myself.

Have you even done stone lithography? First you get a 70-100 pound limestone rock. Then, you use a huge metal circle with a handle, add grinding sand to the rock, and like a tilt-o-whirl, you use the circle to whirl away rough spots and it takes hours of muscle-tiring effort to erase previous images, bumps, imperfections. Once dry, you use different specialty brushes and tools to paint an image on the rock; erasing or re-doing your image is not an option so there's no turning back, mistakes will be permanent. After drawing, you add wood rosin to the stone, and then you mix gum arabic with acid (hands shaking as you pour the acid, trying not to focus too much on the warnings- caution, poison, toxic, danger, severe burns, combustible, fire and brimstone......) and brush on the toxic cocktail, more in dark areas, less in light. It etches the design permanently in stone. Eventually you roll on ink and use a bone crushing press to make newsprint copies, crappy copies, and finally a few good prints before going over the stone with the circle-sander thing, doing your best to remove all traces of your image so they don't appear as ghost images in your next design.

I hated that lithography class. A lover of art, that class simply sucked. It was so much work with so little result, with so much potential for not just mistakes such as a blurry image, but crushed fingers, acid burns, damaged lungs.

I see this class now as a symbol for the depression I later was diagnosed with and treated for. Yep, my loathing of symbolism is here to smack me in the face.

Making a lithograph (image from australianmuseum.net.au)
I felt like I was too much work for too little result. I felt heavy, cold, like stone. I felt like every little move, thought, action, would result in doom and gloom. I was pretty sure I carried around invisible warnings like the acid bottle, "caution, corrosive, poison". I felt like my mistakes were permanent, ghost-like un-erasable images clouding the real me. I was the ugly newsprint print, faded, thrown away.

I found my litho print a few years ago, and wasn't surev what to think. I was a little indignant- why did no one say "hey are you ok?" I was a little humored, "ha ha silly old me" and partly saddened, reflecting back on those dark days. I threw away the print, as if tossing away the last bits, the ghostly image seeping through, to say, I'm done. I haven't felt depressed like that since then; it is manageable and I can say I am generally happy. The person that drew that hand seems like someone else, not me, and I'm perfectly fine with feeling alienated from her.

But I still think lithography


  1. Symbolism is often the subconscious mind screaming to the heavens; that is why psychologist use ink blots and such. But even Freud knew that sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. A crapshoot. Glad that you are not in that place anymore!

  2. ack, i'm so sorry nobody asked if you were okay and i'm glad you threw out that old print.

  3. Lithography does sound like it sucks. Before I finished reading this post, I was kind of hoping to see the print, but I'm glad you threw it away. Glad you threw it all away.

  4. I've always been curious about lithography, but not anymore! It sounds awful. Glad you have moved beyond that darkness.

  5. It's so sad that no one reached out to you to make sure you were OK. It does sound awful to have to work that way to make a print.

  6. I have just learned way more than I ever did about lithography!

  7. I have done litho work and I do abhor it... done some work on metal as well... ack! WHen I think of the crap I carved into that metal its a wonder I wasn't psychiatrically hospitalized! Amazing what people will miss...even ourselves... ive never been suicidal either but have produced some pretty dark stuff.

  8. Lithography does sound like it sucks. But what revelations you came to about yourself. Art will do that for a person. ;)

  9. I did a lot of artwork in college, but I never tried lithography. I was, however, big into symbolism.

    I liked reading this piece. It was interesting to learn about litho. I like how you revealed personal things about yourself, and how that revealing corresponded with your descriptions of the lithography process itself. Very cool.


  10. I've tried a lot of art forms in my life, but making a lithograph never occurred to me...
    However it may suck, sometimes art can reveal things about yourself you didn't realize...

  11. I believe in that subconscious symbolizm stuff. And I'm so sorry no one reached out to you at that time. I agree with Natale that art, and writing, can bring out things we didn't know were there sometimes.

  12. Advocate of therapy here. Very glad you got the help you needed. Your write is detailed without being weighed down, fluid, focused. Solid write.

  13. We have a lithograph that I LOVE. And now I know why it was so expensive. That's a lot of WORK. I'd still like to try it sometime. :)

  14. I admire your courage; it can be really difficult to write about those dark places, even long after they are gone.