Printmaking, etching and lithography; oh my!

As a little girl, Sophia Larsen would visit her mother’s art class and paint the room, using only her body as a tool. Years later, after leaving her hometown of Forest Knolls, Larsen came to Sonoma State to pursue her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in printmaking; more specifically, in etching and lithography.

“I like to see people utilize the medium of painting or drawing or printmaking to make something that is unique to their vision,” said Larsen.  

    To the unfamiliar, printmaking is the process of creating original work and transferring it onto paper. Under the umbrella of printmaking is the time-consuming, patience-testing process of etching and lithography. Lithography is a process similar to etching, yet different in tools. Using a slab of limestone as her canvas and grease crayons to draw, Larsen paints her work with gum arabic and other acidic chemicals. After covering her copper slate with hard ground, an acid-resistant coating layered on for protection, Larsen uses a needle to draw her ideas and expose the copper underneath. “You cover the back so it’s not affected, and then put it in an acid bath” said Larsen, “We have three different types of acid, nitric acid, ferric acid, and Dutch mordant.”

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During the bath, the acid erodes the copper, turning the sketches into indented grooves. Diluted with water, the amount of acid used within the bath effects the lighting of the print: the longer it rests, the deeper the indents and the darker the print. To complete the process, the hard ground on the copper slate is washed off with various chemicals, revealing a ghost-like drawing, and then covered in ink. The reverse stamp-like slate can then be put through the printing press and transferred onto paper.

“It’s literally magical. As long as the stone is damp when you use the ink-roller, the ink only sticks to the drawing.” said Larsen, “Once you have that, you can print it a million times.”

For inspiration, Larsen takes different creative outlets like sewing or cooking, and incorporates it into her art. As of right now, her current body of work is centered around specific memories and personal experiences throughout her child and adulthood. With personal allegories, Larsen uses her work as a reflection of her life and aims to target those warm feelings of nostalgia. “It doesn't matter what language you speak, anyone can look at a piece of artwork and have some type of reaction to it.”

For final touches, Larsen uses pastels and pencils to add background color and spice up her work.

When it comes to art, Larsen appreciates originality and says, “I like to see people utilize the medium of painting or drawing or printmaking to make something that is unique to their vision.” For inspiration, Larsen takes different creative outlets like sewing or cooking, and incorporates it into her art.

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It’s Larsens last semester at SSU and although she’s not sure for the future, her love for art steers her in the direction of a Masters in Fine Arts. Be sure to check out Larsen’s prints and follow her instagram at, copper_baby_art.