ART BY TECHNIQUE: stone lithography

New: vintage inspired place mats from Small Equals

seed pack place mats from
Seed Pack placemats

New from my company, Small Equals, three new products using vintage images. These are made in Vermont by Flashbags, using recycled paper, plastic laminte and machine stitching. 


4 seedpacks no text
four seed pack vegetable placemats


Faithful readers of this blog will know that I have been collecting vintage ephemera for years. These images come from seed packs in my collection. The originals were produced using stone lithography, a process which, because it is printed using tiny dots of color, allows for enlargement beautifully. I think the images are very exciting as they grow larger. I hope you agree. 

flower place mats from
Set of four flower placemats
Jello placemats from
set of six place mats with yummy vintage Jell-O images

My love of vintage Jell-O images is well known. I have used these images for place mats before but they were out of production for a few years. Now back, in limited edition, these will certainly create conversation and inspire the appetite. 

All products availble at my online store

Four Color Process: the inner world of dots and comic books


Comic Book, detail. Four Color Process. From a blog by Half Man Half Static

My regular readers know I've been a bit obsessed with making and or blogging about large scale reproductions of fragments from printed ephemera, particularly chromolithography, stone lithography and other early to mid 20th Century color-print processes.


Needle girl face detail. Cowan ephemera collections

Mid 20th Century Needle book. Detail. Liza Cowan ephemera collections.

I recently discovered the blog 4CP (four color process) by John Hilgart, the blogger known as   HM/HS Half Man Half-Static, A Curator of lost items. (Great name, by the way.) HM/HS writes in an early early essay In Defense Of Dots: The lost Art Of Comic Books: 

"Who is responsible for this art? At the level of a square inch of printed comic book, no one was the creative lead. 4CP highlights the work of arbitrary collectives that merged art and commerce, intent and accident, human and machine. A proper credit for each image would include the scriptwriter, the penciller, the inker, the color designer, the paper buyer, the print production supervisor, and the serial number of the press. Credit is due to all of them, to differing and unknowable degrees, for every square inch of every old comic. The hand of fate created this art, and it guides our hand as we search for 4CP images: We move a tiny Ouija board pointer across mid-Century comic books, looking for beautiful ghosts."

4cp.posterous from
Comic Book, detail. Four Color process. From

Jello, door handle, chromolithograph, recipe, dots, enlargement, liza cowan ephemera collections,

Jell-O booklet. Chromolithography. Detail. Liza Cowan ephemera collections. 

"However, in the decisive, paradoxical twist, four-color process created a form of depth even as it fought against illustrative realism. Whereas contemporary reproductions of mid-century comic art are truly closed and flat, old comic books are visually leaky and deep. Four-color dots perforate the flat surface of the universe, opening onto nowhere – some uncharted cosmos."


Comic Book, detail, enlarged 4 color process, dots,
Detail of Comic, 4 Color Process, from


snapdragon seed pack, stone ligthograph, detail, pink, flower, abstract flower, detail,, liza cowan ephemera collectiosn
Early 20th Century seed packet, stone lithograph. Liza Cowan ephemera collections


windows, comic book, 4 color process, dots,
Comic book detail, four color process, from

Read the whole essay HERE and make sure to spend some time in the 4cp archive for amazing images and really well thought out and well written articles. 

William Steig: Poor Pitiful Pearl

Poor Pitiful Pearl doll, william steig. photo ©Liza Cowan

Poor Pitiful Pearl. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2008. Print of this photo is available at my online store

William Steig, author, cartoonist, illustrator, famous for Shrek, Dr. DeSoto, Sylvester and The Magic Pebble, zillions of New Yorker Covers, and a reluctant advertising illustrator, was also the creator of my favorite doll: Poor Pitiful Pearl. Pearl was my first and my only true doll love. She was made in 1958, and stayed in production in various incarnations throughout the sixties.

A couple of years ago I was putting together an exhibit of 20th Century Works on Paper,  and had just purchased this poster:


william steig, we clean 'em, shell oil, advertising poster, 1944, Liza Cowan Collections

Wm Steig, We Clean 'Em. Shell Oil, 1944. Collection of Pine Street Art Works.

This gorgeous, huge lithograph was made for Shell Oil in 1944. As I was researching the poster and Steig I came across the fact that Poor Pitiful Pearl was a Steig creation. Of course! But I hadn't realized it as a kid, even though our family subscription to The New Yorker was a favorite of mine, and I poured through it weekly looking at the cartoons.


william steig, the new yorker, 1935, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

William Steig, The New Yorker, 1935. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections,

We had enough New Yorker magazines and New Yorker cartoon collections around the house that I could have been, should have been familiar enough with the Steig canon to have been able recognize his style on my darling doll. But I didn't. The New Yorker...dolls? Nuh uh.




william steig, poor pitiful pearl, we clean 'em, shell oil, Liza Cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl and We Clean 'Em. Not to scale. I made this collage in Photoshop. Pearl is much smaller than the man in the poster.

But check this out. How much more alike could they be? Even the clothing matches.

Pearl even came with her own little Steig book:

Click the smaller images and they will pop up.


  • Blog pearl cover
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • Blog pearl 4
  • Blog pearl 5
  • Blog pearl 6
  • Blog pearl 7
  • Blog pearl 8
  • Blog pearl 9
Poor Pitiful Pearl William Steig  booket cover. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Poor Pitiful Pearl booklet by William Steig. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections





Pine Street Art Works has been specializing in vernacular art since we opened. The May exhibit, BLOOM, focuses on seed packets from the beginning of the 20th Century. These gorgeous lithographs are beautiful enough in their original size. Enlarged, they become even more interesting and monumental, as the dots of the lithographs become more obvious.

Burt's Seed, Watermelon seed packet. 1915 Modern Litho & Ptg. Buffalo NY,
Genessee Vally lithographers Rochester, NY Cowan Ephemera Collections


BLOG watermelon detail
Detail, Burt's Seed, Watermelon.


Burt's Seed, Antirrhinum Snapdragon. 1916 Genessee Valley Lithograph Co,
Rochester, NY.Cowan Ephemera Collections.

BLOG snapdragon detail
Burt's Seed Packet. Antirrhinum. Detail. Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Gailardia Seed Pack. Genessee Valley Litho Co. Rochester NY
Cowan ephemera collections.

BLOG gailardia detail
Gailardia. Detail.Genessee Valley Litho co. Rochester, NY. PSAW ephemera collections



I've been thinking about White Mare, and found this aerial photo online. It is from Uffington, in the Berkshire Downs in England. It is 3000 years old, and now maintained by The British Trust. One of several such chalk carvings in hills in England, this is the largest, at 374 feet in length.


I'm adding this picture I painted a few years ago. It is based on a drawing by my daughter Willa, who was five when she drew it. Myra Josong mentioned it in a comment, and by Georgia, she's right. There is a powerful similarity.

Willa's Horse. Reverse Painting on glass. Liza Cowan, 2003