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All the prints we stock at VK Gallery are original hand-made limited editions signed and numbered by the artist.

Original prints are different from reproductions in that they are original works of art in their own right. There is no original painting or drawing. Instead the image is conceived by the artist as a print from the outset. 

A print is an image which has been transferred from one surface to another. Many pictures that are sold as 'prints' or even 'limited edition prints' are in fact photographic reproductions of original artwork - good quality posters produced by an inkjet printer. These are made by photographing an original work of art, usually a painting or a drawing, and reproducing the image photographically, often these days with a digital technology called giclée.

An original print is an image produced from a surface on which the artist has worked, such as a stone, wood block or copper plate. This surface is intended by the artist to be a stage in the creation of the art work. Thus, the original work of art in this case is the print itself rather than the block or plate from which it is printed. 

 

The image is drawn or cut on a block, plate, silkscreen or stone, depending on the technique used, then printed from that, usually onto paper. The artist may build up the image by drawing other colours onto separate blocks or plates which are printed on top of each other, and may modify the print by returning to these blocks, plates, screens or stones and adding or erasing marks.

When satisfied with the final effect, a proof is signed by the artist and a limited number of identical prints are then printed by the artist him or herself, or by a master printer. These are signed and numbered by the artist, for example 2/25 is the second print produced in a limited edition of 25. Other numberings are: A/P, meaning artist's proof, which are extra copies normally kept by the artist and which form no more than 10% of the whole edition; T/P, meaning trial proof, a print taken during the initial proofing stage that is different from the final edition; and P/P, meaning printer's proof, a copy for the printer if he or she is not the artist.

Many original print editions are limited because of the technique used, for example some soft metals used as etching plates wear down slightly with each printing, so eventually the image will not print well. Usually however, the artist decides on the size of the edition and after the full edition is printed the original block, plate or stone is defaced in some way so that no more prints can be taken. 

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Printmaking Techniques

Etching

In pure etching, a metal plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he/she wants a line to appear in the finished work, so exposing the bare metal. The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for 'biting') or etchant, or has acid washed over it. The acid 'bites into the metal where is is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines. The plate is then put through a high pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper (often moistened to soften it). The paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print. The process can be repeated many times. The work on the plate can also be added to by repeating the whole process; this creates an etching which exists in more than one state.

Drypoint

Drypoint is a form of etching which requires no acid. The drawing is scratched directly onto the plate with a very sharp tool. This gives the artist the freedom to use material other than metal for the plate. Any smooth non-absorbent surface will do, such as plastic (perspex is popular), glossy card or other metals like aluminium. Many artists use copper or zinc for drypoint, and then combine drypoint with etching.

Because no acid is used, the metal that is displaced from the drawn lines is not dissolved as it is on an etched plate, but remains where it is thrown up on either side of the line. This is known as the ‘burr’ and is responsible for the soft fuzzy look of the drypoint, as ink is caught in the burr as well as the lines when the plate is inked. This burr is particularly fragile and is worn down quickly with each successive printing, particularly if a soft metal like aluminium is used. Therefore drypoints tend to be quite small editions.

Another characteristic of the drypoint is that the drawing is often more bold and less fluid than an etching. This is because scratching a line into metal is always to some extent a fight, whereas scratching through wax is as easy as drawing with a pencil. The technique’s advantages is its directness, and that an artist can produce a plate at their kitchen table, needing no dangerous baths of acid.

Aquatint

Etching can only produce lines, so for a tonal effect the process of aquatint must be used. Aquatint enables the artist to achieve a wide range of colour tones. A fine resin powder is dusted onto the plate and fixed by means of heat. The same principle as etching applies; ie, the longer the plate is immersed in the acid, the deeper and darker the tone becomes. A complicated plate, therefore, can take several weeks to complete. The acid bites into the entire area, creating an overall grainy, tonal effect. This technique is often combined with etching.  

Carborundum

Carborundum printmaking is a collagraph process in which the image is created on the plate  by painting carborundum (an abrasive grit) mixed with an acrylic medium. Once dried (usually overnight), the plate is inked, wiped and printed with an etching press in the same manner as  other intaglio plates. Since the carborundum mixture is built up on the plate, the paper embosses when going through the press creating a rich velvety surface.

Collograph

These are printed in the same way as intaglio prints, but the plate is made by sticking various materials onto a shiny surface such as perspex. The image is drawn onto perspex with wood glue and then carborundum powder is sprinkled over the glue and varnished when the glue is dry. This holds the ink in the same way that an engraved line does, but the carborundum line is much thicker and more embossed. These prints can then be hand coloured with water colour so each one is really a unique painting.

Woodcut

A relief printing technique in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges. The areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in black or whatever colour ink is chosen.

Linocut

Linoprints first started appearing about 1900 as illustrations for books and magazines. The nature of its relative ease of use (it is much softer than wood, so incising lines into it is easier), combined with the fact it is cheap and readily available, made it an ideal printmaking medium. Linocut is a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum is used for the relief surface. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller called a brayer, and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press. Since the material being carved has no particular direction to its grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects with lino than with most woods.

Lithograph

From the Greek lithos, stone and graphe, writing. This printing process is unlike both intaglio and relief processes, both of which involve cutting into the plate. Lithography relies on the principle that grease and water will repel each other. The image is drawn in a greasy substance onto a lithographic stone. The surface is prepared so that the image takes the ink, while the non-image areas repel it. The inked image is transferred to paper by pressure using a lithographic press. A separate plate is required for each colour in a lithograph.