Dear fans, if you are interested in owning original art, you owe it to yourself to learn about prints.
When you buy, it’s good to know what you are getting.
I paid pennies for this original, hand-printed Japanese woodcut at a jumble sale. I love it, even though, because it has “condition” issues, it is not all that valuable. However, considering everything, it looks pretty good for nearly 200 years old.
Reproductions vs. Fine Art Prints
Digitally photographed reproductions, often called “giclee prints”, are marketed as “prints” online and in galleries. A reproduction can be a good choice if you are on a budget, but it will not increase in value, even if signed by the artist. It also may fade or discolor over time.
A fine art print, on the other hand, is an object of high value and a pleasure to own. You can see the mark of the press, how the ink interacts with the surface of the paper, how the artist took immense care to create specific effects. As you look at or hold the print, the artist is right there with you. Your great grandchildren will also be able to enjoy it, because it will last a long, long time.
Fine Art Printing Process
To recap my general description of the printmaking process: An artist draws or carves an image on a surface and applies ink (or, in some cases, watercolor, dilute oil paint, etc.). Then the artist prints that inked image, usually on paper, either by sending the plate (or wood, or linoleum block) through a press, or by applying pressure by hand. The print can be one of a kind (monoprint) or one in a signed edition (most often in the 15 – 50 print range.)
Soft Ground Etching
In another another post I showed you the “hard ground” process, where I used a needle to draw through a hard wax covering to create lines in the copper plate. The photos below illustrate the “soft ground” process of drawing into the wax on the plate with a pencil or other implement.
First, I covered the plate with a soft wax ground, then I laid two layers of paper over the plate. As I drew my design on the top layer of paper, the pressure caused the soft wax to stick to the bottom layer of paper. When I was done drawing, I lifted both papers off the plate.
The action of pulling away the paper also lifted the soft ground from the copper, exposing the metal wherever my pen had pressed down. I then immersed the plate in the acid bath, where the acid bit the drawing into the plate. Once the plate was fully etched, I inked it and printed the image. These photos show the sequence:
The photocopy at the top is from a page of my sketchbook. I traced it in pencil, then taped the paper over the plate, with a blank sheet of tracing paper sandwiched in between. Then I went over the pencil drawing with a pen, pressing the lowest layer of paper into the soft wax.
I pulled back the top paper to check on my progress.
When I finished drawing, I pulled both papers up. Where the wax stuck to the paper, I could see my drawing as bright, exposed copper. Then I put the plate in the acid bath.
Using the chine colle method (see my last post), I printed the image on toned paper.
Want to learn more about collecting prints?
For those of you who enjoy podcasts related to art, I recommend the complete first season of Out on the Wire, with graphic novelist Jessica Abel. Her podcast focuses on how creative people can become effective, productive creative professionals. If you like her work, you can also sign up for her newsletter, critique group, and other opportunities.
Being an artist has its joys and challenges, but, through it all, your support and encouragement sustain me. Thank you so much for being my audience.
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