06 September 2006

Fine Art 101: What is a print?

This post should have came before part one, Oh well...

What is a print?
As far as art is concerned, a print is a work made up of ink on paper, canvas, board, etc, and existing of multiple examples. It is created not by drawing on the paper with ink filled pen or other instrument, but through an indirect transfer process.

The most important thing to know when looking a prints, is not how it's printed, but how many were printed. Smaller edition sizes are usually better than large editions. But remember, if you have 1/250 or 250/250 they are all the same. The value is no different. The first number doesn't matter, it is the second number that does.

Does that make sense?

If you are looking at a print and you are told that a lower edition number is worth more,(25 /195 is worth more than 50/195) ask them if you can have a higher number and pay less money for it. It will never happen.

Ok. now for the Etching and Wood block...

Etching
Etching is one of the intaglio techniques, along with engraving, drypoint and aquatint. Intaglio comes from intagliare meaning, to incise. In etching, acid is used to bite, or etch an image into a metal plate. Etching has been around for hundreds of years. Rembrandt created some of his most important works with etchings.

To make an etching, the artist starts with a metal plate, usually copper, that has been covered with a waxy substance called 'ground'. With etching needles the artist draws in the ground to expose the plate. You do not dig directly into the plate itself. Next the plate is dipped in acid. The ground protects the plate, the acid only goes into the lines that have been drawn and eats away at the metal creating grooves. The ground is then cleaned from the plate. Using a 'dabber" ink is beaten into the grooves and the surface is cleaned. A damp piece of paper is place over the plate and it is run through a press under extreme pressure. The plate is actually
crushed just a little bit with each impression. The first impressions are better than latter impression. (This has nothing to do with how they are numbered. Works are not always numbered in the order they are pulled.) The paper which is usually larger than the plate picks up the ink from the grooves. In addition the edges of the plate will leave an impression on the paper called a plate mark.

Wood blocks

Possibly the earliest form of printing, wood blocs have been around since the 9th century. The artist draws an image on a plank of wood and then uses gouges, chisels and knives to cut away pieces from the block. Ink is then rolled over the surface of wood. Paper is placed over the block and it is run through a press. It is possible to print them by hand by rubbing the back side of the paper with a hand held instrument.
The areas of wood that were cut away remain the color of the paper.

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