When is a print not a print?

I intend posting three posts today. They are all really reblogs but since they are not from wordpress I can’t work out how to reblog them other than copy and pasting into a new post. If any of the original bloggers object, please let me know and I will remove the post.

The first one is from “Art For Art’s Sake“:

Over the past forty-five years I have seen the word “print” dragged through the mire of ignorance to come out on the other side meaning something completely different. What are generally held to be “prints” and sold on many sites are NOT prints at all. They are reproductions.

Let me expand; a print is made by the artist/printmaker/photographer who executes or controls every stage of the process. The reason for numbering prints is that lithography, etching and block plates wear down such that print number 1 is likely to be slightly better than number 500. The edition is limited in order to preserve quality.

After that the plate or screen is “destructively altered”and a cancellation print is made to prove that the edition is over and cannot be reproduced. Synthetic screen materials allow the actual screen to be used hundreds of times before there is a noticeable degradation in print quality. When I did screen printing I removed part of the stencil and produced cancellation prints. (Some were actually quite good so I sold some as one offs.)

Cancellation may be achieved with traditional photography by scratching the negative and making a print. With any “original” digital art or photography you can prove absolutely nothing. They are all originals and all reproductions from a compressed binary file.

Many artists have made their names and big money, selling limited edition “prints,” and I certainly have no problems with artists making big money. After all, “big money” and “artists” don’t often go together!

Many of these individuals don’t have a clue about printmaking techniques. Their work has been photographed on high quality process cameras, transferred to plates and printed…by a printer. Usually a high-quality acid-free paper is used and the “print” is marketed as such.


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
This entry was posted in Art, Photography, Printmaking, Reblog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to When is a print not a print?

  1. oooof don’t get me started! I’m forever having arguments with painters who think it’s perfectly OK to sign their repros as if they’re originals!!!!!!!

  2. Drew Kail says:

    I was at a art fair not too long ago, and was shocked at the amount of people who thought my work was drawn, scanned/photoshopped, and then printer printed on archival paper. I made them all feel the embossments from the woodblocks and copper plates.

  3. It is a sad situation that we have to promote our work at fairs by explaining what our prints are not, rather than what they are!

  4. clinock says:

    Ah, the problems of semantics! What do you think we should name the ‘prints’ that are not prints?

    • Not sure it is just semantics. It is a question of calling something by a correct term. Unfortunately the term “print” covers so many different things. Imagine if there was only the term “painting” to cover everything from oil paintings by Vermeer to Johnny’s picture of mummy on the fridge door. One term I think is often abused is “giclee print”. As Wikipedia says “It is often used by artists, galleries, and print shops to denote high quality printing but since it is an unregulated generic word it has no associated warranty of quality.”

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