Our featured artist for November is Mary Faust Carradine who has chosen print making as her chosen form of artistic expression. I have found that using the term “print” can frequently be confusing to the uninitiated (including myself, sometimes) so I decided to do a little research into what exactly does “print making” involve. I want to give credit to Wikipedia and Venice Beedenbender of Washington Printmakers Gallery, as well as Metropolitan Museum’s “Heilbrunn Timelin of Art History” for the information below.
For most of the history of man, images were rarely seen by anyone other than the wealthy. However, around 1400 the first forms of printmaking began to develop giving man the ability to print thousands or more of the same image, opening the visual image to become an art form as well as a means of communication.
Items referred to as “prints” are not to be confused with reproductions of originals. An original print is an impression produced from a block of wood, stone, plate (such as linoleum) or screen which the artist has created. If using a fine art medium such as oil paint, watercolor, or ink, the artist can make a series of originals, each hand done by the artist. There is usually an inking, wiping, and printing of each copy in an edition.
The artist will usually determine how many of these “hand pulled” prints will be in an edition. In recent history, the limiting of these editions increases the value of each piece in the edition. The artist generally signs the print with the number of the print in the edition and the total number to be printed in the edition indicated as well.
When talking about print editions, the term “artist proof” is used and designated with “P/A”. These are the first 5-10% of prints pulled by the artist as he or she works through trial proofs to create the process for the “final proof”. These artist’s proofs record the creative process of the artist and are considered to be valuable because of this. The final proof is called the “bon a tirer” and is considered the ideal.
There are several general types of prints:
1. Relief printing started in China around AD 105 and showed up in Europe in the 15th century
Predating printing, the Chinese used stone rubbings to made holy images and create texts. Lines were carved into the flat stones, wet paper pressed into the stone, and ink was applied. The image was white lines on a black background. When they applied the images and texts to the same paper, it was called block book printing and was the foundation for printmaking today.
Woodcuts were the first form of printmaking starting in China in the 9th century, was widely used in Europe during the Middle Ages with German artist Albrecht Drurer bringing it to an expert art form. It was further developed to high art as the Japanese used woodblock printing in daily activities such as newspapers and flyers but also developed incredible wood block prints influencing well loved artists such as Manet, Degas, and Van Gogh. The design is carved into the wood with the part sticking up or in relief treated with the paint or ink. Each color used has a separate plate carved in the design that is to be inked and printed. Then the paper is printed in layers of each color to give the final design.
One of the gallery artist who does woodblock prints is Daryl Howard. Daryl studied in Japan with the masters and is well known as one of the premier American woodblock artists. As Daryl lives in the Austin area, we are very fortunate to be able to offer her work to our customers.
Linoleum cuts are a relief print carved into linoleum rather than wood. As the linoleum does not take the more delicate cuts known in woodcuts, it has a more poster like or blocky look and is generally not as valuable as a woodblock print.
Engraving is a form of print making in which the artist uses a hardened steel tool called a burin to cut a design into a metal plate. It is characterized by a deliberate look and clean edges. This technique was started in Germany by goldsmiths.
Etching was begun in Germany by Daniel Hopfer in late 15th/early 16th century but Duhrer was the first to have a dated one recorded. It is considered to be easier than engraving and became more popular because of that. It is opposite of a woodcut in that the raised portions of the etching remain blank because the ink goes into the crevices. The artist may coat the plate with a waxy or acrylic ground and then carve into that ground. These exposed lines are then dipped in an acid bath which then leaves the lines on the plate.
Collagraphs are made with a combination of relief and print. A collage of materials is made on a plate, usually linoleum, building the relief which is then printed. Gallery artist Kathleen Stafford uses this technique in her editions of prints showing the peoples of Africa where she has lived for most of her husband’s diplomatic career.
Our featured artist for November, Mary Faust Carradine, prints lithographs, serigraphs, and monotypes:
Lithography is based on the chemical repulsion of oil and water and dates back to 1798. The image is drawn on a porous surface, usually limestone and covered with a greasy medium. When acid is applied to the surface, the grease transfers to the surface, burning the image into the surface. Then the surface that is not covered by the drawing medium is sealed. When water is applied to the stone, it only adhers to the surface not covered by the greasy medium. Oil ink is rolled on the surface where it adhers to the greasy parts. Paper is applied and the image is transferred using the pressure from a printing press. Some of the artists using this method include Van Gogh, Toulouse-Latrec, and Willem de Kooning.
Serigraphy, also called silk-screen printing or screen printing, was developed in the 20th century in America and was introduced as fine art at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. While the origin of screen printing may have been in Japan, the term “serigraphy” was coined by Anthony Velonis of NYC. He was head of the Fine Arts Project in the WPA. Unemployed artists were hired by the government project to produce commercial works, mostly posters and mass media work. He noticed that the artists were suffering from depression and lack of self-esteem so he worked with a gallery owner and came up with the idea for the artists to do creative work that was differentiated from the commercial applications and called them serigraphs. This was successful in elevating the feelings of the artists.
Serigraphy in its simple concept is forcing ink through a stencil that is attached to a silk or mesh screen. The thick ink is forced through a tightly stretched screen and deposited on the paper. A separate screen is used for each color and then hung to dry.
Monotypes or Monoprints refer to any print made in a particular version but incapable of being exactly replicated. They can’t be editioned and are unique prints or variations on a theme. The designs are applied directly to the plate using a slow drying paint. The image is transferred before the ink dries and is printed with a press or by hand. There is only one strong impression made. The ink may be reworked but the next print will not be an exact replica.
Photography also refers to its final product as prints. There are various levels within that definition. Some photographers print unlimited copies of the same image using commercial printers. These are usually much lower priced that those photographs printed in editions and by the artist himself or herself. These limited edition and artist select prints are much higher in value. David Johnson is one of our artists who prints his own work himself in limited editions.
Many of us own framed items that we may refer to as “prints” but, in actuality, they are “reproductions” made digitally from a photograph of the original. They may be printed on paper, canvas, metal, or any printable surface and sometimes may be hard to distinguish from the real thing. It is important that the art collector makes sure they know what they are buying before they pay a high price for a piece of art labeled “print”.