Making Contemporary Fine Art Print

There is a great distinction to be drawn between original print and print reproduction. 

In short, an original print has been made by the artist as the sole expression of the work; that is, a limited edition of the completed art work. A print reproduction is a completely different kettle of fish; the original image might be in any medium; from photographs to oil paintings and all points in-between. Confusingly, these reproductions might also be offered in a limited edition - do not forget, though, they are reproductions of an existing art work from a different medium; and remember also, reproductions are what posters are.

Giclée is not original print; it is a reproduction dressed up as a hand-made print.

Printmaking as fine art comes in different types and styles; what these are and how they are used often depends on the final work the artist envisages. The essence of the printing techniques is the same for all Marie-Louise's prints*. It is this; a mirror-image is applied by some technique to a plate; that plate is inked; and then it, and the paper it is to be printed onto, are put through a press. The result is the image presented the right way round.

The different intaglio techniques Marie-Louise uses in her printmaking are centred on the plate and the process of preparing the plate to accept the ink. In lay terms, the plate medium is either engraved or etched; in both cases though, the desired result is an indented line or surface roughness that will capture ink. The ink is first applied in excess, and then wiped off the plate; some of the ink is left in the grooves; this remaining ink will be transferred by the press to the paper. The plates Marie-Louise uses are either sheets of acetate to be engraved using drypoint, or sheets of mild steel to be etched in a bath of nitric acid. There are other techniques for etching that do not rely on acid interaction with metal. They are sometimes regarded as safer and, their proponents suggest, that they produce a similar quality line - to date, Marie-Louise's experiments with these techniques have yet to yield a satisfying print, but that avenue has not been dismissed.


 

*Marie-Louise doesn't presently use any other techniques, but for completeness here are those used most by other artists.

 

Wood-block and lino-cut printing are contact printing, and so, different from the above description - the grooves and cuts are not intended to accept ink, rather the mirror-image positive is the proud surface that is given a smooth coating of ink - it is pressed onto paper to make the image.

 

Mezzotint uses an already stippled surface that, if inked and put through a press, would yield a single toned block of black. For an image to be developed, parts of the plate are burnished smooth so that they do not to accept ink - these plates are then mirror-image negatives (compare the etching, engraving, and contact that are mirror-image positives). When printed the image is made of the whited-out parts of the print.

 

Screen printing involves the negative part of the image resisting the ink being delivered through the fine mesh – usually of silk or other fabric of the screen onto the final medium, often cloth or paper.

For a full description of the various techniques used by printmakers, today and in the past, visit New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)