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about the art   Why "Original" print?

Why "Original" print?

We hear so many terms applied to prints. Whether they are described as "limited edition prints", "fine art prints", "giclee (pronounced jee-klay) prints" or "artists' prints" many are in fact reproductions of existing  works of art such as an original painting or drawing.

 

So what exactly is an "original print" and why is is so very different? Essentially an "original print" is an image conceived by the artist as a print (an etching or engraving, screenprint, lithograph, relief print, monoprint, digital print etc) and executed solely in one or more of these recognised printmaking techniques. It is not a scan or reproduction of an original picture in another media.

 

The printing matrix, whether an etching plate, lithographic stone, digital program or whatever is made afresh by the artist and from this matrix are printed individual prints. As they are signed and numbered, they comprise an edition of similar multiples.

 

Each one is an original as no image exists until a print is taken. It is important to realise that no original drawing, painting, collage or whatever is reproduced to make an original print. Although still a print, that has to be called a reproduction.

The dubious practice of signing and numbering reproductions in the manner of bona fide original prints is still flourishing (as is the deceptive marketing of such as genuine art). Although many attractive reproductions have been invaluable in increasing public appreciation of art, the practice of signing and numbering reproductions and selling them as "works of art" should viewed by printmakers and print collectors with grave concern.

Surely there is more satisfaction to be had from owning an original work of art rather than a reproduction (unless the collector is misguidedly more interested in the signature on the reproduction). But for the printmaker the attraction still lies in the unique quality of the mark making possibilities offered by the printmaking media.