There are so many kinds of “prints” for sale that it is easy to
get confused. Is a printed reproduction of a museum work a print? What about a more expensive print which is mass-produced but signed by the artists? In today’s art market the word “print” is loosely used to
refer to many different types of work on paper, including offset reproductions (offset refers to the mechanical method of printing commonly used to reproduce art).
What Is A Limited Edition Print?
COLLECTING ORIGINAL PRINTS
Original prints can offer an affordable way to get our feet wet. Their relative low cost enables many people of moderate means to own and cherish genuine works of art. Indeed, prints and perhaps drawings are about the only bona fide works by the masters that most of us can ever hope to obtain. A Romare Bearden one-of-a-kind original, for example, cannot be found for under, $30,000 - $40,000, but an original lithograph by him may still be found for around $5,000.
There are other advantages, besides price, to collecting original prints. Some forms of original prints, for example etching and woodcuts, tend to be small in scale and can be easily accommodated in small living spaces. They can be easily stored when not on display. They tend not to demand heavy, expensive frames and special lighting.
The beginning art collector could do well starting with original prints. In addition to the having the satisfaction of owning original works of art, we can live with and try out various kinds and styles of art without making too great an investment.
But perhaps the greatest reason for buying and collecting original prints by African American artists is to acknowledge and honor to the contribution of African American artists to an age-old, rich, complex and demanding artistic medium - printmaking. Both art and craft, printmaking demands long study and hard work and the work of the most talented African American printmakers offer a wealth of opportunities for the collector.
TYPES OF ORIGINAL PRINTS
Traditional printmaking techniques fall into four categories: Relief printing where the image is created by carving from a flat plane those areas which will not be part of the image and applying ink to the raised area. (woodcut and linocut are two examples of relief printing); Intaglio where the image is created by removing surface and forcing ink into the negative spaces (etching, aquatint and drypoint are examples of intaglio printing); the Stencil process, also called silk screen, screenprinting, or serigraphy, where the negative image is affixed to a fine mesh screen and ink is forced through the screen; and planographic printing where the image and negative area are both on the same plane (lithography is the best known example). Some of the more popular printmaking techniques are broadly described here:
Silkscreen or Serigraphy
Monotype and Monoprint
Monotypes are unique, because only one impression of the art can be pulled from the plate before the ink is gone (some people refer to monotypesas the only original art printed in an edition of one.) After the initial print is pulled, there may be just enough pigment left on the plate to pull a second, faint impression, called a ‘ghost’. The ghost (or cognate, as it is technically known), is a much lighter image, with substantial variations from the first print, and is more of a transparent suggestion of the first image. A ghost print can be treated as an “under-painting”, giving the artist creative license to re-work the image with more ink or paint, and alter the ghost print to create an entirely new, one-of-a-kindwork of art.
What is a Monoprint?
THE LANGUAGE OF PRINTS
It is important to have an understanding of the terminology in general use in the field of original prints and to know what the markings on print mean. Below are explanations of some of the markings and descriptions of the more common terms:
Artist’s Monogram: A monogram bearing the artist’s initial or personal sign, either stamped or drawn on the print. At times the monogram is drawn on the stone or inscribed on the plate.
Artist’s Proof: In traditional printmaking an artist's proof was a trial impression taken to evaluate the immediate state of a print. It could either indicate that further development was required or that the print is complete. Today Artist’s Proofs most commonly are a small group of prints set aside from the edition for the artist's use. The total number is generally 10 - 15 percent of the total edition. These prints are identified by the marking A/P. Most times an A/P will cost more than a print from the regular edition.
Bon à Tirer: Literally, ’good to pull’, the final proof of a print, the standard against which all other prints pulled in the edition are matched.
Hors Commerce: A small number of prints from an edition that are usually used as samples or given to museums and institutions. Although they are usually not sold, some may find their way to the market. They are designated with the marking H/C.
Cancelled Plate: After an edition is run off, the plate is frequently pierced or scratched or otherwise defaced in order to prevent further printings.
Edition: An edition of a print includes all the impressions printed at the same time or as part of the same printing. A First Edition print is one which was issued with the first printed group of impressions. Edition size is a factor in determining the current and future value and of a print. A smaller edition size means that that the print will be more rare and exclusive.
Hand Signing and Numbering: A print does not have to be signed and numbered to be an original. Signing and numbering prints is a relatively modern practice. The most common method used today is to record on the left side of the print the size of the edition and the number of that particular piece. For example, 11/150 means that there were 150 impressions in the edition of which this is number 11. The signature usually appears near or at the right margin of the print. Most fine art prints are and should be signed in pencil because pencil markings are permanent and will not fade over time.
Remarque: A remarque is a small vignette image in the margin of a print, often related thematically to the main image. A remarque is designated by the marking R/M. Originally remarques were scribbled sketches made in the margins of etchings so that the artist could test the plate, his needles, or the strength of the etching acid prior to working on the main image. These remarques were usually removed prior to the first publication of the print. During the etching revival, in the late nineteenth century, remarques became popular as an additional design element in prints and were also used in the creation of remarque proofs. Some artist remarque their prints by over-painting or enhancing the actual image. The total number of remarque prints is usually small and they cost appreciably more than the regular edition.
Estate Prints are prints made by the artist but not signed by the artist prior to his or her death. The artist’s signature may be reproduced on the print with the approval of the estate of the artist of the print may be signed or otherwise authenticated by the deceased artist’s executor of authorized family member. The value of an estate print is largely determined by demand for and scarcity of the image.
Posthumous Prints are prints printed after the death of the artist. These prints are not considered worth collecting.
Avisca Fine Art Gallery African American Art Gallery