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What are art prints?

What are art prints?

Before we delve into the fantastical and elaborate world of prints, first let's start with the basics.

All fine art prints on Artfinder are limited edition, which means that the edition has a limited number of prints available. These are usually handmade prints, with each print signed and labelled with the print number and the size of the print run as a whole, such as 4/10. In limited edition fine art prints, each print is considered an original due to variables in the printmaking process. This means that no two prints are the same.

In contrast to handmade prints, Artfinder also offers fine art reproduction prints which are prints produced from original artworks. However, reproduction prints are also still limited to an edition and therefore signed and numbered by the artist.

There are some types of editions that we don’t sell on Artfinder, such as open editions. Open editions are created the same way as limited editions, except the number of prints created is limitless. These pieces are often signed but not numbered, and an artist can continue to create prints from their image to their hearts’ content. We don’t currently allow open editions on Artfinder as our focus is on original art!

Now you’re up to date, let's get onto the creative process and some of the wonderful limited edition handmade prints you will find on Artfinder!

Linocut

Linocutting is a very popular printing technique amongst artists and buyers—and you may have even delved into it in art class! One of the reasons for its popularity is the fact that it’s so accessible and uses materials you might find in your own home.

Linocut artworks, also referred to as relief printing, are created by carving an image into a block of linoleum, before ink is rolled over the uncut surface and paper is laid on top of the block. Pressure is then applied by the artist to produce a print on the paper.

Referred to as a ‘master of the medium’, some of Pablo Picasso’s most famous works are in fact linocuts, such as The Grape Harvesters. Introduced to linocutting by a local artist, Picasso’s interest in the medium catapulted its popularity in the fifties and artists haven't stopped since!

Although the technique was first used with different metals and wood, artists soon realised how difficult and expensive it was to work with. So they turned to linoleum, which is a spongy material used for flooring—we know, we’d also like to know how they figured that one out. It worked wonderfully though, and allowed artists more control over their carvings to create smooth and continuous shapes.

There is also the process of reduction linocuts - to give us insight into the process, we spoke with hugely talented Artfinder artist, Alexandra Buckle.

“Reduction linocut involves repeated cutting and printing from the same block of lino to build up an image on the paper, in different coloured layers.

“When my designs are finished and every layer has been cut, there is often very little information left on my lino block, but hopefully I have a beautiful image printed on my paper.”

Alexandra explains why reduction linocut works for her:

“I find this way of working very rewarding. As each layer builds up on the paper, the excitement builds as you lift the paper from the block. Even I don't know how my prints will look until they are finished, as there is no real way to proof them before you start.

“Reduction linocut is a very methodical and step-by-step approach to creating art, but I think that is why it appeals to me. I'm quite indecisive at times and this method forces me to make decisions and stick to them!”

Alexandra creates all types of landscapes, from woodlands to coastlines, from the UK to Japan. View her storefront here.

Screenprint

People have been screenprinting for literally thousands of years. Although, it's safe to say that screenprints became the crowning glory of the Pop Art movement in the 50s and 60s. Famous artworks such as Lichtenstein’s Crying Girl or Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe popularised screenprinting and encouraged more artists to delve into the medium.

Also known as silkscreen and serigraph printing, screenprinting is a process where ink is forced through a mesh screen onto a surface. Making certain areas of the screen impervious to printing ink creates a stencil, which blocks the printing ink from passing through the screen. The ink that passes through forms the printed image. Commonly used screen materials include fabric, glass, silk or canvas, which is why in American art terminology, they are referred to as silkscreen printing.

We spoke with the talented Antic-Ham about their screenprints and what makes it special.

“I like the unique materiality and originality of screen printing. It has a totally different texture from the normal printout.

“I am easily swayed and impressed by colour and it is an immediate and instinctive criterion when I choose something all the time. To me, screen printing is itself a play with colour.

“I've been printing for many years, but I'm still learning and I feel like I'm challenging myself and creating something new while printing. It’s really fun!”

We love Antic-Ham’s use of colour, and way of highlighting the beautiful buildings of County Mayo, Ireland. If you would like to see their collection of prints too, you can visit their colourful storefront here.

Etching

Etchings have been around for an incredibly long time - think the late middle ages in Britain, with some of the earliest examples of etching found in detailed suits of armour dating back to the 15th century.

Etching is an intaglio (meaning, ‘to engrave’) printmaking process, where a design is engraved into a material. Lines or areas are incised using acid into a metal plate in order to hold the ink. The plate is then used as a printer to print editions of the image. Artists can achieve great line depth by controlling how long the plate is suspended in the acid. Shading, too, can be achieved by applying differing degrees of varnish or wax to certain parts of the plate.

Often confused with ink drawings, etching uses ink on metal and through chemical reaction creates the image. Part of the attraction to this medium is the amount of detail a skilled artist can create in a piece.

We spoke with the talented Vaida Varnagiene about etchings and how she knows an etching is complete.

“The proof I am happy with we call – BAT (or Bon a tirer). It is a French term meaning 'good to pull'. When the image has been finalised through proofing, the final proof is marked BAT and signed by the artist. I keep my editions small to maintain the originality and authenticity of each work.”

Vaida also shares her favourite part of the process:

“My favourite part of the whole Intaglio process is plate making. This requires a lot of skills and intuition as well. For me, it's like playing chess. I have to plan all my moves very carefully because the final result depends on them.

“I love this technique, as the whole process remains pretty much the same as it was hundreds of years ago. When I hold a new copper plate in my hand, I can’t wait to start it, because the Intaglio etching process is beautiful, unique and magical.”

If you would like to see more magic, you can visit Vaida’s storefront here.

Ready to secure your own limited edition print?

We hope that our delve into a few (of many) printing processes has provided some insight into how our wonderful artists work. Whatever your printing preferences, we think that prints are great additions to your home, particularly for large gallery walls—the more prints, the merrier!

See all our available prints here.

Words by Megan Keane

Header image credit: Phyllis Mahon


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