The Art of ... Printmaking

Printmaking is an art that exists for centuries. It was the way to share images before photography and one of the oldest forms of reproducible media.

From Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner or Otto Dix, to Roy Lichtenstein, Picasso and Warhol of course, many artists have adopted printmaking as their primary form of art or have dabbled in it at some point. It is also one of the less expansive ways to collect your favourite well-known artists as the multiplier effect will play a part in the work price.  

What is printmaking exactly?  

The MET defines as  

“an artistic process based on the principle of transferring images from a matrix onto another surface, most often paper or fabric.”  

The matrix can be created with a wide variety of support from cardboard, linoleum, glass, metal such as copper or zinc, polymer, wood, stones or photosensitive material. A design, starting with a drawing, mark-making or a photographic image is transferred or created on a flat surface with tools or chemicals. The matrix is inked to produce the image and then transfer onto its final support, be it paper, fabric, or desired surface. This can be done with or without a press.  

Most printmaking techniques produce multiples but not all, so monotype or monoprint produce only one print and not an edition. 

Printmaking is separated into larger categories; 

Relief refers to woodcut or woodblock, wood engraving, metal cut or linocut. In short, there is a drawing created on the surface of the support to develop the matrix, and it is carved – removing what will be white and keeping what will be printed in colour or black inks. The ink sits on the surface of the matrix. 

Intaglio which includes engraving, etching, mezzotint and aquatint. Contrary to relief, what will be printed is directly created on the plate, the mark-making will make holes, lines and more that will “pick up” the ink. The ink sits in those crevasses, and that is what will transfer to the paper. 

Planographic is all about transferring the image that sits on top of a surface. There isn’t any depth in planographic techniques, including lithography, monotyping/mono-printing and digital techniques.  

Stencil means that ink pass through something with pochoir and screen printing techniques – the ink or paint is pushed or pulverized through another shape.  

What is an edition? (and what are those small number and why shall we care?) 

We already established that more than one print could be created from a matrix. A run or edition results from printing the same matrix more than once, following a BAT (coming from the French term: Bon À Tirer). For a limited edition – a number will be set. After that number print, the artist cannot add more print to at a later stage or at least not in that format, colour or without adding new elements making it a “unique” edition again. When the edition is completed, the matrix will be destroyed or punched, so it can’t be reproduced.  

The little number you will find under the image tells you how large is the edition and where this print falls in the edition. For example, 3/50 means that it was the third print to be printed and that the edition is limited to 50 impressions of that matrix.  

Pro tips: Many collectors will collect the same edition numbers no matter how large the edition is. For edition created from “soft” metal like copper the smaller number or, the earlier print will be produced sharper image as the matrix hasn’t yet been submitted to the pressure of the press many times which make the line a little bit softer with time – this is the case for a large edition of hundreds of prints. 

Is a print a copy or an original artwork? 

Finally, yes, a print is considered an “original” artwork as it is an “impression” of an original matrix – it has been created manually, and each step bare the artist’s hands. Therefore, it isn’t a copy of something else but a standalone artwork.  


Here are five .ART adopters that are lovers of ink and rollers, of brayers and papers and who are working as printmakers  

Olesya Dzhurayeva 

Born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and currently living and working in Kyiv, Olesya Dzhurayeva depicts today’s life on old pieces of linoleum. Her inspiration comes from the overlooked, the mundane, a bicycle, a shoe, utensils left behind on the counter, someone snapping a picture on their smartphone – the city where she lives, works and move through day after day, seasons after seasons – the familiar, the everyday viewed in a different light. As she mentioned several times in interviews, she prefers old and used linoleum, more natural it is also soft enough and good for small and delicate mark-making 

Visit her website, dzhurayeva.art to discover more about her work to find her under @olesyadzhurayeva on Instagram.    

Jeroen Goubert 

This Belgian artist currently lives and works in Affligem. His work is closely embedded in the tradition of printmaking as he works in intaglio in a manner that reminds of Rembrandt small portrait etchings. His relief print will also spark connections with the work German Expressionist woodcut such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and many more of that era as well as used more contemporarily by early works of Anselm Kiefer.

You can discover more about his practice on his website at jeroengoubert.art 

Matt Juke 

Matt juke has a love for miss-remembered landscapes. This large scale Monoprint printmaker explores colour and texture. Matt’s work takes the viewer on a journey, one that acts as a conduit to the exploration of their own relationship to emotion and memory. 

We love that the Claridge’s Hotel and Saga Cruise Ships, have recognised the value of original artworks in their rooms and showcase the work of Juke.  

His work can be appreciated on Instagram under the handle @mattjukes or his .art website mattjukes.art 

MarblePrintClay 

Based in Hong Kong and founded in 2015, MarblePrintClay is an artist-run printmaking studio with creative collaboration at the art of its practice. They offer a wide range of services from studio rental to courses and large format printing – you can even have access to specialist technicians. MarblePrintClay provides printmaking facilities and professional support for artists and designers. 

The last sentence on the about section is : 

Printing is an art that tests one’s willpower and action. Each work is a challenge, often involving long timelines in production.” 

And if you dip your toe in the printmaking world, you will know that nothing is better, but it is also gratifying.  This artist-run studio can be discovered on Instagram under @marbleprintclay and marbleprintclay.art 

Richard Spare 

In the 70’s he was the assistant of David Hockney, since then, as a Master printmaker, he has editioned the work of other very well-known famous artists such as Jasper Johns, Keith Harring, Robert Ryman, and others. Artist of his own right, these days he concentrates his effort only on his practice derived from nature & travel. He works in Charlton. His garden is an abundant source of inspiration. His studio, situated in a Victorian coach house, is a homage to printmaking with antique etching presses restored with much love.  

Visit his website, richardspare.art to discover more about his art-making and find him under @richard.spare on Instagram.  


ABOUT THIS SECTION  

The .art Domains has always been dedicated to connect, empower, and support its community members and foster a sense of belonging to the art world. This new section celebrates creators that have recently joined our community. It is our way to give back and shine a light on amazing creatives, especially in these testing times! If you would like to be featured in a post, please take a look at our submission guidelines here. 

.ART Team
.ART Team
members are global citizens with interests ranging from art history to social justice. If we had an office cat we would have called it Basquiat.