Firstly, what is an original Fine Art Print?
Many pictures that are sold as "original" prints are, in fact, photographic reproductions - actually just good quality posters. They are made by photographing an original work of art, usually a painting or drawing and reproducing the image photographically, often these days, with digital technology.
Real artist's original prints are different from these reproductions in that they are original works of art in their own right. The image is conceived by the artist as a print from the outset. To produce a fine art print, the artist has carried out many, often lengthy, procedures. The final result is completely different from even the best photographic reproductions in feel and quality. Artist's original prints - as opposed to reproductions - can be a serious investment. Many artists throughout history, such as Picasso and Rembrandt, have worked this way.
The Etching Technique
Etching is the process of using a strong acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal. As an intaglio method of printmaking it was, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains widely used today.
In pure etching, the metal plate (in Barbara's case, copper) is covered in a waxy compound which is resistant to acid. The artist then draws through the compound with a pointed etching needle where she wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The plate is then dipped in acid for between 1 to 24 hours. The acid "bites" into the metal where it is exposed, leaving behind lines etched down into the plate. The remaining waxy compound is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is then inked all over, pushing the ink down into the lines. Then the ink is wiped off the surface, leaving the ink only in the etched lines.
The plate is then put through a high-pressure press together with etching blankets and a sheet of paper. The paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print. The process can be repeated many times until the image on the plate deteriorates. The number of images achieved from Barbara's plates is indicated against each of her prints. Once the edition is complete, her plates are then destroyed.
The monoprint technique
The monoprint is the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques. Barbara's monoprints are essentially printed paintings.
The characteristic of this method is that no two prints are alike (hence mono) . Although images can be similar, editioning is not possible. The appeal of the monotype lies in the uniqueness of each work.
In Barbara's work, oil paint is painted and sometimes dabbed onto the plate from which the print is taken. The resulting monoprint is unlike an oil painting in that it has a translucency and a quality of light very different that found in a painting or indeed in conventional printing techniques. The beauty of this medium is also in its spontaneity and its combination of printmaking, painting and drawing.
Once printed, various areas appear differently and suggest new directions and emphasis. The print takes on new life as many unexpected possibilities present themselves to the artist. This is the most exciting time of the whole process. And it is in this aspect that the monoprint is most like a painting, while still retaining the translucent print qualities mentioned above.
All content © Barbara Newcomb 2021