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Prints vs. Printmaking by Andrea Knarr

Posted on August 26, 2013 by Patrick Hull

I do think that the concept of "printing" this gallery show (The Economics of Art 2013) is presenting is intriguing but, if I read it correctly, somewhat different from what printmakers like me are doing. For us, there is no "original" other than the print itself (called a "multiple original") in which the plate, block or stone is created by the artist from his or her own drawing etc., and is meant to be a fine art print. The image does not exist as anything else. An etching, for example, is made by drawing, then etching the image on the copper or other metal plate and cannot be printed other than by hand-wiping the plate every time the print is pulled. Then, if a digital copy were to be made of the printed image, it is not considered “original art” but is called a “reproduction”.

But the boundaries are becoming blurred because some work is created digitally and then hand-printed - often these are made as screen prints as my students do, but not always. Where "original" comes into play is whether the imagery is uniquely the vision of the artist, or whether it is "appropriated" from another source. If the main import of the imagery comes mostly from someone else’s work, we consider it plagiarism. An “original print” is one that is created to be a print by the artist on a matrix that is inked and printed by hand.

The digital revolution has wrecked havoc on the understanding of fine art printmaking - very few people knew what an original print was before digital prints came on the scene and now it is near impossible for us to catch up in PR - but it has opened up new tools for us as well.

Side by side comparisons of digital and hand-produced work are an effective way to sensitize the eye to the nuances in surfaces and the palpable experience of the hand in the work. A digital print conceived and printed solely through digital media has its own cache, but it is not to be confused with traditional printmaking aesthetics.

 

Andrea Knarr, Senior Lecturer
Head of Printmaking
Department of Visual Arts
Northern Kentucky University

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