The prints I make are all Original Prints. The strictest rules which define this practice are:
- that the artist originates the design of the image.
- the image has no other form of expression than the printed edition; the print is not a reproduction of some pre-existing painting etc.
- he or she then goes on to make the blocks, plates or other matrix from which the piece is to be printed.
- the edition should be printed under the direction of the artist or actually printed by him.
- each edition should be signed, numbered and limited to 150 or less.
Traditionally original print encompassed relief printing (lino, wood cut and engraving) intaglio (etching, copper engraving, mezzotint) screen printing and lithography.
Etching is a long established form of printmaking where the printing plate has lines, marks and textures chemically bitten into a copper or zinc plate. The artist starts by applying an acid resistant layer to the plate (a "ground"). Through this he then "needles" lines and marks to reveal the metal surface to the acid. The plate is immersed in acid and the lines are etched, the longer the "bite" the deeper the lines and the more ink they will hold and the darker they will print. The artist can also create tonal effects across the plate with sprays of acrylic or resinous dust melted onto the surface. The plate is then bitten through this special ground for varying times to make darker or lighter areas of tone quite like watercolour effects hence the name "aquatint".
When the plate is finished it is cleaned of its' various grounds and printed on the double roller intaglio press. The plate is smeared with ink all over the surface and into the etched lines and textures and then carefully wiped so that the unetched surface of the plate is clean but the ink remains in the etched detail. Heavy dampened paper is then laid over the plate and it is rolled through the press where pressures of up to 10 tons force the paper into tiniest detail of the etched marks. An intaglio artist may also make marks into his plate mechanically with scratching and gouging using heavy scribers and burins; this is termed drypoint engraving and is often combined with etching.
Collagraphs are different from etchings in that the plate is built up by sticking differing surfaces, texture and shapes onto the plate. It is a collage prepared so that it can be printed like an etching plate. All sorts of material, even natural forms like grasses and leaves, can be used. The most usual are varying papers, cards and tissues but fascinating effects can be created with glues, and acrylic pastes, carborundum powder, plaster and sand. "Found objects" like doilies, metal washers and embossed wallpapers have been used to make terrifically textural prints. The plates have to be sealed with varnish before they can be printed and this can make quite a tough surface into which engraved marks can also be made.
Because of the much greater depth of a collagraph compared with an etching they carry much more ink and a wider (and sometimes unpredictable) range of purely printing effects can be achieved with collagraphs. In fact it is difficult to get exactly the same effects with each print and it is often better to regard multi-colour collagraphs as a series of monoprints rather than a uniform edition. Because the plate is usually made from softer materials than the copper and zinc of etching, collagraph plates wear more rapidly and so the editions are smaller.