Original printmaking ranks with painting, sculpture, and drawing as one of the usual means of artistic expression. An original print is not the same as a poster or reproduction. A novice collector should be able to easily distinguish between photographic reproductions and handmade original prints. A reproduction has virtually no investment value as it is made by modern high speed commercial presses.
An original handmade print is a genuine work of art. Original prints were made by almost all the masters such as Durer, Rembrandt, Renoir, Picasso, Warhol, and artists today carry on the tradition.
Original printmaking is a slow and painstaking process. The plates are laboriously worked on by the artist who will spend months creating the final original print. Each original print is rolled by hand through a press, once for every color, and then the plate must be wiped clean and re-inked. Sometimes each "pull" can take up to two hours. Once the edition has been produced, the artist rejects any imperfect prints and signs and numbers each print to attest that each one has been produced to the required standards.
A number 12/250 indicates that the original print was the twelfth original print out of a total edition of 250. It is customary for the artist to produce 10% more prints which are usually entitled "Artists Proofs" or "A/P". The plates, blocks or screens are then destroyed.
The artist chooses a specific medium because of the visual effect it allows him to achieve. Museums worldwide add original prints of various media to their collections of world renowned masters. West End Publishing uses three traditional methods of producing original prints:
West End Publishing is proud to follow the tradition of silk screen printing as the medium of choice for original prints. This medium allows the artist to enhance the original print and apply as many silk screen colors as needed to produce a fine art original print that closely represents an original painting.
Individual stencils are made using silk screens. The artist then pulls the ink through the screen, once for each color; onto the paper. Often as many as 80 to 100 screens may be used. The image will begin to emerge, first the background base colors and finally, the stronger decorative surface details.
All of our artists are involved in the printing process from start to finish. That allows us to produce an original print that the artist is proud of and therefore the art collector will forever cherish.
Hand enhancement and embellishing by adding material, patchwork, collage, and gold leaf on the artwork is used on the majority of our original limited edition prints. This adds to the value and the visual quality of the artwork.
One of the most popular contemporary artists who uses gold leaf enchantment on his work is West End Publishing’s Gary Benfield.
Invented in Germany in the 18th Century, the artist draws each color or shape with an oily crayon onto a flat stone or metal plate. The stone or plate is covered with water and a sheet of paper is put on it and passed through a litho press. The ink is put onto the litho press roller and will only print where the crayon has touched the stone. Once the first color has been printed, the stone or plate has the drawing scraped off it and the artist draws another color upon the same plate. There are usually up to 20 plates used to make a lithograph.
West End Publishing uses this method to produce Sir Winston Churchill’s Fine Art Collection.
Sometimes Serigraphy is combined with Lithography to enhance parts or the whole Original Print. This adds to the final texture of the Seriolithographic artwork.
Invented in the 16th Century, the artist covers two or three copper plates with an acid resistant layer and then draws with sharp tools on the plates to remove the layer where the lines are to be etched. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, and the acid bites into the plate where the layers have been removed. By leaving different lines exposed to the acid for varying lengths of time, the strength of the bitten lines can be controlled.
Whole areas are exposed to the acid by "aquatinting" – dusting certain areas of the copper with a powdered resin to create areas for color on the plates. The plates are again dipped in the acid bath. By now an image will have been formed on the plate.
The artist will then cover the plate with printing inks and wipe the plate so that the inks remain only in the furrows bitten into by the acid. The plate is then put under great pressure on a mangle type press on top of a sheet of artist’s paper so the ink is pressed out of the furrows into the receiving paper. Usually two to four plates are used and the printing of each original print will take up to two hours. Other forms of etchings include:
Mezzotints have soft tonalities ranging from grey to black. The quality is achieved by a serrated tool called a rocker that is systematically worked back and forth across the surface of a metal plate pitting it with thousands of tiny indentations creating a burr (rough raised surface). This is then polished back to a very smooth surface with a burnisher.
The surface is built up by the modeling of a paste with iron and stone filings to create rugged textures and shapes that are then inked and embossed into the paper when going through the press.
The image is painted onto a flat plate and put through the press. The artist can never exactly make the same marks again, hence the term "mono" print.