Creating a Print Series/Edition:
“What about those series/editions I see?” many people ask me. “How are they different from a reproduction?” To answer that question, let me take you through the process of creating an etching print series.
Etchings are the classic example of a print series. Most of you have seen etchings. These are generally black and white images, and are numbered 1/10, 2/10 and so on. The top number indicates the number of the image, and the bottom number indicates the total number of images that were made. Before the artist gets to the stage of numbering his/her etching prints, he/she has a few things to do.
First, the plate needs to be prepared. I do dry point etchings. To prepare my Plexi-glass plate, I draw the image I want to use. Then, I start to transfer that image to my printing plate by drawing it again. Only this time I “draw” the image by scratching it into the surface of the plate. Each mark I make will become a line in my final print. (I recently did a dragon image which took about 8 hours to transfer to my printing plate.)
Once the image is on the plate, I need to apply the ink. The ink (which is quite sticky) is applied evenly to the entire plate. Using cardboard squares, it is pushed into all the scratches on the plate’s surface. The plate is then wiped and buffed with newsprint and a special fabric to remove the excess ink. The goal is to have only the scratches filled with ink and the rest of the plate clean. This is a lot harder than it sounds. One missed smudge can ruin an entire image. It takes me about 15 minutes to apply the ink to a small 5 by 7 plate.
Meanwhile, the paper I will use has been soaking in water and then been blotted so it is damp.
The press now needs to be set up so that the pressure is correct for the thickness of the plate. If the pressure is too tight I risk damaging a piece of equipment that costs thousands of dollars. (Not a good idea.)
The plate and the damp paper are then placed on the press. This is a finicky process as well. I need to get the paper placed just right on the printing plate or the image will be crooked. I cannot adjust the paper once it touches the plate or the image will be smeared. Finally, the plate and paper are hand cranked through the press and the image is created.
Even though I have my print, I’m not done yet. I need to check it to make sure the image is crisp and the lights and darks are correct. If I’m happy with it, then I ink up the plate again and print the image a second time. If I’ve done the inking process correctly, then the two images will match. If I haven’t, then I need to try again. I will only have a series once I have several identical images, which can take several days, or sometimes weeks, to get. This is why print series are limited editions with a finite number of prints available of a given image.
Creating a print series is highly involved. As the artist, I am directly involved with each step. Each image qualifies as an original piece of art.