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The Art of Printmaking

  • 4 min read

 

Beautiful prints are what we specialise in here at artrepublic so it seemed rather fitting to examine the process behind some of the fabulous works we showcase.

 

The History of Printing

The procedure of making artwork via the reproduction of images onto paper dates back to around the fifth century in the Far East. The earliest technique was the woodcut whereby the artist draws a design onto a piece of wood or transfers an image from paper onto the surface. The design is then carved away using a special cutter; a sharp tool is also used to carve into areas on the block that will not receive ink. The block is then inked using a roller and impressed onto damp paper to leave an image.

A more accessible variant on the archaic woodcut is the linocut, which is popular amongst many contemporary artists. The process is the same although the piece of wood is replaced with a sheet of linoleum. The material has a smoother surface and allows work to be made quicker with a lower cost. World-renowned painters Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso helped to elevate the linocut from a low-fi and cheap practice to an established professional print medium.

One artist who has embraced the linocut in recent years is long-term Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. For his ‘Lost Angeles’ series, the artist created an apocalyptic version of LA in linocut, with the city being destroyed by fire, floods and meteor strikes. The stylised and graphic, monochrome landscape was also seen in his previous ‘London View’ series which was used for the album cover of ‘The Eraser’, singer Thom Yorke’s debut solo record.

Silkscreen Printing

Silkscreen is the most common sort of print found at artrepublic; the process has its origins in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1276CE). It was first used as an industrial printing process in the 1800’s for printing political posters and decorating fabrics. Actual silk has not been used since the 1960’s, being replaced by more robust and inexpensive polyester mesh. The process is also commonly known as screen printing.

Silkscreen printing is a process that applies the properties of a stencil; some areas are blocked out allow ink to be printed through others. Here’s a rough guide to how a silk-screen print is made:


• The process starts with an original complete image from which the print will be created.

• The image is then separated into its individual colours, with each one requiring its own screen, which is a piece of woven mesh stretched over a frame.

• Once the separate colours have been identified they are made into stencils and transferred on to the screens using a process of exposing photographic emulsion under UV light. This then allows for ink to only pass through the screen in certain places.

• When the screens are all complete they are then clamped into place on a flatbed to ensure consistent registration and the ink is pulled across with the use of a squeegee (rubber blade).

• The process is then repeated with each colour being added separately with great care to insure the layers of colour don’t overlap. Once the print is complete different glazes and textures can be added to add highlights or depth to the image.

One artist who is synonymous with the practice is Pop Art pioneer Andy Warhol. The medium allowed the artist to reproduce the same image repeatedly using the same screen in order to reinforce its impact. Warhol’s influence can be seen in the work of many contemporary artists.

Russell Marshall uses silkscreen printing to realise his artistic vision. Marshall’s art is heavily influenced by his career in journalism and his prints examine the notion of celebrity and icons.

Kate Gibb, a self-confessed “Silkscreen obsessive”, is another artist whose practice is centred on the method of printmaking. As an artist she embraces the accidents and element of chance involved in the process, incorporating the imperfections into her bold, brightly coloured images.

Giclee Printing

The other common type of print found at artrepublic is the modernized method of giclee. The name giclee refers to high-resolution fine art prints made using a specialized, large format, inkjet printer. Printed using archival inks, the colours of giclee are known for their lasting vibrancy and will remain colourfast for 50-100 years or more.

One of our most sought after artists Dave White has released several editions of stunning giclee prints. The level of detail achieved through the printmaking process is astonishing and truly captures the colour and dynamism of his original paintings. He is also known for his hand fishing of larger prints with 24-carat gold leaf.

Finishing Touches

The finishing touches applied to prints can truly be the crowning glory on already beautiful work. The addition of carefully applied gold leaf can be used to highlight areas and add an opulent element to the work.

Dan Baldwin’s exquisite silkscreen ‘The Marriage’ is a great example of how the addition of gold leaf can further enhance a piece. The print has been finished with an abundance of 24-carat gold adding a luxurious and decadent quality. Dan Baldwin’s work is also a great example of the extraordinarily high quality that can be achieved in contemporary screen-printing. ‘Tantrum Confession’ is a 24-colour silkscreen complete with gold/silver leaf, diamond dust, glazes and even glow in the dark paint. Just imagine the amount of work that has gone into creating that masterpiece!

Diamond dust is another addition which can add eye-catching sparkle and shimmering glamour to a print. Well-known graffiti artist Obey (Shepard Fairey) has used black and white diamond dust for the first time in his eastern art inspired Lotus and Crescent silkscreen prints. The use of diamond dust reflects the artist’s interest in the seduction of advertising and consumerism.

Now that you know a bit more about the printing process and the extensive work that goes into each piece, be sure to check out the outstanding collection of prints available from us at artrepublic.

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