for the love of prints, part 3

In my last two posts, I introduced you to the art of printmaking and discussed relief and intaglio print techniques in more detail. Now, I will introduce you to one-of-a-kind prints, the techniques of lithography and serigraphy, and the differences between traditional prints and giclée prints.

Monotypes & Monoprints
True or false: printmaking always involves creating reproducible images and identical prints.

False! While most printmaking techniques facilitate the creation of identical prints, monotype and monoprint techniques allow the artist to make one-of-a-kind prints.

A monotype is made by painting on a flat plate (often Plexiglass), then running it through the press to create a print. Because the artist’s exact brushstrokes cannot be duplicated, each print is one of a kind.

A monoprint is a unique version of a relief, intaglio, or other traditional print. The artist combines reproducible imagery from a printing plate with elements that can’t be reproduced: she may ink the plate in a unique way, introduce hand painting, or add chine colle (a kind of collage). Because the artist is not attempting to create an edition of identical prints, it opens up a range of possibilities, and the resulting prints are like variations on a theme.

Global Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon

Global Pumpkin

Fairytale Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon

Fairytale Pumpkin

Global Pumpkin and Fairytale Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon. These monoprints are one-of-a-kind pieces created using the same woodcut block with unique hand-painted and chine colle details.

Lithography

An artist rolls ink on a lithography stone. Photo by Lionel Allorge (via Wikimedia Commons)

An artist rolls ink on a lithography stone. Photo by Lionel Allorge (via Wikimedia Commons)

Lithography operates on the principle that oil and water repel one another. This technique involves first drawing on a stone or metal plate, then chemically treating the plate to create the printing surface. Because the artist can draw his image freehand, lithography offers some of the expressive possibilities of drawing and painting. However, the steps involved to transform the initial drawing into a finished print are significantly more complex than relief or intaglio techniques.

"Relax," lithograph by William Baggett

Relax (lithograph) by William Baggett

Screenprinting

A screenprint artist at work. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

A screenprint artist at work. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as serigraphy or silkscreening, screenprinting is a stencil technique in which an image is created on a fabric screen using a special chemical process. The screen is laid over paper or another substrate, and ink is pressed through the screen using a squeegee. Areas of negative space block the ink, while areas of positive space allow ink through, creating the artist’s image on the surface below.

Where do gicleés fit in?
“Giclée” refers to any piece created using an inkjet printer, making these prints quite different from traditional prints. Though some artists create original digital artwork that is printed using an inkjet, most giclée prints are actually reproductions, rather than original works of art.

Giclee reproductions of “The Hippopotamus Hunt” by Peter Paul Rubens. (Photo: "Prints Pigment Giclee" by Fountains of Bryn Mawr via Wikimedia Commons)

Giclee reproductions of The Hippopotamus Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens. (Photo: “Prints Pigment Giclee” by Fountains of Bryn Mawr via Wikimedia Commons)

Here is an example of a giclée print that is an original rather than a reproduction. Kent Williams creates his imagery on a computer, then prints the finished piece using a high-quality inkjet printer. Because the work itself is original and doesn’t physically exist in another form, the way a painting does, Williams’s work is, in a sense, a digital form of printmaking.

“Transformer” by Kent Williams, an original digital piece printed as a giclée.

Transformer by Kent Williams, an original digital piece printed as a giclée.

Most giclée prints, however, are reproductions of original works of art (paintings, drawings, even traditional prints). Artists offer giclées in addition to their originals so that their art can reach a broader audience. Though they are a great way for more people to be able to own work they love, giclées are not the original works of art that traditional prints are.

“Blue Sunset” by Ken Eliott is a giclée print of an original pastel painting.

Blue Sunset by Ken Eliott is a giclée print of an original pastel painting.

Printmaking: A World to Explore
I hope the information in this series has given you a greater understanding and appreciation of printmaking and what it has to offer you as an art enthusiast. Because printmaking is such a diverse and fascinating discipline, I have really only scratched the surface here (no pun intended)! There are so many other techniques, styles, and artists to discover. Start by taking a look at some of the traditional prints available at Artful Home—and perhaps consider a print the next time you’re looking for new artwork!

“Squid,” woodcut print by Aaron T. Brown

Squid,” woodcut print by Aaron T. Brown

By |February 4th, 2016|articles|0 Comments

for the love of prints, part 2

In my last post, I introduced you to the art of printmaking and discussed relief print techniques in more detail. Next, we’ll explore another popular discipline: intaglio. While most relief prints are created by carving wood or linoleum blocks, intaglio prints are created primarily from metal plates (e.g. copper or zinc), though glass, plastic, and other materials can also be used.

example of a copper intaglio plate

An example of a copper intaglio plate (created by yours truly).

While relief techniques result in areas of positive and negative space, intaglio techniques can create anything from fine lines to rich tonal gradations. This etching by Penny Feder is a good example of the variety of marks and tones possible with intaglio.

In relief printing, the artist removes the areas not to be inked, and ink is then rolled onto the surface of the block. Intaglio techniques are the reverse: the marks that the artist makes will hold the ink, while any smooth surfaces will appear white. After the block is inked, a damp sheet of paper is laid over it, and both are run through a printing press to create the final piece.

An intaglio plate and resulting print on a press. Photo by Remi Mathis (via Wikimedia Commons).

An intaglio plate and resulting print on a press.
Photo by Remi Mathis (via Wikimedia Commons).

Intaglio Techniques

Drypoint
There are a wide variety of methods for creating images in intaglio printing. The simplest is drypoint, which involves directly cutting, scratching, and carving into the plate with hand tools.

intaglio tools

intaglio tools

Etching
Other techniques involve more complex preparation than drypoint, yet allow for a greater range of artistic possibilities. Etching, for example, uses acid to “bite” or etch an image into the plate.

a copper plate is lowered into an acid bath for etching

a copper plate is lowered into an acid bath for etching

To create an etching, the artist first coats her plate in an acid-resistant ground. She then carves into the ground, rather than the plate itself, selectively exposing the metal beneath. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath, which will “bite” the exposed metal. After removing the plate from the acid and cleaning off the ground, the plate is ready to be inked and printed.

Two Lilies by Penny Feder. The black lines are etched, while the areas of color are painted by hand.

Two Lilies by Penny Feder
The black lines are etched, while the areas of color are painted by hand.

Aquatint
Aquatint is another etching technique. Areas of shading are created by first dusting the plate with fine particles of rosin. When the plate is submerged in an acid bath, the acid bites around the particles, creating tonal areas with a fine texture. There are several variations on the aquatint technique, including spit biting and sugar lifting, which artist Barbara Stikker used to create the print below.

Collection by Barbara Stikker is a two-plate etching that incorporates several aquatint techniques.

Collection by Barbara Stikker is a two-plate etching that incorporates several aquatint techniques.

Mezzotint
Mezzotint is a subtractive technique. That is, instead of beginning with a smooth plate that holds no ink, the artist begins with a fully textured plate that prints black. He works from dark to light, using tools to smooth and burnish areas to lighten them—”subtracting” the color.

Cabbage by Barbara Stikker. Though not a true mezzotint (it’s actually an aquatint), this etching was created using similar subtractive techniques.

Cabbage by Barbara Stikker. Though not a true mezzotint (it’s actually an aquatint), this etching was created using similar subtractive techniques.

Photo Etching
The photo etching technique uses a light-sensitive emulsion to create marks on a plate. It is a great way to incorporate original photographs, drawings, or other pre-existing imagery into a print. The artist first creates or reproduces an image onto transparent film, places it over the light-sensitive plate, and exposes it to light. Next, the plate is developed and etched; it can then be further altered or inked as is.

Mill Road by Midge Black is a photo etching created from two different photographs with additional drypoint, aquatint, and etched details.

Mill Road by Midge Black is a photo etching created from two different photographs with additional drypoint, aquatint, and etched details.

Vitreography
A vitreograph is an intaglio print created by etching a glass plate. This technique was pioneered by Harvey K. Littleton, a seminal artist considered to be the father of the studio glass movement in North America. It is fascinating to see Littleton’s dedication to the medium of glass even in the creation of two-dimensional work.

Intaglio is a complex and rewarding area of printmaking with a wide range of techniques and artistic effects. In my next post, I will touch on a few additional techniques, explore one-of-a-kind prints, and explain the difference between traditional prints and giclee prints.

By |January 26th, 2016|articles|0 Comments

for the love of prints, part 1

Traditional printmaking is an incredibly diverse area of the fine arts—and one that does not always get the attention it deserves. Traditional prints have a unique beauty that sets them apart from drawings and paintings—the graphic shapes and colors of woodcuts, the intricate tonal variations of etchings. Well-known artists throughout history, including Rembrandt and Hiroshige, Cassatt and Picasso, have created prints in addition to their other work, exploring the techniques and artistic effects only found in this medium.

"Sokokura,” woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige

Sokokura (woodblock print) by Utagawa Hiroshige

"Self-portrait leaning on sill," etching by Rembrandt van Rijn

Self-portrait leaning on sill (etching) by Rembrandt van Rijn

Printmaking is a very process-oriented and time-consuming art form requiring strict attention to detail. Once you get a glimpse of the complex and fascinating techniques used to create prints, I believe you may have a deeper appreciation for this remarkable art form—and perhaps you’ll consider a print the next time you’re looking for new artwork!

Artist Ouida Touchon stands at a printing press with an in-progress wood block.

Artist Ouida Touchon stands at a printing press with an in-progress wood block.
image courtesy of Ouida Touchon

Persephone (woodcut print) by Ouida Touchon

Persephone (woodcut print) by Ouida Touchon

The Essence of Printmaking
Printmaking, at its most basic, is an indirect method of creating a two-dimensional work of art—usually one that is reproducible. Rather than directly painting on paper, the artist creates his image on a plate of some kind, then transfers the image to paper or another substrate to create the final work of art.

There are many steps in the printmaking process: creating the block, preparing the paper, inking the block, running it through the press, allowing the print to dry. In this series, I will primarily focus on the techniques artists use to create their printing blocks or plates, because these techniques are largely what make different print disciplines unique.

a printing press

a printing press

prints hanging to dry photo by Remi Mathis (via Wikimedia Commons)

prints hanging to dry
photo by Remi Mathis (via Wikimedia Commons)

Printing plates and blocks can be created from a wide variety of materials, including wood, linoleum, copper, or glass. Printing plates can be used many times, allowing the artist to create multiple prints. The ability to create multiples is an important component of printmaking, yet, as artist Midge Black explains, printmaking is not simply about reproduction:

“A fine art print is different than a copy; it is original art made from an array of materials. A single original print goes through many creative states until it satisfies the artist and is printed in final form.”

artist Midge Black at work in her studio

Artist Midge Black at work.
image courtesy of Midge Black

Different Kinds of Printmaking
There are many different printmaking techniques, but two of the most common disciplines are relief and intaglio. In this post, I will focus on relief printing. Stay tuned for the next two posts in this series, where I will discuss intaglio printing and a few other interesting techniques.

Relief
Relief prints are created by carving wood or linoleum blocks with hand tools, removing the areas that form the “negative space” of the image, that is, the areas that will not be inked.

Ouida Touchon carving a woodblock.

Ouida Touchon carving a woodblock.
image courtesy of Ouida Touchon, photo by Wendy Ewing of Studio E

One of the linoleum blocks for Jim's Farm by William Hays in progress.

One of the linoleum blocks for Jim’s Farm by William Hays in progress.
image courtesy of William Hays

The challenge (and often, the appeal) of relief prints is that they result in images with only positive and negative space—there is no shading. But that doesn’t mean that these prints are simplistic—far from it! This piece by Midge Black showcases the intricate marks and dramatic visual texture possible with a single-color relief print.

Oregon II linocut print by Midge Black

Oregon II (linocut print) by Midge Black

Artists can also create multicolor relief prints. One way to do this is to use multiple blocks carved with different parts of the image and inked with different colors. This 7-color print by Penny Feder, for example, is created using several pine and plywood blocks (note how she uses wood grain as a design element).

Harbor Eve (woodcut print) by Penny Feder

Harbor Eve (woodcut print) by Penny Feder

It is also possible to create complex, multicolored images using a single block. This technique is called reduction, because it involves successively carving away (or “reducing”) the block for each new color.

Burrowing Owl by Barbara Stikker is a 6-color reduction linocut print.

Burrowing Owl by Barbara Stikker is a 6-color reduction linocut print.

Reduction techniques require careful planning. The artist begins by printing the color that covers the broadest area, and continues carving and printing until he finishes with the color that covers the smallest area. The end results are intricate and richly detailed, as can be seen in the development of this print by William Hays.

The first three impressions in William Hays's linocut print, Stickneybrook.

The first three impressions in William Hays’s linocut print, Stickneybrook.

Stickneybrook by William Hays is a 9-color reduction linocut print.

Stickneybrook by William Hays is a 9-color reduction linocut print.

Intrigued? Take a look at even more linocut and woodcut prints, then stay tuned for my next post: a discussion of intaglio printing!


Read the second post in this series: for the love of prints, part 2

By |January 15th, 2016|articles|1 Comment

Winter 2016 Fashion Trends

Although our approach in the world of fashion is not one of trend-following, we find it interesting when we see that several of the designers with whom we work are thinking about similar ideas. This season, in particular, we found a few key themes running through our collection:

Hand-painting
As a company based in art and artists, we were particularly excited to see hand-painted techniques and effects in so many pieces.

The exemplar is Cynthia Ashby, who based so many pieces on hand-painting which she does herself to each individual piece. The Still Shirt has large swaths of hand painting on its collar and placket, forming a bold focal point on an elegantly simple shape. The more playful side of Ashby’s design sense shows up in the Flood Jacket and Trace Pants, where the painted bands are used to define shapes.

SKIF is working with a St. Louis-based artist to individually paint whimsical collages in black and white on oversize shirts. No two are alike – which is a good thing, we think!

Abstract Florals
We saw abstract florals in many collections and found that Comfy had ones which really spoke to us. Even for a non-flowery person like me, these monotone prints offer some bold pattern-work that works in a wardrobe dominated by black, and we love the variety of silhouettes to consider.

The Floral Verona Vest is such a great example of these non-fussy florals; its monochromatic pattern paired with a casual silhouette are the essence of a modern floral. Likewise, the even more abstracted pattern-work on the Floral Mesh Tee, making it easy to pair with jeans. We think the pairing of black and taupe in a floral print is so chic, especially in the easy shaped Lisbon Dress.

White Shirts
The greater fashion world decreed this season that “the white shirt is back!”, but we’ve always thought it’s been a great fashion staple. So imagine our delight to discover a few fabulous great white shirts for this collection.

Porto has created a sculpted shape in the super comfortable Lark Shirt. Stretch makes it comfortable; tucks and pleats create shape. Vitamin always creates some of the most interesting shirts we know, and this season’s Duet Shirt creatively mixes crisp elegance with playful black contrast stitching. And Planet’s Patchwork Shirt is an amusing play on a white shirt teamed with stripes and oxford cloth.

By |January 7th, 2016|articles|2 Comments

a toast to creativity

As we turn the calendar to 2016, I think it is a wonderful time to celebrate creativity in all its forms. Creativity is a vital part of being human, something that can be tapped by anyone. In today’s society, creativity is touted as central to innovation and new ideas.

Many of us look for ways to increase or stimulate our creativity; experts recommend everything from mindfulness and exercise to taking classes and playing games.

I believe that there is another source of creativity, one that comes from working with our hands and letting our minds loose. The act of making requires us to allow our hands to go to work and guide our minds, taking us to new places as objects and images take form before our eyes.

Imbued in the pieces we make are our histories as well. American art, craft, and design not only reflect the consciousness and imagination of our culture, but also contain memories of our past and stories of our present and future.

So why celebrate creativity at the beginning of this year? I believe the reason is simple: art, craft, and design are living and breathing components of our culture, components that are critical, yet often overlooked. In 2016, as we continue to explore our own creativity, let us recognize those who create beautiful, meaningful things with their hands. May the makers and artists, fashion designers and jewelers, painters and sculptors, glassblowers, potters, and quilters all have their moment in the sun.

I wish a most happy new year to all of you whose love, support, and encouragement for the arts are yearlong and lifelong.

By |December 31st, 2015|articles|2 Comments