Printmaking is a special kind of art. Graphics can be reproduced in multiple copies. And each image is an autonomous work. This allows a kind of bilocation – the artist can be present in several places at once. But before this can happen, a matrix has to be made – the base from which the print is created. The work on the matrix can be tedious, but the moments spent with its matter are a kind of meditation.
Over the centuries, artists have developed techniques, such as etching, lithography, and others, that we call classical. They require a well-equipped workshop. Now that printmaking has become a means of artistic expression, many artists are experimenting with different materials and printing methods. I like to explore my own techniques. Sometimes cheap material gives good results. The strength of printmaking forms. You can express so much through the shape on the white paper background! The black shapes can be visual representations of every topic. Everything depends on one’s imagination and on the designs.
Digital technology in artistic graphics
The development of digital graphics has an impact on fine art printmaking. Artists are increasingly turning to the computer to create images. The computer has become a tool not only for graphic design but also for creating individual, unique images that are treated as works of art, and artistic expression. Images are created as vector graphics, bitmap graphics, or a combination of both. These works can be published digitally – on the web, or as prints. Theoretically, you can print any number of copies of an image. This is technically possible, but then the artwork loses its uniqueness. To preserve its “artistic” character, the author must specify a limited number of copies. In addition, when information about the technique is given, the prints are called by fancy names, for example, solvent print, Giclee, etc. There are more and more digital prints at exhibitions. Artists don’t have access to traditional printmaking studios or don’t want to get their hands dirty. Digital graphics are much easier to make, and computer graphics programs offer great possibilities. It would seem that in this situation traditional graphics should die.
The name graphics are applied to various types of images that we see every day in computer browsers. Various kinds of design, even technical illustrations can be so named. Artistic works made in this technique must retain their unique character in the confusion.
Digital graphics vs Traditional graphics
An image made in one of the traditional techniques, hand-printed on a graphic press is paper covered with a print. Paper designed specifically for this purpose, thick, thin, with a special texture. The print smells of ink. The ink creates a slight protrusion, a structure that can be felt under the fingers. The recipient is in contact with the work not only visually, but also physically. No digital print, even the best, can provide such an experience.
Coincidence in printing
And then there is one more factor that makes traditional graphics unrivalled. When printing by hand, coincidences happen – as they do in manual work. A careful author can use coincidences in creative ways. Unexpected events open up new directions. Even when we print from a ready-made die and when it seems that everything is already planned, printing will be a mechanical duplication.
I print my graphics in small runs. My current output device is a press in my studio. Most often – 30 pieces. Printing is not fascinating. Although there is something magical about seeing the same image in multiple copies which are smelling of fresh printing ink. The first prints are the most interesting. That’s when you can see if the matrix reflects what I intended. Almost always, the first print is a clue to further work on the matrix. But when that first print shows that I’m going in the right direction, that the work can end up in a good painting – that’s when the joy is! The first prints from a given master also show its potential. Every material has its own characteristic trace in the reflection. Printmaking – is a search for traces. It is necessary to find the right ones. From their composition, images are created.
Graphic studio – my paradise
In my graphic studio, I can feel like a creator. First I make a matrix and then I print. Copies of the images come out from under the roller of the graphic press. It is up to me how many will be created. I feel I can do a lot with the graphic press!