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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!