Monday, March 26, 2012

Knowing Our Limits

© Hannah Phelps
Cheers to Art Buyers
2011 Annual Collector Card
relief print, 42/45

It is a good thing we painted outside when we could last week! The weather is back to normal - meaning cold and grey and threatening to be wet.
I have plenty to do inside anyway. I think the print I have been teasing you with is done. But I can't show it to you yet because I have to figure out how many of the prints are good enough to be members of the official edition.

Let's talk about what that means for a minute. I happen to have a handy book that explains a print edition very well:

"The practice of limiting the number of impressions of a print in order to create an artificial rarity for the benefit of the collector is a relatively recent development, dating only from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Often the impressions are signed and numbered by the artist; a number such as 6/20 indicates that the impression was the sixth in an edition of twenty impressions. When the edition is complete the plate or block is often defaced by scratching lines across it; this is known as 'canceling'. In the early days of printmaking editions were not limited: so long as demand continued the plate was used until it wore out."*

There is a lot to talk about here, so we are going to break it up into topics. The first item up for discussion:

Defacing blocks or plates - yikes! 

Remember that the seascape I am working on is a reduction relief, and the block gets ruined during the creation of the prints anyway. All the colors are printed from one block and material is removed for each layer. An artist could keep printing the last layer over and over again, but they can't recreate the whole print unless they start over with a whole new block. The process naturally cancels the edition. I kind of like how neat and tidy that is.

If step one for editioning is limiting the total number of prints, then that gets a check mark - the print edition has been limited by the reduction process. That doesn't mean that all the impressions will make the final cut.....

I will explain why in the next post.

* Goldman, Paul Looking at Prints, Drawings and Watercolours, Los Angeles:  British Museum Press, 1988, 26.


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