An educational resource based on the holdings of HKOP, covering the various techniques in Relief printing, Intaglio, Planography, Screenprint and Others.
Printmaking is the art of using printing plates (matrices) as a medium. Common matrix materials include wood, plastic, copper, silk screen, and stone.
Oil paintings and drawings are a direct method of expression as they can be drawn directly onto paper or canvas. In contrast, printmaking is an indirect form of expression as the artwork must be transferred to the final print using a matrix. It is a complicated process where the artist only sees their work at the moment of printing, which makes the creative process full of surprises.
A printmaker can make many prints from one matrix. This type of reproducibility makes print art more affordable than other types of art, and is the reason why print art is often considered an entry-level art collector’s item.
An edition is the total number of prints produced by the printmaker with the same matrix. For example, if the printmaker produces 15 prints, the prints exist together in an edition of 15. The edition number is usually written as a fraction. For example, 3/15 means that the work is the third out of a total of 15 prints.
The Artist’s Proof (A.P.) are prints kept by the printmaking artist. The maximum number of A.P. is usually calculated as 10% of the edition. For example, if there is an edition of 30, the maximum number of A.P. would be three.
The Edition Varied or Edition Variable (E.V.) are works from an edition that are made on different paper or printed with different inks. Some artists and printmakers choose to number these prints with Roman numerals instead of Arabic numerals. For example, 1/10 would be written as I/X.
The Printer’s Proof (P.P.) refers to prints that are for the printer’s use, usually just one or two prints and do not count as part of the edition.
B.A.T. stands for bon à tirer in French, which means “printable.” The printmaker uses this version as the approved printing standard to authorise the start of printing.
The Trial Proof (T.P.) is known as the “trial version” and refers to all the prints that came before the completion of B.A.T.
Prints that are not for sale are called hors commerce (H.C.). They are usually given to friends by the artist, and are very rare.
Printmaking is a complex process which usually involves large machines such as printing presses. Therefore it is very important for printmakers to have the support of printmaking workshops. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a print boom on the east and west coasts of the United States, known as the Postwar Print Renaissance. Printmaking workshops such as Universal Limited Art Editions, Tamarind Institute, Crown Point Press, Gemini Graphics Editions Limited, and Tyler Graphics etc., sprang up during that time.
Tamarind Institute was founded in 1970 as the affiliated printmaking workshop of the University of New Mexico in the United States. At that time, abstract expressionism was popular, and most people rejected the mediums of lithography and collaborative printmaking. In view of this, American printmaker June Wayne founded the Tamarind Institute, hoping to train high quality technical printmaking talents and encourage more artists to create lithographs. It offered the Printer Training Program to a maximum of eight students each year, as well as a Master Printer Apprentice programme to one or two selected students to pursue in the following year.
In 1987, master American printmaker Kenneth E. Tyler founded Tyler Graphics in New York. He studied printmaking at the well-known lithography studio Tamarind Institute, and founded Gemini Graphic Editions Limited (Gemini G.E.L.) in 1966. He also collaborated with famous artists such as David Hockney, Robert Motherwell, Roy Lichtenstein, etc. Tyler once said, “Here is a workshop, there are no rules, do what you want to do.” Many printmakers have been inspired by him to experiment with different fields of printmaking.
Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) is a studio located in Long Island that is focused on book publishing and printmaking. It was founded in 1957 by Tatyana Grosman because of her love of lithography. She inspired many artists to try this medium, including avant-garde artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Around 1960, MoMA of New York began collecting the first edition of every print produced by ULAE, and still keeps to this tradition today.
Gemini Graphic Editions Limited (Gemini G.E.L.) was founded in 1966, and has published many limited edition prints and sculptures. When Sidney Felsen recalled why he founded the studio together with Stanley Grinstein, he said “we thought it’d be fun to be around the artists. We decided to have a print shop for fun.” In the following 50 years, Gemini G.E.L. became a hotbed for creating prints, and artists who have collaborated with Gemini G.E.L. include Willem de Kooning, Vija Celmins, and Richard Serra to name a few. In 1981, the National Gallery in Washington set up a permanent archive of over 2,300 prints published by Gemini G.E.L.
Some say that the Atelier 17 represents the development of modern printmaking in Europe. In 1927, English abstract expressionist Stanley William Hayter founded the studio in France. It was named after the street it was located on, 17 Rue Campagne-Première. Hayter hoped the studio could become a space for open collaboration where the traditional hierarchy between teacher and student did not exist. During the Second World War, the studio moved to New York, which not only attracted many exiled Europeans in the United States, but also brought printmaking into the fore of the American art world. After Hayter’s death, the studio was renamed Atelier Contrepoint, and remains active today.
Crown Point Press is an art publishing, gallery and independent bookstore studio located in San Francisco. Founded by writer and print master Kathan Brown in 1962, it attracts printmakers from all over the world to take residence there, and to revive intaglio etching.