A print off the old wood-block

Ah yes, art world jargon. To the uninitiated, it really can be quite confuddling. Like golf. What little birdies and great eagles have to do with hitting a few balls some of us will never know. But finding out about original prints, editions and reproductions? Now that we can do! Not only are original prints affordable, they are some of the best pieces money can buy. So you just sit back and put your feet up while we demystify the enigmas surrounding printmaking.

An original print is an artwork that has been created and hand printed by the artist from a plate, block, stone, or stencil, which has also been handmade to produce the desired image. Producing an original print can take numerous forms: there is the screenprint, as popularised by Pop Art progenitor Andy Warhol; woodblocks, like those of Albrecht Dürer; William Blake’s relief etchings; stone lithography; engraving; monoprinting; and collagraphs. Just as a painter can choose between oil paint and watercolour, the artist-printmaker chooses the medium which best offers the desired effects and working method. Once an artist has created a new work using one or more of these printmaking medias, then you have an original print.

An artist will usually create a number of identical prints as part of an edition. The individual prints are themselves known as impressions and they will all have been signed by the artist and numbered to indicate the number of prints in the edition.  So an edition of seventy prints will be marked 1/70, 2/70 and so on. Some editions can be as small as 6, but you will rarely find editions with over 150 prints. What you mind find, however, is a print marked A/P instead of with a number. No need for alarm, A/P simply means ‘Artist’s Proof,’ which are the first few prints to be made. Traditionally these were used as a benchmark for the artist to maintain the consistency of ink application (and therefore the appearance of the print) across the whole edition, and nowadays they are something of a collector’s item.

As each original print is printed by hand, meticulous care and skill are required to create a consistent edition, as well as a great deal of time.  Always worth remembering when reflecting on price; it is not just a pretty picture you are paying for, but also for an artist’s time, dedication and craftsmanship.

With the evolution of digital media as an art form, and the ever-rising appreciation for flashy photography, you are more than likely to come across a digital print. Any art designed by an artist using a computer, or indeed a camera, classifies as digital art, and is still considered original art.

Reproduction on the other hand, is a copy of an already existing work. Usually an original work has been photographed, or scanned and then mechanically printed en-masse, creating what is in essence a poster, and not an original piece of art. Confusion as to authenticity can arise when reproductions have been numbered and signed by the artist. Don’t fret however, you will never come across a reproduction at an Affordable Art Fair as we are only interested in promoting original art!

Making the most of the fair »
Kick starting a collection »
Nail the art of framing and hanging »

What is an original print?

  1. An artwork created and hand printed by the artist.
  2. An arwork signed and numbered by the artist.
  3. An original print can take many forms, from screenprints to woodblocks, and etchings to photography.