Frequently Asked Questions


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What is an "original" print?

When one is talking about original Etchings, Woodcuts and Linoprints, a plate or "matrix" is worked upon by the printmaker by hand to alter the surface in such a way that it will hold applied printing ink, which will then offset onto paper under pressure. Each time the plate off-sets the ink on to a piece of paper it is called a print or impression.  Every print produced in this way is considered an original - the creation of the plate and all the steps leading to the impressions have all been created by the hand of the artist.

What is a "variable edition"?

Over the years it has evolved that I generally do not pull the whole number of editioned prints all at one time. Instead I will pull one or two and eventually when needed, another. This means that my editions are what is called a "variable edition" - the limited number of prints is respected but there are variations in the inking of the plate depending on how I chose to mix the colours at that particular time. I like this as it reflects the fact that each of my original etchings is produced by hand, in many stages over, a period of time.

What is a "Limited Signed Edition"?

In handmade printmaking, an edition is the number of impressions that will be pulled from a plate. For example, if the edition is to consist of ten impressions pulled from the plate, each impression is signed and numbered, e.g.  No. 1 of 10 or 1/10. This identifies each print and is a guarantee by the artist that there will never be more than that number pulled. Sometimes the printmaker will pull the full edition straight off, but sometimes they may choose to print it over a period of time.  I prefer to pull one or two impressions at a time, as and when they are needed.
If an original print is signed but is not numbered in any way, there is a chance that it is an "open edition" meaning that an unlimited number of prints may be produced.

What is the difference between an original “artist’s print” and a "giclee" print?

An artist’s print is produced as described above and below.  A giclee print is a reproduction of an existing work of art (e.g.  a watercolour, acrylic or oil painting) made using an ink-jet printer and pigment inks. The “original” is the existing artwork (as that is the piece of work created by hand) and the giclee prints are “reproductions” of that original.  

How is an Etching produced?

When I have an idea for an etching, I begin with a drawing, the same size as the metal plate that I will be working on.  Drawing is a way of immersing myself in the image.  There are numerous stages to producing one of my etchings - I might start with line, then pull a proof, put on an aquatint, then proof again and then I might repeat one or all of the processes to increase texture or darken a tone, sometimes many times, the plate going in and out of the acid-bath.
The general process is as follows. The metal plate (usually copper, steel or zinc), is covered with a waxy "ground" on one side. The ground is then worked into with an etching needle which removes the ground wherever the printmaker wishes to expose the surface of the plate. When the process is complete, the plate is put into a bath of an acidic substance which eats away at the exposed metal, how much is determined by how long the plate is left in the bath. This creates lines/marks below the surface level of the plate and these marks hold the printing ink when it is applied to the plate. Then the excess ink is wiped away with scrim, leaving ink trapped in the lines/marks. Next a piece of dampened paper is laid over the top of the plate which sits on the bed of an etching press and the two are run together under the press-roller by turning a handle at the side. The pressure from the roller forces the damp paper down into the marks below the surface and picks up the ink held there. The paper is then dried flat under weights and the print is then considered finished. The printmaker can also use a variety of other processes such as aquatint, sugar-lift and drypoint to create a range of marks which will hold the ink in different ways. 
Wiping the plate is a hand-process, often quite creative in its own right, and slight variations between prints in an edition can sometimes be discerned if they were to be put side by side. This is not a negative point, it is the result of a non-mechanical process and makes each print individual. And some printmakers delight in varying the wiping and/or colouring within an edition.  The plate can be wiped with a single colour or several colours can be applied to different parts of the plate and printed at the same time. 

Rochat Press