Art Terms

WHAT IS A PRINT?

Many methods have been devised since very early times to produce a surface from which a number of identical impressions could be taken. Printing of a sort could be said to exist as soon as the Sumerian made a triangular pointed tool to impress cuneiform symbols on clay, or used a hollowed out seal, sometimes cylindrical in form, to mould a figure in relief on the same material.
Currently printing may be divided into three general categories.
INTAGLIO. Indentations or irregularities are introduced into a plate. A heavy ink or other pigment is applied and is removed from the surface before printing but the pigment remains in the indentations. Under pressure these lines, dots etc. of ink may be transferred to a plastic material such as a damp paper, clay or wet plaster (all of which have been used.) On the print the pigment will appear to some extent in relief above the background. Etching and engraving are generally printed by this method; also rotogravure and collotype.

RELIEF PAINTING. Is done from a surface on which the indentations or hollowed-out areas are intended to remain free from pigment. The plain surface of the plate is carefully coated with ink, and this film of pigment is transferred by pressure to paper or other material on which the print is to be made. In this case the pigment lies flat on the surface of the print, or may even be slightly impressed into it.

In another method, the pigment is retained in some way on the actual printing surface without any perceptible difference of level. Lithography  is typical reproduction of this type; mezzotint and dry-point, where ink is retained by slight flanges or projections of metal raised above the surface of the plate, belonging more to this category than to ‘intaglio’. In this method the pigment will be flat on the printed surface without perceptible relief or indentation.

 

LINE ENGRAVING. A copper plate and a cutting tool called a graver or burin are all that is required. The cutting is made direct in the copper with a square or lozenge graver. In these prints the classical manner of holding the graver has been adopted: Against the palm, the blade between the second finger, and thumb driven in the line of the forearm. (This method was used by engravers up to the 17th. Century. The cross hold, with the blade sliding across the thumb, was invented for lettering and banknotes.) The tool is sharpened with under surfaces true, parallel and without small turned-up facets used by lettering engravers. As far as possible the line is originated with the tool and not copied from a trace or previously scratched or etched line. A clan groove is cut into the plate direction being controlled by rotating the plate rather than by movement of the hand. By increasing the angle of attack of the tool to the plate surface-and , of course, applying proportionally more pressure-a deeper and wider groove may be cut. Very little burr is raised above the plate surface when a straight lines are cut, and a slight burr thrown up on the outside of a curve is generally removed with a scraper used parallel with the surface.
Prints from plates engraved in this way show a precise, definite line in strong relief above the print surface and, owing to the resistance of the metal and to the fact that the engraver pushes the line instead of drawing it, these lines show great tension compared with these made by methods which do not involve direct cutting. In work done by this method the depth of the cut into the plate, and thus, the relief of the printed line above the surface of the background, is more important in expression than the colour of the pigment.
Note on the Techniques Used by Atelier 17: Stanley Hayter.
(Published in ‘Atelier 17’ The Leicester Galleries 1947.)

 

HOW IS AN ETCHING MADE?

ETCHING. Offers a more indirect method than engraving of producing the indentations necessary for impression. In principle the surface of the plate to be etched is sealed with a coating which resists acids; with a steel point, other tool, or by applying pressure, openings in the form of lines, dots, textures are made in this coating. By permitting acid of different strengths to attack these openings (or the acid to attack for various lengths of time) the metal is eaten away to a greater or lesser extent. The coatings used (grounds) may be applied by dabbing or rolling on heated plates essentially they should resist acid perfectly, adhere to the plate, and support indefinitely needling or scratching without cracking off. They consist usually of bitumen, beeswax and resin. Sandpaper, coarse stone, toothed metal tools have also been used to give a greater freedom and breadth to etching.

SOFTGROUND ETCHING, in which the coating on the plate remains adhesive and sensitive to pressure, is a variation of the etching process. In the conventional use of the method, a plate is coated with a ground containing grease to prevent its hardening and covered with a sheet of paper. Drawing on this paper with a pencil causes particles of the sensitive ground to adhere to the underside of the paper wherever the pencil touches. When the paper is lifted the plate will be exposed in a design which reproduces the lines drawn through the texture of the paper used, used, the trace being stronger or weaker in proportion to the pressure exerted on the pencil point. Then every trace can be etched into the plate to the required degree, generally with Dutch mordant, unless intentional blurring or bubble spotting is required, when strong nitric acid is used.
As a further development of this method,  a variety of other textures-silk, gauze, net, flesh, wood, etc.-reproducing their characteristic textures in the sensitive coating. When a plate has been prepared in some such textural pattern, those parts in which no texture is desired, may be ‘stopped’ with varnish and the pattern etched with acid only, in certain desired shapes. Since many of these textures will expose only, in certain desired shapes. Since many of these textures will expose only a small percentage of the plate surface to the action of the acid, the resulting tone will print with some degree of transparency. Thus it is possible, by repeating the process, to overlap the same or fresh textures so that all are visible. The limit is reached when no more of the original surface remains. Should previous work exist in the plate, it will be filled and sealed by the ground, and thus will not be affected.
Another advantage of this ground springs from the fact that it can be drawn through freely with a wooden stylus of any desired breadth without even the slightest resistance being offered by the hard ground to the point. Striated bands like those made with a stick dipped in ink can be etched into the plate, and a trace will have complete spontaneity. It can then be varied in intensity by the treatment with acid.

Note on the Techniques Used by Atelier 17: Stanley Hayter.
(Published in ‘Atelier 17’ The Leicester Galleries 1947.)

 

HOW IS AN AQUATINT MADE?

AQUATINT also uses acid to eat away the plate but it is again applied to areas rather than in lines or dots. In one method, resin dust is deposited on the plate, the plate heated to make the grains melt and adhere to it, and areas of different darkness are etched by successive stoppings during the progress of the biting. Graduations of strength are also made by manipulation of the acid, by rocking the plate, or by applying acid in spots. Normally this method gives characteristically opaque tones in prints in contrast to the transparent tone in the soft-ground technique-although a heavier coverage of resin will reduce this, and any previous work on a the plate will, of course, be exposed to attack by acid. Another method of aquatint is the use of a hard etching ground opened by pressing fine sandpaper into it. In effect this is similar to the soft-ground method described, although it permits less variation of texture.

Note on the Techniques Used by Atelier 17: Stanley Hayter.
(Published in ‘Atelier 17’ The Leicester Galleries 1947.)

HOW IS A DRYPOINT MADE?

DRYPOINT, which involves the use of a point (steel, sapphire, or diamond) directly on the plate, appears to be one of the simpler methods of working a plate. However owing to the fragility of the result in printing (no two prints being absolutely identical), and the extreme variety of line obtained by different angles of attack, it is found to involve greater manual dexterity than the more mechanically elaborate etching process. When a line is drawn with a point on a plate surface a slight indentation is produced, but it is almost exclusively the burr or flange raised by the tool, which retains the ink in the plate surface and consequently determines the line on the print. This flange may be double, fine and sharp like a knife-edge; single and strong; or single and saw-edged (when it will print a dense matted black like velvet). These variations are caused by changes of angle between point and the direction of line. The resistance of the lines to pressure in printing is also variable, even when they have been reinforced by steel or chromium plating. Drypoint can only be printed by similar methods to intaglio, that is, with a heavy ink wiped clean in open areas of the plate, but all of the other techniques give plates which can be printed in relief if necessary.
Note on the Techniques Used by Atelier 17: Stanley Hayter.
(Published in ‘Atelier 17’ The Leicester Galleries 1947.)

WHAT IS A MEZZOTINT?

Mezzotint (mezzo = half and tinta = tone), is a reverse engraving process used on a copper or steel plate to produce illustrations in relief with effects of light and shadow. The surface of a master plate is roughened with a tool called a rocker so that if inked, it will print solid black. The areas to be white or gray in the print are rubbed down so as not to take ink. It was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries to reproduce portraits and other paintings, but became obsolete with the introduction of photoengraving.
John Martin was a master in this area and Wright of Derby paintings were reproduced to stunning effect using this method.
During the 1920;s Frank Short revived it and produced beautiful atmospheric mezzotints. On a more contemporary note, Bill Jacklin has used this method of print-making.

HOW IS A LITHOGRAPH MADE?

Lithography – Printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that ink sticks only to the design areas, and is repelled by the non-image areas. Lithography was invented in 1798 in Solnhofen, Germany by Alois Senefelder. Originally the process was used on stone. The process starts with drawing the image on the stone by using a greasy black lithographic pencil. These usually take three to twelve days, depending on the size and complexity of the image. The main problem is that mistakes cannot be erased. Small corrections can be made with a sharp knife, but if major corrections are needed, it is necessary to start again on a new stone.

However, by the 1840’s the process had developed such that it was used as a form of reproduction for drawings in folios or books most notably David Roberts, Gould Birds etc. These were often sold either in black or white or, at an extra cost, hand tinted in colour. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, many French artists such as Daumier, Delacroix, and later Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Braque and Miro used this as an art form. By the late 1930’s until the 1970’s, the French printer, Mourlot, dominated the French market producing many lithographs after and by contemporary artists of the day. Many of which are highly prized and collected today.

In Britain however, by the end of the 19th century, lithography was used by many artist’s including Whistler and Pennell .Some of their works were produced as auto-lithographs in ‘The Studio’ magazine. Pennell with Stephen Copley, set up the ‘Senfelder Club’ in 1909. Lithography had a brief revival in the period 1945-1980. Printers such as The Curwen press (still working) and ‘The Baynard Press’ were used to print lithographs for artists such as Henry Moore, John Piper, Graham Sutherland etc. This form of printing was also extended into book production such as Frederick Muller’s series of Poetry, children’s book illustration and in Private Press production.

Today metal sheets are used instead of stone and a lithograph can be built up with many layers of printing to get the desired result. David Ferry would have printed up to ten layers on his prints.

Offset Lithography is a special photomechanical technique in which the image to be printed is transferred to the negative plates and printed onto papers. Offset lithography is very well adapted to colour printing.

WHAT IS AN OFFSET LITHOGRAPH?

Offset printing is a widely used printing technique where the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.

WHAT IS AN INKJET OR GICLEE?

A Giclee or Inkjet is a computerized reproduction technique in which the image and topology are generated from a digital file and printed by a special ink jet printer, using ink, acrylic or oil paints. Inkjet printing offers one of the highest degree of accuracy and richness of colour available in any reproduction techniques.
It can be printed on paper or canvas and re-touched by hand with paint etc.Today this is a very popular form of printing or reproducing artwork to a high standard. Many artists reproduce their paintings onto paper as signed limited editions, using this method.

More recently, it has been used to make copies of popular prints and only the paper and size used can distinguish them from the original. However,  I have seen prints printed in exactly the same size as the original, therefore one has to reply on the type of paper used in its production.

HOW CAN I HANG MY PICTURES?

(From ‘Space’ magazine)

When hanging two pictures side by side (one portrait, one landscape), which edge should line up, the top or bottom? Does it depend on the height of the wall, or should one just go with what looks right?

Quote from Faye Fleming, curator at the Timothy Taylor Gallery, London.
‘When hanging pictures of different sizes, one of the best ways to make them look good is to find the midpoint –ie. a central point on the wall where the centre of each picture should sit, usually about 1.5 metres from the floor. Then the tops and bottoms can be all different heights, but there’s still a sense of order.

If you have a horizontal piece of furniture or a feature you want to set off, try hanging pictures just above it, with the bottom edges matching. But beware hanging them too high up in a room-the rule is you should be able to look slightly down on them.

For that trendy, messy-wall look with lots of photographs in higgledy-piggledy order and mismatched frames, decide on the space you want to fill (roughly where the top, bottom and side edges will be), hang a picture in the centre and take it from there.’