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The Art of Printmaking: Original, Collectible Art, Accessibly Priced

Discover some wonderful examples of printmaking at Artizan Collective Gallery's Exhibition, The Design Room. Visit here for details.

The art world can at times be a daunting and intimidating one. Ambiguous work titles, impenetrable artist statements and on occasion a blank space that speaks volumes in place of a price tag… We try to make the experience a little more approachable of course; we offer a huge range of work with prices to suit every budget but even then, we fully understand that the prospect of buying an original work of art can feel like a big commitment, and as a purely indulgent expenditure the feeling of needing to justify a purchase is all too understandable.


Reproduction prints are of course one more affordable option and the right print, professionally produced on high quality stock with a limited-edition number, can be a valuable addition to any collection. Perhaps more importantly, if purchasing a print enables you to take away a representation of a work that you love, then that’s all that really matters.


Another alternative, and one that we’re personally really big fans of, is exhibition and artist books. From small guides and zines (often free or otherwise acquirable for a handful of pound coins) all the way to a professionally published biography of the artist that might set you back upwards of £40. These can be great keepsakes and reminders of that gallery visit you loved or the artist whose work you one day aspire to own.


But here we want to talk about something even better than both these options, a medium that is immensely popular amongst collectors of all standings, in part for its diversity and aesthetic style, but surely also because it frequently offers the chance to own original works of art for a fraction of what you might expect.



This is the wonderful world of printmaking, which critically, is distinct from that of reproduction prints. The only thing these two subsections of art have in common in fact, is the sharing of the word “print” in their titles. Unlike reproduction prints, which may also often be seen named giclee prints, printmaking is an artform in its own right just like oil or watercolour painting, and like these artforms it is a process by which original works of art are created.


And it is a rich and diverse one at that with printmaking encompassing a huge range of techniques and styles including linocuts, woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithographs, drypoint and monoprints. Each of these is its own unique practice, requiring vastly different skills and resulting in vastly different styles of work. But all are processes by which original work is made.


Where the conflation between reproduction prints and printmaking often arises, is edition numbers. In the case of reproduction prints this refers to the number of copies, the number of times a digital rendering of an original work is sent to the printer to be reproduced with high quality inks on archival quality papers. These numbers vary; a small edition may be as little as 50 or below with the maximum quite literally being limitless, with unlimited editions often the cheapest option for acquiring work.


In printmaking, the edition number refers to the number of the times the artists physically undertakes the printing process, the act of taking the block, etching, woodcut or whatever it might be, applying inks and paints, and physically creating a new and unique original work. It is done by hand and therefore even if this process is repeated, 5, 10 or 50 times, no two works will be the same because the human hand has had a role in producing them.



This is no trivial endeavour. Much the same as any other artform, there is technique and skill here akin to the careful manipulation of paint on canvas or chisel on stone. This is a process that takes time, perhaps minutes, more likely hours, and the methods involved can be fickle, with success only confirmed when the paper leaves the press. And this all must be preceded by the creation of the design itself; the woodblock, the lino, the etching, the implement with which the print will be made, where the skill of the printmaker is tested as they pre-judge every mark and how it will ultimately appear when it comes to printing.


All of this is what makes printmaking quite so special. Unique to any other form of artwork, exhibiting exceptional technical skill and craftsmanship, and offering original work for less than you might expect. We’re currently exhibiting a wonderful collection of printmaking in our showcase The Design Room, 30 printmakers working in a range of practices at the top of their respective fields, with framed, mounted and unmounted original works available to purchase from as little as £15.


One of our exhibiting artists is the talented Anna Grayson. Perhaps best known for her pastiche photography, she is a keen printmaker as well and has some tips for what to look out for when investing in the medium.




Because the artist can make several artworks for the same effort as one painting, say, they are cheaper to buy. So it is often possible to buy a handmade print by a well-known artist for an affordable price. They can be very affordable.

Prints get to interesting places. There are some very interesting collectors of prints, and it is not unusual to find another edition of a print you have bought in an important collection.


Prints can be good investments. There is something about numbers with prints going on here - they are made in enough numbers to get around and get known, but sufficiently rare to be sought after. This can be the case even with living artists.


Prints are easy to care for from a conservation point of view. Most prints are made with inks that are light fast so they can tolerate being hung in a light room (though out of direct sunlight please!). Provided they are properly mounted and framed they will last for decades, centuries indeed.


What to look out for: First and foremost, if you fall in love with it, it will be a good buy. Look out for ends of editions or short editions. Look out for artists who have had work hung in the academies - the RA, the RWA and in this region the South West Academy. The name "Double Elephant Print Workshop" is usually an indication of quality in Devon. But also have an eye out for new talent - you may get a real bargain here!


Do check artists out on Instagram. This is now the go-to platform for artists, arts organisations and galleries. Explore on Instagram to find the kind of thing you like. But buying from a reputable gallery is always a good idea.


What to avoid - make sure you are buying a handmade print and not a reproduction of a painting or drawing made into a giclee print. But remember, you can also get handmade digital prints, and these can be worth collecting if they are editioned and signed. Avoid like the plague misleading descriptions such as "watercolour print" - there is no such thing, it will be simply a giclee copy.


You can discover The Design Room at art-hub.co.uk/ex/tdr21 and visit the exhibition until June 27th at Artizan Collective Gallery on the Torquay high street.



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