I mean, all these years, you thought art prints are reproductions. Suddenly, some guy on the internet is telling you, ‘some art prints are original’.
Well, believe me, there are ‘original’ art prints available in the market. And there is a huge demand for original art prints too.
Now, the question is, ‘what makes an art print original?’
To understand why these art prints are called original, we have to look past and understand the way these were created.
History of ‘Original’ Art Printing
In early days of printmaking, an artist had to create a mirror image of the original art before making its prints. In the same way you make impression from a rubber stamp, the artist had to apply ink on to this mirror image to produce correct prints.
Artists created mirror images of original art on a plate, stone or stencil. These ‘rubber stamps’ were called print matrixes. From one print matrix, printmakers could create several prints.
But, there was a limitation to the number of prints that could be made with one print matrix. Because of wear and tear, a print matrix lasted only for a maximum of a few 100s of prints. After that, the artist had to destroy it before making new one. Since the process of creating print matrix was hard labor, most of the artists made only a few print matrixes in their entire life.
But, how did these prints came to be known as original?
As you saw, artists made prints from the artwork created on the matrix. But, they never created a copy of the original art on the matrix, instead they created copy of ‘mirror image’.
So, literally, the artists created a completely new and original artwork just for making the prints. And from this ‘new original art’, they produced prints. This explains why the art industry named these prints as original art prints.
In short, these prints are called original because of the fact that they were not created by copying the original artwork. But, they were created by copying a new piece of art created from the scratch.
Original vs Limited Edition Art Prints
Everything described above about original art might seem like a perfect description for limited edition prints. right? So, are they the same?
Well, no. They are not exactly the same. Let’s put it this way.
All original art prints are limited edition prints. But, all limited edition prints may or may not be original art prints. Confused? Here is how it works.
As already said, original art prints are made from specially made matrix, which is usually a stone or plate. The artist won’t be able to produce an infinite amount of prints from one matrix. Wear and tear is always a threat. So, all the artist manages to produce from a particular matrix is a very limited number of prints. May be a few hundreds.
That is why we said, ‘all original art prints are ‘limited edition prints’.
Conversely, limited edition prints can be produced using any available method. Some limited edition prints are even produced using digital printmaking.
However, you cannot say digital prints are ‘original’. In digital printing, all a printmaker need is a scanned copy or a photograph of the original painting. The involvement of the original artist or his skill is not necessary in the production of limited edition prints. That is why we said, not all limited edition art prints are ‘original’.
So, you know what are original art prints, why they are called ‘original’ and what makes original different from the rest. Next time you come across an ‘art print’, ask yourself – is it an original art print?