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13th Jun 2014

What is an Original Art Print in the Digital Age?

In today’s world of reproductions and digital works the difference between an original print and a reproductive fine art print can be difficult to differentiate. An original art print is a unique print that does not exist separately as another piece of art. Generally any artwork that is a print is a one of a multiple of the same artwork that is published as an edition.

Prior to photography and then fine art digital printing original prints by master artists were easy to distinguish.  The only possible confusion for an untrained eye could be difficult to differentiate a drawing made with ink from a black and white traditional print. However, if one looks closely, comparing an ink drawing to a traditional print by the same artist, the difference can be seen due to the variety and fluidity of line that an artist’s ink pen allows.

Photographs are all originals. Even a photograph of the ceiling taken by a child is an original. That something is an original and does not exist elsewhere does not make it art worth collecting, except possibly to the friends and relatives of the artist or child. Paradoxically, the rule of thumb is that an original artwork by an artist is more valuable than a reproductive print of the same size by the same artist.

Photographs are also considered to be prints as previously to the digital camera they were created from negatives. Creating a photograph from a negative is a printmaking process, just as creating an image from a plate, woodcut, or stone is a printmaking process.

Exodus 20 (Ten Commandments) George Washington by Judy Rey Wasserman

Ten Commandments – George Washington by Judy Rey Wasserman is a contemporary example of a black and white hand drawn work that when digitally printed on paper can be difficult to distinguish from the original work with the naked eye.

In the digital age photographs are often uploaded directly from digital cameras to computers. The physical negative disappears from the process. The file can be directly printed by special printers that use fine art pigment inks.

Then the uploaded photographic image may be manipulated by the artist in graphics software such as Photoshop, and even drawn upon by the artist using a mouse or computer stylus. When this is done we can understand that the computer becomes like a glove on the artist’s hand, which holds the “paintbrushes” that apply the ink through the printed onto a support such as paper or canvas.

Is such a printed original work of art considered to be a print or a “painting”?

Currently, in the art world the answer is that such a work can be considered either a print or a painting. However, if there is more than one of these works printed and distributed, then it is a print as it is part of an edition, even if that edition only has two copies.

Artists today are creating works directly on computers. Hand held pens and brushes have been replaced by their counterparts that make all kinds of strokes in graphics software.

In addition paintings and drawings can be scanned into an artist’s computer to become a part of a new work that only exists in digital format until printed. An artwork that includes an image initially hand drawn or painted and then altered significantly or combined with other images via a graphics software program is sometimes called a tradigital print.  These works are original prints as the drawing(s) or painting(s) that were initially created off the computer have been significantly altered or added to, thus creating a significantly different image than the original(s).

Such prints are not reproductive prints, as these are made to as closely as possible replicate a specific painting or drawing that was created and exits on its own outside of any computing device.

Dollar Bill, 2012, Series J by Judy Rey Wasserman (Ten Commandments)

The artwork image above is of an original print. Here you can see that the portrait of George Washington above has been digitally inserted into another work also created by the artist’s hand. Actually, in the In God We Trust Money series often other pieces of the bills are also created much larger and then scanned in to be used and digitally altered via graphics software. Since Wasserman uses original Torah font letters for each and every troke, crating a work as small as a life-size front of a USD bill would be difficult. However, by using 21st century technology her creative idea is accomplished. Even though individual pieces of this work were created outside of the print, the image as a whole does not exist except as a print. Thus this is an example of an original print and a tradigital print.

Prints can cross over to become paintings when the artist applies a significant amount of paint to them after they are printed. Andy Warhol turned many of his prints into paintings by painting under or over the silk-screened image.  This made them significantly different from each other and individually unique, even though the silk-screened image was the same on the canvases. Artists today are also painting on their digitally produced and printed works to create individual paintings.

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com.

Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com


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