joe essig fine art

What is printmaking?


"The Etching Process" — a new video by Joe Essig
About the etching process and some thoughts about handmade prints...

Etchings are made from copper plates one at a time. Etchings are inked and wiped by hand very much the same way for about five centuries. One of my prints takes 30 to 90 minutes to ink, wipe , and run through a press, and then another 2 days to dry in blotters. I must re-ink and wipe all my plates to make the next print in the sequence, usually less than 100 in total which is called an edition when it is numbered and signed.

Etchings have a distinctly tactile appearance when compared with many forms of photographic reproduction. This is partly due to the fact that the artist has created a dimensional object as he works to establish his image on a copper plate. Tools and chemicals transform the metal into a tiny topography that allows ink to be trapped and manipulated in precise ways by the artists wiping. The prints surface is embossed as a result of a huge pressure exerted by the printing presses rollers which drive dampened paper down into the plates tiny crevices to pull the ink out creating the original print.

Are you a print customer? The answer to this question begins with the ability to see and appreciate the nuance of a hand crafted object from a mass produced one. It has a little to do with faith that human measurements provide more unique expressions, and a little to do with the knowledge that copies usually fall short of the original in some way. If you are willing, consult your experience. Think about a well known painting which first became known to you through a reproductive process in a book or a slide. Then think of returning to the reproduction after seeing the real work. In many cases the reproduction will pale in comparisom, but at the same time be more greatly appreciated when the full experience of the original is an actual memory for the reproduction to draw upon. What do you think?

Ironically many prints are commonly first seen as reproductions. Then if you do see an original print in a museum or gallery you see it all the way behind glass, and not just behind a coat of varnish like a painting. Go see an original print, especially an etching first seen in a catalog, and put it to the test of your own experience.