"WHAT IS AN ORIGINAL PRINT?"
Throughout his career, artist Timothy Jon Struna has been working and experimenting with many different mediums. COPPER PLATE, DRYPOINT ENGRAVING has become one of his favorites. He is often asked "What is an original print?". An original print is a piece of artwork specifically starting from a plate that is created, executed and intended to make the finished work by the artist/printmaker.
The artists' intention to create an original print is the key to the "originality" of the finished work. For example, if the artist first conceives of a watercolor, then has the painting copied by a photomechanical process, the result is not an "original" but merely a "reproduction". The difference lies in the printmaking procedure. There are many different kinds of printmaking procedures - all of which are characterized by whom and how the plate is made, printed, colored and so on.
As an art consumer/collector it is important to know what you are buying. We'd like to take this opportunity to explain the engraving process he uses.
First he sketches an idea, always thinking of balance and design. Because it is a direct print, Tim will have to engrave the lines in reverse so that when the plate is pressed onto paper the image will be the correct orientation.
He uses various sharp pointed tools to pull through the copper. (fig. 1) By hand engraving, he is able to control the depth of each line, allowing for darker or lighter values. This method of cutting makes a ridge along the incisions, forming a "V-groove" , and displaces the copper to one or both sides of the line called a burr. Ink will catch underneath these burrs, giving the drypoint line its characteristic soft, velvety appearance absent in the clean edged, acid bitten lines of an etching.
Once the plate is completed, black ink is applied. He then takes a cloth and wipes the excess ink off, leaving the ink inside the lines. (fig.2)
The plate lays flat on a crank press bed, facing up. A damp piece of 100% Rag Paper is placed on top of the inked plate. Pressure is made by hand cranking the wheel of his press thus pulling the bed through. The paper molds itself to the shape of the plate by sliding through the rollers. This creates the black and white impression of the engraving.(fig.3)
After the ink dries, Tim hand watercolors over the black and white image - finishing the last step of the process.(fig.4)
Each finished engraving is individually inked, hand pulled and painted, which means that each one will be a little different from the next. Slight changes in the amount of ink applied as well as the hand water coloring account for the uniqueness of each engraving. Also, as the plate wears out, so do the lines. With use, the grooves in the copper flatten, making the printed lines become softer and more painterly, differing from the darker lines of earlier in the same edition. Tim pulls 100 prints from one plate, usually pulling and painting about 5-10 at a time. Each is titled, signed and numbered. Some editions will run for several years. Others sell out in one season. The engraving process originates back to the early 15th century. It is a beautifully intricate art form, which requires a lot of time and patience in addition to strength and experience. It leaves behind a wonderfully textured, archival piece of artwork.