Proofs, and more proofs

A recent conversation highlighted for me that there are some misconceptions about printing proofs that are made in the course of developing or finalizing a handmade print. To clarify here are some brief definitions. Please let me know if there are more questions.

#1. A Trial or Working Proof is a print made during the course of developing or working on a plate so the printmaker can determine what to work on next. If any of these are saved it can be interesting to see the artist’s process. These are rarely signed, and are often on inferior paper since they are literally “proofs”.

#2. A State Proof is a trial/working proof pulled when the artist feels the image may be ready to print the final Edition. If a major adjustment is made that changes the image significantly then that means there’s a new state. There can be many state proofs pulled when testing different papers or ink colors, until the final choice is made and the edition is printed. If they are saved as Monoprints they are signed and marked with the State #.

#3. A Counterproof (also called a Cognate) is an image that is printed from a fresh print while it is still damp, rather than from an inked plate, by simply putting fresh paper over the wet print and running the two through the press. The image will be reversed from the finished print. The image on the inked plate can also be transfered to another plate surface that might be worked into a new print, reversed of course. Sometimes this reverse print is called a Transfer Print, but that term is also used for other types of image making so that can be confusing. These prints are all unique since they do not match the edition.

#4. Artist Proofs are identical to the Editioned prints. Usually an Edition is planned to have a set number of prints, say 25, but it may have required 30 or 40 or more prints to be pulled in order to have the right amount of perfect prints. Out of those extras there may be 5 that are also perfect and these are reserved for the artist’s own use. The Edition is signed and numbered and the remaining Artist’s Proofs are marked as AP#/#.

#5. Printer’s Proofs are like Artist’s Proofs in that they are identical to the Edition, but they are copies given to the master printer who worked on the actual inking and pulling of the prints with or for the artist. They may be given to the printer in lieu of some part of payment for working for the artist. They are signed by the artist and marked PP#/#.

#6. Publisher’s Proofs are copies reserved for the the patron/publisher who provided financial support for the project. These are signed and marked Pub.P#/#. The “publisher” is often a gallery that represents the artist.

So it’s easy to see that an Edition of 25 might have required twice that many prints to be made to provide all those extra people with their own prints. These are usually held out of the market until all the Edition prints are sold, or archived for many years, hoping for an increase in their value with the growing reputation of the artist.

Also, to clarify a couple of other things that are unique to prints:
Unique is not just a term we use to show off what we think is a special print. It refers to the print itself being a one-of-a-kind… which does actually make it unique.

Some collectors try to buy a print with the lowest edition number, such as 3/30. There’s no special benefit to the low number, as the prints have been shuffled countless times while they were printed, dried, sorted, signed, etc. There’s absolutely no way to identify the order in which prints are made, therefore 3/30 is no more or less valuable than 23/30.

I hope this makes viewing original prints and their proofs less confusing.

Yours in Ink!

Advice for the art collector…

Having just finished a season of open studios and other exhibitions, and getting organized for 2011 shows, I was going through some articles saved from old art magazines. One article was researched by polling art dealers, collectors and auction experts and presented a pretty thorough list of do’s and don’ts for collecting art. As the new year begins perhaps some potential art buyers out there will benefit from this list, or maybe it will encourage some of the faint-hearted browsers to take the leap and buy original art.

If you’d like to discuss one of these points in depth, or can relate one of your specific experiences, I’d love to hear from you.

• Do try to keep an open mind (there’s a lot of different kinds of contemporary art).
• Do take the time to see what’s available (there’s a lot of galleries/shows to choose from… pick favorites and go there often).
• Do take advantage of studio visits, tours, open houses, receptions, etc.
• Do get to know the artwork, intimately (as in up close and personal).
• Do be up front about your budget (find a comfortable level and talk to the artist about works that fit your budget).
• Do treat the artist with respect (and many will bend over backward to help you get what you like).
• If you make an appointment to view art with either a dealer or an artist, then show up, or you just wasted their time and they won’t be very accommodating the next time.
• Do talk to curators and other experts, and even gallery sitters, about a particular work or artist.
• Do try to get the best of an artist’s work, but at least buy something you really like since you’re going to be looking at it everyday.
• Leave telephone auction bidding to the experts. Go in person and see the real deal. Same holds for internet buying… if you can’t see it, then you don’t know what you’re getting.
• Do haggle with care. It’s doubtful a gallery will deal unless you’re a very good customer ($$$), but some artists will, especially if you’re buying more than one piece. Some prefer to barter rather than haggle, so what do you have to offer?
• Do show up and pay for the art you have committed to buying (no one likes to get stiffed).
• Do talk to others about the art you buy. You might find others who like the same artist, or they may tell you about other artists you might like to see. That’s important if you’re trying to build a collection with a certain style or theme.
• Remember that even small living spaces can hold some large works. Many collectors fill all the available space they have because they want to really live with the work.
• Do move the art around in your home. Don’t just put it on one wall and leave it there for 20 years. You’ll see new dimensions if you try looking at in new ways and places.

• Be wary of trends. Even in Art fads start and fade very quickly… buy something that you really like even if the artist is an unknown. Don’t buy from an artist just because your friends do, or because it looks good on someone else’s wall. Create your own unique art collection.
• Don’t assume you need to be rich. Even the most accomplished and well known artists have affordable works, or you might discover someone just starting a career. And not all “emerging” artists are young.
• Don’t blow all your life’s art budget on just one work of art.
• Don’t buy just because someone is famous, and don’t call art “an investment”, because not everyone will like what you like, especially 50 years from now.
• Don’t let your decorator decide for you. It’s easier to change the paint on your wall, and the decorator isn’t the one who will live with it.
• Some artists will let you take work home to live with it for a specified length of time. Don’t abuse the privilege, and don’t ask an artist to “hold” a work for you and cause the artist to lose a real sale.
• Don’t play games with the artist or a dealer. (remember haggling above?) Don’t think you can get something cheaper if you buy directly from the artist and try to avoid paying a dealer’s commission.
• Don’t let someone pressure you to buy. Stay open to possibilities but don’t buy just because someone makes you feel stupid that you are passing on a “good deal”.
• Pay the sales tax. Don’t assume that the artist will cover it for you in the price of the work unless that’s agreed on before the sale.

Once you have developed a nice little collection, and you’re ready to watch for the next big thing ask your insurance agent if you should adjust your property insurance.

Yours in ink!