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What is a Lithograph?

In a lithograph, (the name comes from the Greek word for stone 'litho'), the line that is to be printed is neither raised (as in a woodblock) nor lowered (as in an engraving) but is flat. Lithography owes it existence to the chemical principal that oil and water do not mix. The artist draws the image to be printed on a flat slab of limestone, metal, or plastic using a greasy crayon. The surface is then chemically fixed and wet with water, which does not adhere to the greasy image areas. When the surface is inked with a roller, ink adheres only to the greasy areas and not the wet area. Paper is then positioned over the plate and the press is manually operated to produce one impression. The process must be repeated for each color. It is not unusual for fine lithographs to be printed from 15 or more plates.

What is an Original Graphic?

Graphic art refers to a specialized process of producing multiple impressions.There are several techniques utilized to create graphics but one thing remains constant--they are all original works, handmade in a pre-determined edition size. Creating a graphic is a slow, painstaking process. Each impression must be run through a hand-generated press once for each color. The plate must be inked and wiped each time and the registration must be perfect. The artist chooses the graphic medium because each has features which permit him/her to achieve specific calculated results. Private collections and art museums worldwide pride themselves on their collections of original graphics by both old masters and the contemporary printmakers.

Graphics are in no sense copies or reproductions. A reproduction is made by photographing an original work such as an oil painting then printing it photomechanically using high speed commercial presses or computer printers. A reproduction is always inferior in quality to the original it copies and has virtually no investment value.

Original graphics are created in limited editions and are usually pencil signed and numbered by the artist. After each original is 'pulled' in whatever quantity the artist determined the blocks, stones, plates, or screens are destroyed so they cannot be used again.

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Last modified: 03/21/09
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