By definition, an aquatint is produced with the same printing technique as an etching, except that the areas between the etched lines were traditionally covered with a powdered resin that protected the surface from the biting process of the acid bath (contemporary artists use spraypaint instead of powdered resin). The granular appearance that resulted in the print aimed at approximating the effects and gray tonalities of a watercolor drawing. Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variation of etching; and uses marks made onto a copper or zinc plate to hold ink. The process requires that an ink-loaded plate is passed through a printing press that holds a sheet of paper tightly against the inked plate, resulting in a transfer of ink to paper (the print). The process can be repeated again and again, depending on the artist's technical choice. Famous artists who employed this technique include Francisco Goya (image right, El sueño de la razòn, or The sleep of reason produces monsters, from his series, Los Caprichos, 1799).
The process requires an application of acid to make marks on the metal plate that will eventually hold the ink, and powdered, acid-resistant resin (or today's spraypaint) in the plate's ground to create a tonal effect. Variations in tone are controlled by the level of acid exposure over large areas, and the resulting image is developed by invidual large sections at a time, not as a whole. The plate must be heated to melt the resin, which forms a fine even coat, at which point the plate is dipped in acid, producing an even level of corrosion that is sufficient to hold ink. The Aquatint process is very similar to Mezzotint, an earlier printmaking method that was intensely laborious (a famous contemporary mezzotint printer is Yozo Hamaguchi). Printmakers favored Aquatint methods because of the watery effect of the process, ease of creating large areas of tone without time-consuming cross-hatching, and durability of the print plates.
If you visit Shepard's website, Obey Giant, this note is the artist's response to requests for more prints:
Thanks for all those who bought the print in support of OBEY and OBAMA. Unfortunately, the print is sold out and we do not plan on producing another edition. The edition was released earlier today with great response. The PROGRESS screenprint was exclusively available through OBEY and the HOPE offset print will be distributed by the OBAMA Camp as an awareness campaign.
I believe with great conviction that Barack Obama should be the next President. I have been paying close attention to him since the Democratic convention in 2004. I feel that he is more a statesman than a politician. He was against the war when it was an unpopular position (and Hillary was for the war at that time), Obama is for energy and environmental conservation. He is for healthcare reform. Check him out for yourself www.barackobama.com. Proceeds from this print go to produce prints for a large statewide poster campaign.
The artist's original edition of this work was 350, unnumbered and unsigned. Various copies of the print are available for auction all over the world at various prices, for a number of reasons. Depending on the success of Obama's reign, the value of the print will continue to soar and it is, without any question, already more historically significant that any headline-bearing newspaper announcing the changing political guard.
Do you feel abandoned? With the swing of life from 2008 to 2009, it seems like the winter hibernation of the art world and the holidays is finally over, as streets and galleries come back to life with traffic. Actually, during the break, we were out and about, working the art life, attending events (parties!), exhibitions around town and reading about economic reverberations everywhere, especially as they concern the art market.
I promised to discuss editions in an earlier blog, and to be honest, it's really dry stuff, but there are some basics that need to be understood by the beginner art collector - so here we go:
Editions are an easy way for the artist to introduce his work to a developing art market, and for novice collectors to invest in artworks. By definition, an edition is a closed set of copies of a particular work. We hear references to editions in terms of prints and books, as limited or unlimited sets. A limited edition is closed in terms of numbers of copies, for example, an artwork will be limited to 9 editions, or 9 copies; each edition of the artwork will be numbered in chronological order, as created, from 1 to 9; and marked consecutively 1/9 to show the first work of an edition of nine works. Editions can range from as few as 2 to whatever number the artist decides to choose, and generally, depending on the artist's reputation and the skill level of the artwork, the edition number of the work will have a direct impact on the value (price) of individual works. An unlimited edition, is a set of works that will have unlimited copies. These works may be noted as from an unlimited edition, although usually not, and will not have a numbering system.
Voila! I'll follow up and pick this up again next post!
Early in 2008, I began this blog on art collecting because of questions that came up from novices and seasoned collectors about collecting art. Questions ranged from the importance of original (one of a kind, or singular) work versus editioned (copies and/or multiples) works. Depending on the circumstance, I've advocated one thing or another, and yes, I do stand by what I say (or in this case, write). My initial intent was to follow a formal line of ideas forming general philosophies toward art collecting, but it seems too many things come up in life, and it's much more fun and perhaps more relevant, to address the issues of art collecting as they arise. For now, this blog's organization is informal and simply chronological. If there is anything you wish to know in particular, and don't find it here, please write to me and let me know. I will do everything I can to assist you and develop a collecting plan.
Lately, the case for collecting art has arisen a lot in my immediate personal circle. By way of explanation, among my personal friends, I'm the only one that collects art on a selective basis (planned and with focus), and often defend what some see as a frivolous or silly pastime as an academic pursuit, formal, worthy of high mindedness and considerable investment. Even in today's gloomy economic times? Yes, because the presence of the arts is, whether visual or performance, what separates man from beast. Art is the particular dialogue of soul to soul that compels us like no other thing. It is appreciation for beauty, however we may perceive it, and the effect of it on our lives.
An example of this is something I found purely by chance this morning. As I wrote in a separate blog today, I opened my Yahoo account instead of work email, to escape from the remnants of 2008, relax and find cool things that are endlessly fascinating ... here is one exciting discovery, and my entire justification for starting a video collection:
The video, as you'll see from the first page, is credited to Eirik Solheim at eirikso.com. From his website, he seems to be an ordinary guy in Norway with a particular talent for cameras, he's marvellously intelligent, and enjoys considerable personal integrity. Further reading shows he has a worldwide following, not just resulting from his simply elegant and marvelous video. I hope you enjoy his video, and if you do, please let him know (email him at email@example.com). Every artist should receive thanks and appreciation for beautiful work! Bravo, Mr. Solheim, I am definitely a fan!
To the new collector (or to those who think they don't know anything about art, so they won't collect),
I'm in California, working from home right now, it's 2 minutes before 8 am, and my neighbor, Vern (working to stay afloat in this economy), is coming over at 8 on the dot (he's very punctual) to finish up a job in my home he began yesterday...groannnn...so I'd better type fast and get dressed.
Vern and I talked yesterday about collecting art - how it's a cultural thing, good for the soul and good for the community. He saw art collecting as a pursuit of the wealthy, a luxury, akin to foie gras, champagne and driving a murcielago ... well, if you're reading this (and the countless other blogs in blog land about art collecting), you know that's not true. So what's it all about? It's like good food - an excellent burger, a root beer float, fabulous fresh popcorn, or exquisite dining - and music - it's about experiencing pleasure in life.
What's so cool about seeing something that doesn't make sense? Well, if you like jazz, rock and roll, or classical music, you took time, once, to figure it out and decide whether you like it, so give the fine art a minute or two, or more. It's like deciding how you want to look today, at work or when you go out. What looks good? With art, it's exactly the same thing - it's essentially about what pleases you to look at (and all the subsequent thoughts and emotions that come with that), what looks good wherever it is (or where you plan to put it), and for most people, what you can afford.
As I wrote earlier (and if I didn't I'll write it now), the best way for an art collector to begin is to visit museums and galleries, and to take time to figure out the kind of art you like. Take your time, and make a commitment, a purchase - a small purchase - and see how you feel about what you bought. Hate it? Get over it and figure out why you hate it, and don't run. We all make mistakes, hopefully they're not costly and we recover. Try this over time, there's a lot of art out there that you can test the waters with - books, postcards, posters, even clothing (and that's also what copyrights, editions and licenses are about - let's save it for another time) - and have fun with, after all if it's about pleasure, make sure it is fun!
So it's the holidays, 2008 and all its misery is ending and there is new hope with 2009. Go out and have fun, open your eyes to everything around you and enjoy, look at everything like it's new and indulge yourself! ...and congratulations, you're on your way to becoming an art collector.
Happy holidays and best wishes for 2009!