The last impression of the last color has been completed. What next? Well, obviously, you let the ink dry. Depending on the ink and the number of layers this can take a couple of days or a week or more. Then, you begin the process of curation. Curation is the process of organizing all of the artifacts from the printing into a finished edition and ensuring that they are prepared for proper preservation.
I usually begin by going through the proofs carefully and examining each for flaws: registration errors, inadequate ink, etc. Some proofs are too badly flawed to save and these are destroyed. Others may have minor flaws such as a smudge or a fingerprint on the margin. These can usually be corrected by carefully erasing with a soft plastic eraser since they tend to sit on the surface. This has to be done gently and may not be possible with some delicate papers. If you discover a pinhole in a flat (caused by a ‘hickie’ – a fleck of dried ink) they can be carefully touched up and allowed to dry.
Once you have cleaned and selected all of your proofs, you can set your edition size. This is usually just a matter of counting and deciding how many Artist’s proofs, but in scenarios where there may be printer’s proofs as well this can get a little more complicated. All that decided, it is time to sign and number the proofs. Each proof is signed, in pencil, by the artist in the margin, usually immediately under the image. The title is on the left. The artist’s signature is on the right. The signature may or may not include the date. I usually include the last two digits of the year. In the center is the proof number/edition size (e.g. 1/20). The proof number may not indicate the order that the impression was pulled although for a delicate image such as a drypoint that may change over time, this may be the case. Other special proof designations are possible as well ( a/p: artist’s proof, p/p: printer’s proof, bat: bon à tirer )
The next step, where applicable, is the application of the printer’s chop. This is an embossed mark that designates the print studio where the print was produced. I wrote previously about the creation my chop. Professional print studios usually use a chop. Independent artist /printmakers frequently do not. The chop is usually pressed into the lower margin of each print, near the edge. In the case of a bleed print (where the image bleeds off the edge of the paper) the chop might be placed in the image itself, although obviously the artist is going to have a say in this. The alternative is a blind stamp on the verso with a light ink that will not show through.
This is the point where any paperwork (inventory, Certificates of Authenticity, etc.) should probably be organized as well. Then the prints are prepared for safe storage. More on both of these important items in a future post.