What is an Artist Proof?

The printing term, Artist Proof, has meant different things at different times through the history of printmaking. Wikipedia has this to say: “An artist’s proof is, at least in theory, an impression of a print taken in the printmaking process to see the current printing state of a plate while the plate (or stone, or woodblock) is being worked on by the artist. A proof may show a clearly incomplete image, often called a working proof or trial impression, but in modern practice is usually used to describe an impression of the finished work that is identical to the numbered copies. There can also be printer’s proofs which are taken for the printer to see how the image is printing, or are final impressions the printer is allowed to keep; but normally the term “artist’s proof” would cover both cases.”

In modern machine reproduction of an original artwork the concept of a ‘proof’ has evolved even further. In modern 4 colour lithography (responsible for cereal boxes to books and pamphlets), a multi-million dollar press spits out completed prints almost too fast to see. The Press person removes, say, every 20th print and these prints are taken to a special viewing room with 6500K lighting where they are compared to each other and the original. Any colour drift or mistakes are cause to start all over and try again. If everything looks good, those prints become the Artist’s Proofs and are duly signed and numbered as such with complimentary prints going to the press crew. Lithographic inks are unfortunately not as light fast as we could wish so almost all fine art reproduction today is done with printers that spray light-fast pigment particles rather than dyes which can fade. These are called Giclées from the French word to spray. The other big advantage to Giclées is the ability to use very high quality fine-art cotton rag papers as they do not need to be smooth and slick for a giant machine. In addition, it is easy to use more than 4 colours so the actual colour space gets closer to what the human eye can see. These prints are (in theory) all identical from the same digital file but colour drift can occur so for our Giclées, every 10th print is stored and compared with new ones to make certain that an edition remains true to the original. These then are the new ‘artists proof’s’.

In our print galleries, the majority of works are Giclées while a number of earlier works are lithographs. Some art collectors wish for these proofs so we do keep them available for a small additional cost but do not list them here. Interested collectors are urged to call or message us for availability and pricing.