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Exploring, Layers and Levels of "Original" in Lylee James' work.

Updated: 11 hours ago

As an art buyer, have you ever been confused about the term "original" regarding a work of art? The truth is this is a confusing topic, that depends on the medium and the specific artist's practice.


I'm going to discuss Lylee James' work as an example because she plays with levels of reproducing images as originals. Each piece below has a description of medium and discusses what type of "original" it is.

Stick and Ink drawing, character development piece, hand painted with watercolor
Lunifer sees his reflection

Ink and Stick illustration hand-tinted with watercolor (above)


Straight illustration, meaning Lylee made it directly on this paper. Although since Lylee has a digital scan of this piece, she may decide to remake a new piece from that information, via a photographic or printmaking process. Yes, she can generate new images by making a negative or a matrix, but this will always be the most original version of any reproductions or originals she could make from it. Plus, this piece signifies the beginning of the entire concept of the character Lunifer, and his role here on earth. That is why such a small piece of art, not framed, is available for so much.


Intaglio print on Rives bfk, hand painted with watercolor and mica. Depicting the moment of epiphany for Lunifer
Lunifer Crosses the River

Intaglio hand tinted with watercolor and mica

Intaglio print, made with white ink and hand painted with watercolor and mica. The character Lunifer decides to represent his home planet, the moon and be a moonclown.
Post Epiphany Pride

Intaglio hand tinted with watercolor and mica


Both of the above pieces are original intaglio prints. For those of you not familiar, it is a printmaking process that involves engraving and etching metal. Historically, printmaking is the first form of reproduction, however, compared to a modern reproduction process, like using an archival inkjet printer, an intaglio print is very much an original. These two intaglios are painted with watercolor and mica, which makes them even more "original." Because although Lylee can print from the original etched metal, known as the matrix, again the finished piece will be different. Some printmaking artists work in editions, meaning they will strive to print a set of identical prints. Lylee works "in variation," meaning even though she makes several pieces in a printmaking session; her goal has never been to make a batch that all look the same. That is why Lylee's work makes a perfect example of how an artist's style can affect just how original their work is in the art market.


A contemplation piece, made to deteriorate over time. This purposefully non archival piece is a intaglio print, made with white ink, and hand painted with watercolor and soaked in cyanotype chemicals for a year, staining the piece in the mose delightful way. Unique art for a thoughtful person
Lunifer sits to think

Undeveloped cyanotype over hand tinted Intaglio


Currently, this is the only evolutionary piece, Lylee has available. It is designed to change as the unstable, un-archival nature of the unprocessed cyanotype will actually move and eventually begin to destroy this piece, slowly but surely over the ages it can not stay the same. This one is so "original" it becomes "original" again and again as time changes it. It is meant to represent the way a moment or a person can't stay the same over time. Even though this is the same medium as the two above it, it is way more "original," because it can not be recreated at all.


Depicting a mother, although not anitomically correct, recogmizable as a mother, holding her newly birthed child she's surrounded by symbols of fertility
Non virgin miracle birth illustration on Rives BFK hand painted with watercolor

Pencil and watercolor illustration

This feminine piece is otherworldly, or perhaps deeps into another time. Blue and yellow and ephemeral cyanotype printed on fabric
Madonna with Child, Non virgin miracle birth, cyanotype printed on yellow fabric

Cyanotype Photograph of drawing


In regards to the two pieces above, the original drawing is more original than the cyanotype reproduction of it, right? Yes, to a degree, however, because the aim was not to "reproduce" the exact replica of the original, these two are not that far apart in the "original" department.


Stark blue and white cyanotype print made from a hand drawn and painted negative.
Watching one's god die, a birds perspective

Cyanotype Photograph of Paint and Ink Illustration


Cyanotype is generally used to print photographs, however, it is also known for being the "blueprint" process architects used up to the '80s to make copies of hand-drawn plans. This hand-painted negative is on a sheet of glass, and therefore can be printed again. Also, this piece is not hand-painted or embellished in anyway. It is straight cyanotype which means, Lylee could pretty easily print this again in a very similar way, so long as the glass negative does not break. This is the least "original" of all the "original" examples so far.


Dreamy colors embedded on satin, over a cyanotype that took a whole day to print, this unusual piece is a super original. Meaning the artist can't make this again or just wouldn't
Guango Tree in the sky

Hand painted cyanotype photograph on satin


Now of course I want to show you a more "original" piece of work, made in the cyanotype process. This particular piece took 24 hours to print, which was what it took to get the satin to take the cyanotype. There were several failed attempts for lesser amounts of time leading up to this ridiculous print time. Lylee currently feels she can't see clear to make another 24-hour print, which means this piece can not be reproduced. Plus the texture of the fabric presents issues in making a straight reproduction of it. This cyanotype is also hand-painted, which adds another layer of "original" to it. The original to this original was a drawing that Lylee photographed, and made a digital negative of, so there is a possibility for her to make a version of this that is not on satin, and therefore will look very different.

Star people, forgot they name meant that they looked to the stars, got so busy working the land, mining and mining, they forgot to look up, when they finally did the symbols their ancestors put there to communicate with them had disappeared, because it was too late to save the land, and the people
Asking why too late

Cyanotype Illustration on Satin


This piece was made from a hand-drawn negative made by tracing an original van dyke brown photograph. Using a low contrast constraint, this piece is less contrasty than if printed from the photographic negative that made the piece that was used to trace the negative from. This one is also a 24-hour print, actually made during the same 24-hours as "Guago Tree in the Sky," above. Therefore it is very much an original, yet because it is not hand-painted, it is slightly less original than its fraternal twin from that fateful night when Lylee decided to try a 24-hour exposure time.


At this point, I'm guessing I've confused more than clarified anything about "originals". Perhaps that means I did my job here tonight, as I really just wanted you to see that there is truly levels to this "originals" business!!! I could go through every single piece that Lylee made and talk about this endlessly.


I'd love to get a little feedback before going on and on! I'm going to try to leave comments on, I'll be happy to answer questions, even add more examples!


Please become a member and ask me to clarify anything in this blog or others!! Yes, blog topic requests are appreciated, but no promises!!

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