Terminology: Originals, Prints, Works on Paper

Terminology: Originals, Prints, Works on Paper

What does it all mean?!?

I often get emails or comments from collectors, potential collectors, or collaborators who ask for one thing and confuse me when they describe it and mean another.

I’ll give you an example. I recently got an email from someone asking for a print, but she didn’t want it to look exactly like the other piece she liked. She wanted me to change the colors and move some lines around and send her the print.

There is a lot about this that confused me. First of all, I do not do custom prints, I get a lot of requests for custom prints, but it’s just not something I offer right now. Secondly, she was asking for a custom painting (for me to “change the colors” that’s a different painting) and when she was saying “Print” she meant “work on paper” because the piece she liked that she wanted changed was a work on paper.

I get a lot of requests for “custom prints” when people really mean is they want a custom original painting. So by way of education here are some terms so we can all communicate better and we can all get what we want with fewer headaches! Ready? Let’s begin!

  1. Original
    An original is a one of a kind piece. Every painting has an original. It’s the first one the artist made. Originals can be scanned and made into prints via a printer but originals are one of a kind made only by the artists hand and only one exists. Here’s an example, Monet’s painting Meule last sold at auction for $81,447,500. No that’s not a typo, the painting is worth over 81 million dollars. That is the purchase of the original work of art. It’s an original because it’s the original oil he painted with, his hands were the only ones who made the strokes, there is only one of that painting in existence. When I refer to my own originals I usually mean “works on canvas,” which I will explain soon.
    Monet’s painting Meule
  2.  Prints
    A print is a reproduction of a painting. Today you can take a high resolution photo or a high resolution scan and reproduce any work of art at a much lower cost and time. You can make as many prints as you want if you own the copyright or have a license to print from the artist. That last part is essential, as it is illegal to take a photo from a artist and make prints of their work. It’s called stealing. So! you could get a print of Monet’s exact same painting Meule, for a $20 online. Originals are much more valuable and increase in value over time. Prints can be prints on canvas, on metal, on wood, on paper on home goods or other products, prints can be literally “printed” on almost anything. And here is where people get confused!
  3. Works on Paper
    This is probably where people run into the most confusion. Works on paper is another way of saying an original. Just because the surface isn’t canvas, doesn’t mean it’s not an original. Almost every time I show a picture of a “work on paper” I almost always get a comment from someone, “Oh I love that print!” When it’s actually an original. I think the confusion is that when people think of art prints, they usually think of something printed on paper. I think most people know that it’s an original on paper (at least I hope so). Artists will often specify what an original is made on so that people know what surface was used. Works on paper are most often confused with prints, although prints can be printed on canvas, wood, or literally anything else.
  4. Works on Canvas
    Works on canvas are original works of art on a cloth canvas, usually these works are stretched around a wooden or metal frame and painted upon. These are what most people think of when they think of a painting.
  5. Works on Panel
    A work on Panel is a work of art on wood panel. Paint responds to surfaces differently and different artists sometimes prefer the look and feel of wood over canvas, it’s really all matter of preference.

There are a million things you can paint on so I’m not going to over everything! But when you hear these terms, or if you need to use these terms when commissioning art now you know what to ask for!

If you learned something in this post please share it with your friends or on social media. Follow me on Instagram @christineolmstead Pinterest @christineolmstead Facebook @ceolmstead

‘The Divide’ Complete Collection Now Available

‘The Divide’ Complete Collection Now Available

The Divide is a collection that is deeply meaningful to me. This collection was started in 2016 and was finished in April of 2018. I have been extremely honored to exhibit this collection at Latela Art Gallery located in Washington D.C. I wanted to give an overview of each of these works individually and as a part of the whole series. You can view all these works in person at Latela on Saturday’s 10am-2pm or by appointment during the week. To schedule an appointment or to purchase one of these pieces please contact Marta Staudinger at marta@lateladc.com

Here is the general overview of the works and how each piece is tied in specifically to the theme. The whole series is a celebration of life and death. Over the past two-and-a-half years I’ve lost four family members and my college roommate to sudden deaths. These works are a memorial to their memories, a celebration of what they brought to the world, and a reminder to breathe deeply, live with thanksgiving, and give love generously.

The titles of each work are associated with a speech pattern my loved ones would say, or something relating to their memory in my mind. I will go through the works chronologically.

I lost one of my uncles to a quick and aggressive cancer in 2016. His passing was sad but the full weight of loss wouldn’t hit me till I would lose 3 more family members. Shortly after my uncle passed, my cousin went missing off of the coast of Hawaii while spearfishing. Her remains were never found. Our family searched and searched and searched for her only to be left without closure, forever wondering her fate. Her disappearance in the water was jarring and shook our family. I made the first few works in this series as a way to process the sudden and tragic nature of losing such a young life. The first three works were ‘Burning Me Up,’ ‘B before C’ and ‘Be Sure You Know.’


Burning Me Up, 30″x40″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

BBeforeCWeb  BBC_WallWEB
B before C, 16″x20″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

  BeSureYouKnowWEB  BSYKWallWEB

Be Sure You Know 12″x12″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

After these pieces were completed I held on to them, though I didn’t know why. I had no idea that what was a mini-series would turn into a collection borne out of loss.

Several months later my aunt passed away, and still I was coping with it all. I didn’t add to this series yet. When my other uncle, the father of my missing cousin, fell ill with cancer and was dead in three weeks in the fall of 2017 it broke my heart. There was so much loss, so suddenly in this family that I knew I needed to start processing it all. I started working on these paintings as a way to process the grief and pay my respect to my lost loved ones in the only way I knew how.

I started with my aunt and created four small pieces with her in mind. ‘Remember Me’ #1 and #2 and ‘I Want to Be There’ #1 and #2.


Remember Me 8″x8″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.


Remember Me #2, 8″x8″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.


‘I Want To Be There’ #1, 10″x10″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

Olmstead_I_Want_To_Be_There2WEB   IWTBT1wallWEB

‘I Want To Be There’ #2, 10″x10″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

I then focused on remembering my two uncles who had passed. They were brothers and my mother’s only siblings. Because they are brothers and they both passed quickly and both from cancer they are very linked in my mind. They were my mom’s older brothers and both of them always kept me laughing with the crazy things they said. One of my uncles would always finish his sentences with, “yeah?” He would say something like, “we should go for a hike, yeah?” and that was always a funny speech mannerism of his that will always make me smile and think of him. One of these pieces is called, ‘Yeah?’ in memory of him. My other uncle always played in a goofy voice, he was so good at silly voices and sound effects. Whenever he and my uncle would make fun of my mom, or tease her he would say, “ohhhhh susyyyyy.” In this really funny way that is impossible to describe in the written word. The second piece is called, “Oh Susy” in honor of him.


‘Yeah?’ 16″x16″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.


‘Oh Susy,” 16″x16″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

The last four paintings on canvas were made in March and April of 2018. This was when my good friend and roommate in college died in childbirth, leaving behind twin baby boys. Her passing reminded me of my cousins sudden disappearance. One moment here, the next gone, leaving so many in her wake. Because the losses reminded me of each other. I created two works simultaneously one in honor of my roommate, the other in honor of my cousin.

‘How Do I Look?’ was created for my  roommate, who used to ask me every day before she walked out the door, “how do I look?” You look amazing, dear friend.

Olmstead_How_do_I_Look_Web  HDIL_whitewallWEB

‘How Do I Look?’ 24″x30″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.

The second piece, ‘High Tide,’ was made for my cousin, because we lost her in the high tide.


‘High Tide’ 24″x30″ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas in a gold floater frame.RT_HDIL_OnWallWEB
The last two works on canvas are the largest in the series. ‘Unto Ashes’ and ‘Let It Hold Your Hand’ are two works I made after my roommate passed to symbolize the huge gap my roommate left in the lives of her twin baby boys and as a tribute to their mother, my friend. Their titles are symbolic of the works as a whole. ‘Let It Hold Your Hand’ is about coming to peace with loved ones passing on. Death has felt like a constant companion and his presence is near and you just have to let him hold your hand without fear.



‘Let It Hold Your Hand” 4’x6’ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, unframed.



‘Unto Ashes’ 4’x6′ acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, unframed.

As a part of this series I also did several works on paper, one series to symbolize life and the celebration of life, and the other to symbolize coming to peace with death. Here are samples of those works on paper. To see all of them visit the Originals Page.

  Olmstead_WebDivide2  BlueDivide3Web

The piece on the left is one of 7 works on paper that come framed in a glass floater frame. These works are acrylic and Rose Gold leaf on paper. They symbolize life.

The works on the right are blue divides, they are acrylic and gold on paper. They symbolize coming to peace with death.

These pieces have been instrumental in my healing process. What I hope to accomplish with this body of work is to turn my mourning into beauty for you. I hope that when you look at, and dwell with these peaceful paintings that you breathe deeper and hug your love ones a little tighter. I hope that wherever you find yourself on this journey of life that you take time to be thankful for something, or someone every single day. These pieces are about celebrating life and coming to peace with the unknown. Please do not hesitate to ask me if you have any questions.

You can view these works in person through the month of July at Latela Art Gallery on the weekends 10am-2pm, or during the week by appointment. To book an appointment or to purchase one of these works contact Marta Staudinger marta@lateladc.com 

If these works were meaningful and inspiring to you in anyway, I encourage you to share their message of life with others either on social media or in personal conversations,

Stay in touch and follow me on Instagram @christineolmstead Pinterest @christineolmstead Facebook @ceolmstead