Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Giclee Prints

Copyright, Jim Lane
My one and only venture into art prints, from 1976, using four-color printing
requiring a minimum edition of five-hundred. (I've yet to recover the cost.)
A Giclee rolls from the printer at a fraction
of the time, effort, and cost of earlier methods.
When artists talk about printed reproductions of their work they tend to fall into two camps almost as if they were democrats or republicans. There are the traditionalists who reject any notion whatsoever of their work being mechanically reproduced, while the other side would be happily overwhelmed at such a prospect (provided they get to keep most of the proceeds of any sales). Personally, I've made only one of my paintings available in print form, and that was about forty years ago (above). This being riverboat country, I chose a well-known local towboat, converted to a houseboat, later converted to a bed and breakfast. None of these transfigurations helped sales. The traditional, four-color print required an edition of five-hundred to make the cost of the photographic screen separations economically viable. Each print cost me about a dollar. I sold less than a hundred at five dollars each (plus matting and framing). I undoubtedly made more from the latter than the former. Not to frighten off potential print buyers, but that's usually the case with all art prints on paper.
An old, four-color, offset, printing blunderbuss seldom used for art prints today.
A lot has changed in the printing industry in forty years. For artists looking to market their work to the vast number of middle-class art lovers without the wherewithal to buy their originals, these changes have been a godsend. Principal among these new developments has been digital printing, and in particular what's called the giclee print. Whereas my riverboat had to be photographed by the printer, then its three primary colors plus black separated to form four different printing plates (magenta, cyan, yellow, and black). If that sounds complicated, highly technical, and expensive, believe me, it was. Worse than that, the prints were not very archival. Today, the giclee print requires only a high-resolution color photo. The rest is done by a computer, which digitally separates the processed color into as many as twelve (usually six or eight) separate monochromatic color images which are then transferred to a professional ink-jet printer.

Giclee pigmented inks are not transparent but chosen to match the original.
Giclee wide-format printers allow the
economical printing of multiple sizes.
Giclee was develop in France during the late 1970s by Iris Graphics. The word in French means to "squirt." Thus the art print is essentially ink "squirted" onto paper, but also canvas and a number of other appropriate surfaces. The printers themselves sometimes exceed one-hundred inches in width allowing for virtually any size print in editions as small as one. That's usually not the case, though. Most artists order three or four at a time in the interest of somewhat reducing the per-unit cost. The cost to the artist (and thus the eventual buyer) depends mostly upon size, surface, and the archival qualities of the inks used. They break down into basically two formulations--dyes and pigmented inks. Dyes are thinner, cheaper, transparent, sometimes brighter, and perhaps allow slightly greater image resolution. However they are not as waterproof or fade resistant, as pigmented inks (basically very thin paint). The process does not care whether the work is painted by an artist or photographed by a camera, the results are the same. Some highly prolific artists even invest in their own giclee printers (prices range from $6,000 to over $20,000). By the way, if you are not the artist, expect to be questioned by the printer as to copyright ownership.
Virtually indistinguishable color matching.
A Giclee décor.
There was a time when giclee prints were relatively expensive and available only on paper from a limited number of sources. However today, even some Walmart stores have wide-format digital printing services available for prints up to twenty-four inches, though they are not giclee. Expect to pay from $50 to $75 for a stretched canvas giclee print, depending upon the thickness of the stretchers. And lest you think you're getting a poor substitute for the original, the differences are virtually undetectable from more than a couple feet away. Color matching to the originals is said to be incredibly accurate (above). Only the painterly texture of an original causes it to stand apart from a giclee. Moreover, some artists have attempted to remedy even this shortfall by going so far as to coat their printed works on canvas with a clear gel medium to replicate the effect of brush strokes and other surface textures (don't try this with inks containing dyes).
Art galleries and museums now feature giclee prints on their walls.
Giclee print quality rivals much more expensive, processes from the past. I was stunned to discover that many art museums today now display giclee prints and that prices at auction for signed, giclee prints by major artists such as Annie Leibovitz, Chuck Close, and Wolfgang Tillmans sometimes reach the low five-figure range. And perhaps best of all, artists can now market giclee prints of their work online at quite reasonable prices, actually selling them before they are printed once the image has been digitally archived by their supplier. The turnaround time is a matter of a day or two. For the artist, the profit margin is thus quite respectable (especially for matting and framing).

Art bandits beware.
(Yes, but the frame must be worth a fortune.)

No comments:

Post a Comment