by Scott Livingston
In today’s “exciting” economic times, many artists are scrambling to find ways to maintain their creative lifestyle without compromising artistic integrity. One viable avenue for doing so is through offering fine art giclee prints. This allows an artist to continue to paint and sell their original work while at the same time increasing the exposure to and the availability of their art to a much wider audience. With many quality giclee print companies found throughout the state of Utah, the time seems just right to learn more about the printing process and how it can help artists keep being artists.
First of all, what exactly is a giclee? The process (pronounced zhee clay) is typically divided into three distinct parts: Digital capture, color-correction, and printing. Digital capture refers to the use of special high-resolution digital cameras or scanners that digitally render an original painting into a computer file which can then be “corrected” to closely match the original. While there may be a temptation to think an off-the-shelf digital camera can do the same job as a “fine art” model, the truth is, you pay for what you get. Higher resolution + professional experience means higher quality prints. Period.
The second step of color correcting or proofing to the original is the most important and time-consuming part of the process. It is also the step that requires the most skill and experience in order to accurately match what the artist has created. In fact, proofing is itself a fine art, requiring the color-correction specialist to call upon color theory, previous experience with an artist’s unique pallet, as well as all of the technical training and eye for detail that they can muster. In other words, having great skills in Photoshop is important but not sufficient in and of itself to achieve a superior proof. In searching for a fine art printer, this is also the most important thing to look for. Rather than basing your decision on the type of equipment a printer uses, far more important is the feedback from existing customers. Any printer worth using will welcome the chance to share names of artists they work for.
The third step in the process is the printing itself. Some things to ask about here include what type of inks are being used (pigment being the key word), types of available substrates and whether or not they are open to using your favorite, and perhaps most importantly, what type of coating or finish is used to protect the print? Coating can be almost as critical as the print itself in determining the quality and durability of the finished product.
The intangible in all of this is the human element. Is the printer you are considering customer-oriented? Do they “get” artists? How willing are they to keep pushing a proof when it needs just one (or several) “little” tweaks? Even the mundane things such as having standard business hours, whether or not someone answers the phone when you call, and how “people-friendly” a company’s staff is can make all the difference in the overall experience. Something we can all relate to is the idea of “owning” your work, in the sense of taking personal pride in something well done as well as taking responsibility when something goes wrong. Relationships are built or broken on this principle alone, so be sure you know how committed your printer is to serving your needs from start to finish.
For many artists, the real question is not what a giclee print is or even where to get one produced. They instead want to know why they should consider printing at all. For some artists this poses a genuine dilemma. In many cases galleries are not interested in diluting their sales of original works, and understandably so. Additionally, there is the concern that buyers will opt for purchasing a print priced much lower than an original, with potential negative consequences for an artist’s ability to survive. Some artists even feel that there is something “dishonest” about selling giclee prints, especially if the buyer thinks they are purchasing something that is a so-called “limited edition” or that a print will appreciate in value, which is rarely the case. Ironically, this also speaks to one of the important strengths of giclee prints, namely their quality and durability. Those in the giclee printing business feel that this so-called dilemma is in fact not a conflict at all but rather a viable additional means of assisting artists in sharing their work.
Anyone who has worked as an artist for any length of time no doubt has seen many approaches to the marketing of art. You have likely tried several ideas personally, with varying degrees of success. From our experience in the fine art print business, it appears that a large number of artists have found the selling of both originals and prints to be a very profitable approach, if done wisely. If you talk to any artist who currently sells both prints and originals, odds are they are seeing far more interest in reproductions of their artwork than they are for their originals. It’s just simple economics. Even among those who still have the means to purchase originals, there is a sense of moderating expenditures, which translates into “I can still get a beautiful piece of art without feeling guilty about it.” Again, the best thing to do is to ask around and talk to artists who you know are offering prints. They’ll usually have plenty to say about their experience as well as who they would or wouldn’t recommend. It wouldn’t hurt to take a look at their prints, either.
The last and most obvious question before you begin is “where should I print?” Here in Utah there are several excellent fine art printers to choose from. A few are listed below, but the best thing to do is to call or stop in and visit a fine art printer near you and start asking questions. Some things to ask about include the following:
-How long have you been in business?
-What type of equipment do you use?
-Who are some of the artists that you print for? Could I speak to them?
-Is giclee your specialty or just a side business?
-How involved can I be in the color-correction process?
-Are there other services you offer to artists, and if so, what are they?
-Can I see and/or take home some samples of your work?
-Do you guarantee your work? If so, for how long?
-Do you have any specials or promotions right now?
Salt Lake City
Power Graphics – http://www.power-graphics.com/
Bair Editions – http://www.bairarteditions.com/
Fine Arts on 25th in Ogden –
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.