Prints, mail, web and a big rabbit

January 24, 2016

 

 

At last! After a month of trying, I finally have a website and an email that work as nature intended (i.e, unobtrusively) and I can do all the things I've been meaning to do so far in the new year. Hurrah!

 

This picture is called "A winter's tale".

 

I'm currently republishing a few of the older blog pieces

 

This is a piece about the differences between various types of print especially those claiming to be "Fine art". I think the lines are often blurred (quite deliberately) between computer printed images and artisan/studio produced works and "Fine Art Print" is becoming a rather elastic term

 

I want to be quite clear that I think that computer printed work is fine and is a great way of owning a favourite image without the expense of buying the original artwork , but I think it is important to make a distinction between work that has been scanned and ink jet printed and work that is a "Fine Art" or artist's edition.

Computer printed images are usually made from scans (as opposed to computer generated images which are created entirely on the computer) of an original work. A really good digital printer will go to great lengths to make sure that the colours are as close as possible to the original work and that the imaging is sharp, care will be taken to ensure that the screen and printer are properly calibrated so that the eventual print is a high quality, accurate image.

 

Usually the printer will call this type of printing "Giclée" which is a term used in the industry because it sounds more glamorous than Inkjet. Incidentally "Giclée" is a French word meaning to spray or squirt and is apparently mostly used about tom cats. So, not so glamorous then. Actually Ink jet technology is excellent and produces really high resolution images that will last for very long periods depending on whether the process used is dye or pigment based ink. I'm slightly dubious about claims of 100 years or more because I'm not sure how they test for this as the technology is only about twenty years old.

With artist/studio images the main difference of course is in the production of the piece. There are two broad categories of artisan/studio produced work:

  • Artist produced prints. This where the artist will have cut, engraved etched, or used any of dozens of techniques to physically produce a block or other material from which can be produced a run of images. Artists of the calibre or Dürer, Hiroshige, Bewick and Ravillious have used these techniques for centuries to produce limited numbers of images that are a way of owning something directly from the artists hand. Often these images are in a black and white or relatively limited colour ways. They can range in price from a few pounds for a little linocut by a fairly unknown artist (like me) through to many thousands for works by established names or famous dead people

  • Studio produced prints. These are usually incredibly highly defined images produced to order often using lithography or screen print produced in slightly higher numbers and (frequently) larger sizes in very close cooperation with the artist and produced by specialised studios. They will then be signed and numbered by the artist. The artists or publishers commissioning these runs are mostly fairly well known and will be reasonably sure of selling the entire edition thus justifying this vastly expensive process. It is still possible to obtain works by Miro, Lichtenstein and Wharhol at eye watering prices which are , however, cheap compared to original works. (Weirdly there was, for a while, a flourishing trade in signed Dali originals which were made after his death. I believe this was made possible by him signing a large quantity of blank paper before expiring. As he did not know he was about to die in a house fire it is semi reasonable to suppose that he had every intention of producing more prints under his own steam, although I have never met or heard of another artist signing before going to press.)

Much of the cost that goes into a print is in the preparation work that goes on in the background. With a "Fine Art" edition there is a huge amount of preparation, from photographing the original to making the plates (up 25 or more in some cases) to checking and pulling the final work. Also a print run of a certain size (e.g 150 prints) has to be made before the plates are struck to ensure the edition can not be re-run.

 

In the case of the digital print most of the work involved is in the scanning and adjusting (usually in Photoshop) of the image and usually one or two test plates. Because of the ease of copying files it is usually a moot point as to whether a digital edition can be limited to a certain size and I feel that it is not really valid to number an edition. In my case I am happy to sign and title prints but never would never number them.

 

Artist made prints are different to both of these other examples in that the main work goes into cutting, engraving, etching, scratching, or whatever, the image and then pulling the edition from the block or plate. I am told, that with a single colour print it is acceptable to pull an edition of a single colour, maybe black, and then pull a separate edition of a different colour thus effectively doubling the run of the image.

 

I am very dubious about high street chain store galleries that sell  "Limited Edition Fine Art" prints that are produced in very large print runs and sold for extremely high prices alongside "art" produced by celebrities of limited talent.

All this makes it look like the buying of prints is a nightmare. It's not, just be aware of what you are buying and most of all buy something that you like rather than something you think will be an investment 

 

 

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