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Old 12-12-08, 06:00 PM
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Yesterday I was astonished to see a huge giclee (fancy word for ink jet) reproduction on canvas. The technology is advancing very fast.. it looked very much like acrylic on canvas.

My dealer refuses to carry any artist's that sell giclee prints online, and makes a point of only selling original paintings, but many museums are now carrying these reproductions. I assume this is in their gift shops.

What do people think? Is it unethical for artist's to sell these prints? Does it cheapen a serious artist's reputation? Or is the technology advancing so fast that it is a useful and tasteful marketing device?

Which company produces the best giclees? I think serious collectors would know the difference between investment in an original work that will last centuries and something to hang on a wall for a lifetime. The both probably have their place and value.

The gallery here gave me their card. They have many buyers and a lot of traffic, and as it is on the other side of the country to the gallery that has represented me so I am tempted to consider the possibility of reproductions if the numbers add up, if I produce the right image, and my dealer agrees.

I know a lot of my friends who work in print shops see "limited edition" photographic reproductions marketed as archival "prints" as somehow being unethical, and I understand the point if the public doesn't know the difference.

What do people think?

ethical or not? good business? I'm not sure if it would even be cost effective, but it is tempting.

all the best, jp
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Old 14-12-08, 02:06 AM
gainor gainor is offline
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Hi Jennifer,
You raise some interesting questions...many of which I wrestle with on a constant basis. I have made some giclee reproductions of my work, large ones, which require special printers. When mounted on stretchers it is hard to tell them from paintings. I have only sold a few of them. Mostly because I am not enthusiastic about marketing them. My agent had a gallery that she claimed was put out of business by cheap giclee imports from China and South America. Some of my friends, as well as some very high end painters, take a giclee print and paint on it in places, and because the artist embellished it the gallery or artist can elevate the price two or three times! I think this practice is outrageous.

I am holding out for the people who will eventually catch on to the idea that they have bought a reproduction of an artwork, and is therefore, of no value. Hopefully when the economy improves people will start to buy paintings again. I know there is a market for original artwork. But the public out there must be terribly confused by the art market, with reproductions that cost more than many original paintings, and artwork that is selling for millions that...well, I won't get into that issue.

I do however, print my own reproductions on my inkjet printer and sell them as "digital reproductions" marked on the back as such. They make nice gifts. I have a wide format printer and can go as large as 19 x 13 inches which is a substantial print. I often print on Arches Hot Press Paper.

Most local giclee printers are able to make acceptable prints. The photograph is the important part of the mix, and the better giclee makers will ask for high resolution digital images, how high depends on how big the final print will be.

The best giclees I have had made were done from scans...they had a huge camera that had a scanner mounted in it, and the scan was fed directly into a computer and PhotoShop where the operator could adjust color on the spot. The biggest painting was 48 x 48 and the resulting giclee, mounted on stretcher bars was quite amazing! I was quite sad when they went out of business a few years ago.

I know some artists who ONLY sell giclees of their work, reserving the original for themselves, thinking it will continue to acquire value, as more and more prints sell. Are giclees somehow different from the limited edition lithograph that was so popular in the past? I honestly am not sure how to answer that question.

Certainly I am not at issue with artists who want to try to find sales in any way they can. And I don't begrudge them making reproductions of their work. My dealer would not allow artists to show giclees in his gallery and I appreciated the "purity" of what was shown there and the attitude about art that he represented. But I, for one, am just not happy about the madness about giclees and as I said before, even though I have done them, and make inkjet repros of my work, I seldom put them out there for sale, preferring to show original work whenever I can.

Cheers...Gainor
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Old 01-01-09, 03:10 PM
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from jim: i started making prints when i began art school in 1956. i started off with etchings in many different techniques, and also worked in lithography, silk screen and woodblock printing. in these handmade artist prints, which are an entirely different market from paintings, no one has really valued these works as unethical to produce, and artist prints made by the well-known artist have risen to a very high market value in the last couple or three decades. at one time, about 20 years ago, i was working with a print publishing firm based here in atlanta that sold enough of my etchings and occasionally other print media also, to be my main income for several years. up until the time they went broke. it was a very interesting way to make a living, and rather gratifying to work on all sorts of printmaking projects. i could initiate the projects, they handled the mechanics of most of the printing, and then they handled the sales, and sent me the money. they also made lithographic reproductions of a suite of my paintings, which were kind of a forerunner of the giclee prints that are widespread now. the different is they were not computer printed the way the giclee prints are. they were 4-color litho reproductions. i don't know how many of these they sold, but it was not a very profitable market at the time, at least not for me.

since the advent of giclee prints, i see a lot more potential and a lot more flexibility in marketiing these kinds of prints, and am actually looking forward to doing some more of this kind of print work. one of the big advantages economically is that once an artwork has been scanned, in our city at a cost of around $75, it can be printed on the giclee press for anywhere from $75-$200 or $250 per print, according to the size, and these prints can be up to 4x6 feet.


i have compared giclee prints done by a highly competent printer with the original paintings from whch they were derived, and setting the two works together side by side, it is excedingly difficult to differentiate the original work. with this laser technology, you get an amazingly accurate reproduction of your original painting. to stay within ethical grounds of art marketing, the client needs to be made entirely aware that they are purchasing an artist-approved print derived from an original painting, and not the original painting itself. the price of the print should reflect this circumstance, and be substantially lower cost. making it a good bargain for many collectors, and an extremely good bargain for people such as interior designers and people purchasing artwork for commercial situations. many art sales professionals prefer not to handle any kind of prints, whether they are etchings, engravings, woodcuts or whatever, and these same marketers would not be wanting to handle giclee prints either. but i see more and more galleries handling giclee prints by artists who are commercially successful, and they are exhibited in the same display manner as if the works were original paintings, but they are always designated at giclee prints rather than original oil painting or original acrylic painting. it's a fascinating marketing choice to go into giclee prints. one thing that is particularly tempting is the fact that the artist's initial investment does not need to be nearly as large at the beginning, because it's possible to print a giclee print, and only pull one, two, or three prints from your original photographic material, whereas with lithographs and professionally printed etchings, the entire edition generallly was printed all at one time, and therefore the arts had to bear the cost of print production at the outset, before his sales money began to come in. this way, with the giclee prints, your investment only has to cover the original photographic work and a few prints before you start to see a return. this is great if you don't have a really generous cash flow. i also understand that it takes a very different marketing experience and a very different marketing expertise to promote and sell giclee prints than to promote and sell original paintings, and sometimes the same deal might do both, but often different dealers would work in these two very different aspects of the art market. this makes it even trickier for the artist to find his best marketing outlet for his various products.

best wishes, there's plenty to explore here in this field.

jim.

[quote=gainor;4321The best giclees I have had made were done from scans...they had a huge camera that had a scanner mounted in it, and the scan was fed directly into a computer and PhotoShop where the operator could adjust color on the spot. The biggest painting was 48 x 48 and the resulting giclee, mounted on stretcher bars was quite amazing! I was quite sad when they went out of business a few years ago.[/quote]

from the wife: gainor, if you're looking for a new scanner/printer, may i introduce color chrome of atlanta, who have a huge flatbed scanner, and produce prints on all kinds of surfaces. they're expert, and quite a lot of the artists around atlanta use them. besides, it'd give you an opportunity to stop by and visit with us.

www.colorchrome.com

my experience with giclees comes from my own epson large format printer, which uses pigments rather then dyes, and can take archival paper and even canvas. a few years ago i was doing the outdoor art festival scene, and had an extensive line of prints for people who didn't want or couldn't afford originals. all the same, i was at great pains to explain that giclee was french for ink jet, and that these prints were the same as people could print on their home printers, except that i took more care with my own images. i haven't had giclees done professionally, but i was quite happy to produce my own, as i had full control over color and size, etc.

having said that, i was working alongside other artists who would sell their prints as originals, or as limited edition prints (even tho with a computer, there's no such thing as limited, and you're on the honor system if you number them). i worked alongside artists who mystified the buyers with high-faluttin words that meant reproduction but didn't sound like it, and other artists who dabbed at their prints with paint and then called them original prints. the big objection i can see is that to the punter, any poster looks like real art, and if the dealers are assuring him that he's getting something that will last for 2300 years and gain in value every year, how is he to know what to think?

but not to worry. in 20 years they'll come out with some new technology for printing, and everybody will look back at their giclees and suddenly be able to see the dots.
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Old 01-01-09, 05:40 PM
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Thank you for all the input. It's food for thought. There may be something to be said for keeping the markets for giclees and original paintings separate. Maybe it's snobbery or a gut instinct, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of showing original work in a gallery that hangs giclee reproductions of paintings on the wall next to originals. The gallery that carries giclees locally seems to be very upfront about it with a clear label (if multiple versions of the same image in a variety of sizes were not enough of a giveaway (-: )

The rules may be changing, and there are more possibilities no doubt, but it seems to be more and more a case of buyer beware. A serious collector will have to research artists and galleries. I can see a danger from one other perspective: If someone manages to get hold of an artist's transparencies or digital files they could be marketed by other people and the artist might not even know. Years ago a photographer and I were walking down the street and came across an image he had taken being used as a embroidery pattern and sold in a well known store. A few years later he found the photograph was being sold on key chains produced in Asia. With the increasing ease and quality of reproductions it will become more important to protect digital files zipping around the web, and to deal with trustworthy people. I did send one image for use on a teacher's exam in Paris last year, but the person who approached me online and asked the favor seemed to be honest. Still it was a risk to take.

Last edited by jpohl; 01-01-09 at 06:51 PM.
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Old 02-01-09, 03:25 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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That's why we have copyrights, for better or worse. Those same unscrupulous people who might rip you off on photos or prints could do the same thing with a painting they bought from you and turn it into reproductions. That's not enough of a reason to avoid making copies yourself. Where there's a will there's a way to get jacked.

If different printers are using basically the same system and the same digital file, you shouldn't see any noticeable difference between the reproductions. Where it often comes into play is if they use a different digital color management matching system with their printer to that you used to make your file. If you know what their color system is ahead of time it can save you some trial and error. It's always a good idea to handle proofs before you make a large run of prints.

There are a couple giclee places I've dealt with online recently that I've had good results with. One is Picture Frames where you upload a digital file, get a print proof - send it back, and order copies. Another is Imagekind where they handle all the fullfillment for you. People can order framed prints online from them, they'll ship it to the customer directly, and then pay you a mark up on the sale, or you can order copies yourself at wholesale cost. It's more convenient, but you still have to do all the marketing footwork yourself. I've decided if I'm going to get prints sent to me, I'd rather deal with a local printer to skip all the back-and-forth shipping costs of proofs and large orders. I've only just stared my foray into gilcee printing, but so far it's been promising. It hasn't impacted the contined sale of my originals in any way that I can see.
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Old 11-01-09, 06:16 PM
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I met with the gallery owner yesterday, and I got a good feeling. There were less giclees on the wall, and I noticed many more strong painting including a couple by A. Y. Jackson amongst the mix. We had a good talk, and he said that he'll sell ten original for every giclees so perhaps the public should be given generally more credit in terms of buying for investment sake. Still it may be a worthwhile experiment. He said he could help set me up with a trustworthy printer. The giclee than got my attention was gone. Apparently it had been part of set of 50 that had been done for a children's charity. The charity received all the profits, and it had been printed in Vancouver.

This may sound very crass, but donating can be a very good way to market work. One friend knew of an artist who had donated a giclee during a convention and the next day there was a rush of people going to buy his prints and it was sold out. Maybe it was an especially wonderful image. (-:

I've been having a similar conversation on facebook, and one photographer who is having a show sponsored by a corporation with a room full of mural size works printed. He seemed to think that the new epson printers handled tonal range better than ink jet. I'd almost trust someone with more experience than choose someone who just happened to have the latest equipment, but this may be something to think about.

It's a coincident and perhaps ironic that as I've been thinking about the ethics of reproductions that I now find out that one of my favorite painters who recently passed away had ghost painters working for or with him in his final years. He had five painters whose work he would sign, and the studio was sometimes called the "sweatshop". I won't mention his name out of respect to the family and his reputation (although i feel some dilemma over this wanting to give the other painters their due.) I'm not sure if they were being mentored, and I don't know enough of the details to have a fair opinion. It was a pretty common practice in the Renaissance to be sure.

I had mentioned a particular painting in passing conversation yesterday, and the gallery owner said he knew who had painted it. At first I thought he hadn't understood me, and then he showed me this ghost painters work. He had one of her pieces. Apparently every painting she signed in this well known artists name had the addition of a stroke put through the "D".

all the best, j

update:

Thought I should add this to set the record straight (even if by now this is a little off topic). I've since talked to one the apprentices, and it turns out they were involved in lettering and working on sections from photographs. It was the "master" painter who added a stroke to his signature by way of giving credit to his apprentice. The gestural work which includes one of my favorite images (a green sky) remains his own, which is good to know. It now seems fair to say I'm talking about David Bierk.

Last edited by jpohl; 15-01-09 at 10:23 PM.
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Old 14-12-08, 02:41 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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The only way I can see that ethics might be involved is if the artist is deceiving people. Not telling anyone that they are buying reproductions or paying a premium for them as originals. The value-added practice of a few alterations being made by the artists strikes me as silly, but otherwise I have no problem with the idea of an artist maximizing their market potential by selling quality reproductions of their work. I'm doing it myself. Sales had been pretty bleak at the last two galleries I joined, so I'm not too bothered about any who may not approve of me being more involved with my own business. If they're smart they should offer prints in the gallery.

One aspect about high quality prints is they can easily be reproduced at a larger size than the original, two or three times larger without showing any noticeable degradation, and for small painted works that doesn't work out well. A tiny spec of paint that you can't hardly see on the original becomes as large as a penny. For a photo that's not as bad but for a painting it can be, so it's better to limit the sizes close to the original or smaller.
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Old 16-12-08, 08:49 PM
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jpohl jpohl is offline
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Thank you for all the feedback and I'd love to hear any thoughts, because I know a lot of people must be thinking of this right now.

I wouldn't want to hold onto to my original. 1. i'd run out of room. 2. I'd keep working them to death. There comes a point when i have to get rid of a painting to save it from me, or I'd working on one panel for life. (-:

Regarding the downturn I've read that original art is often seen as a greater investment than stocks during recessions, and many stock brokers buy more art when stocks become unstable. It after all continues to appreciate in value. My dealer is in one of the most depressed regions of Canada. It has been experiencing a recession as long as I can remember (and long before being frugal was suddenly being considered hip in other places) but does fairly well selling to tourists and internationally, with the dollar exchange often working in the gallery's favor. If i was more comfortable with handling sales myself I'm sure it is possible to do well with reproductions, but finding time to paint is enough of a challenge. My dealer even gave me an occasional advance when things were tough so I try to listen to her advice which has been good in the past. When she says that reproduction may lower the price of originals I'm not sure what to think...

I didn't ask where the print I saw was done, but it was in a variety of sizes from near miniature to maybe four feet across (if I remember correctly.) Even the large was quite impressive in this case, but your point is well taken. I guess the scale it can work at depends on the image.

I think that a silkscreen, woodblock or lithograph is still seen as a handcrafted fine art that is produced in editions. Many print makers take offense with signed limited edition photographic reproductions because it is has the pretensions of being something it is not. ie. it is a poster, and not an art print. I don't know. Maybe technology is blurring the borders. There was a time when many more purist photographers disdained digital processes.

I don't have a good feeling about people painting on top of photographic reproductions but as long as it is called mixed media it is not a dishonest thing to do, and has it's own validity, even if it couldn't replace a wonderful traditional painting. There are people who think cheese whizz is healthy and wouldn't know the difference between a bad poster printed in 1980 and a original painting (I've seen it happen and it was pretty funny at the time), but it wouldn't fool a serious collector who would take time to learn more about an artist and their process.

I guess it's a matter of how things are marketed as much as anything?
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Old 17-12-08, 02:43 PM
dbclemons dbclemons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jpohl View Post
...When she says that reproduction may lower the price of originals I'm not sure what to think...
What controls the price is you. Whether or not you can sell both original art and prints of them depends on whom you're selling to. "Collectors" tend to prefer handmade art, others just want something nice on the wall. Some people may speculate that cheaper prints can undermine the value of the original, but you can't predict how people spend their money. With prints you have more product to sell, and that actually makes the original more valuable to me. If your originals are selling well it's probably not necessary to offer prints. Galleries may not approve of you doing your own business, so take that into consideration when you listen to what they say.

As far as limited editions go, I've had to rethink how that applies to print reproductions. All the artist is doing in that case is endorsing a copy with a signature on a print that's no different than one without it. That name may have value for some artists, but it doesn't change that it's still machine made. The only other issue is that there's a limited number of them available, but I'm not convinced that matters so much either. Aritsts who only add a few little touches to prints are just being silly, but if they seriously alter the print to make it a unique work of art in of itself, then I'm all for that. I'm coming from a background of printmaking (lithos and serigraphs, etc.) where editions were more significant.

I only just started marketing gilcee prints, so I'm only offering a selection of things I've done, and not any of works I've already sold or works in galleries. Over the past few years I had been letting galleries handle all my business and sales had suffered because of that for various reasons. The market is a bit tight right now so we're all chasing after the same customers. I've never been one who only wants to make art and let others handle the rest of it. I like being involved, or more accurately I dislike not being involved. Sales to me are as much a part of what I do as the work itself.

Last edited by dbclemons; 17-12-08 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 01-01-09, 05:28 AM
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I've been giving this more thought today. Many of the things expressed here: http://www.artbusiness.com/reproprints.html reflects what I've heard from other artists (mostly printmakers), and again from my dealer who will only sell original work.

Is this still as true as it was five years ago? I don't think I would sign or number a giclee (ink jet).

Today family members are encouraging me to make reproductions of an image or two, and even consider another dealer if it doesn't sit well with the one who has discouraged this practice. (I wouldn't sell online, and perhaps this may make it less of an issue or conflict of interest.) I'm becoming more swayed after being lectured for almost an hour today by well meaning people who think I am cutting myself off from a potential source of income while working on original paintings that take months to complete and few people can afford.

I've read that giclees are carried in major museums (or rather in the museum gift shops.) It certainly seems to make much more sense than it did a decade ago as the cost drops and quality increases. I'm not convinced that saying "that for every reproduction sold, one more original will not be bought in the world" is entirely true. I think the markets may be quite different, and giclees could be a good marketing tool. As they grow more common, surely the more the public will understand it is really just a high end poster, albeit a reproduction which can net a tidy profit for artists and finance the production of original work.

If I decide to experiment with this, my biggest challenge will be to find a "printer" I can trust.

Does anyone know of noted artists that have had giclee prints made recently, and who painters have trusted with their work? Who are some of the best printers? I've found a few online that seem fairly impressive. I'd likely have to ship slides/large format transparencies or send digital files, being quite a distance from major centres.

http://www.fineartgiclee.com/ and http://www.reproducingart.ca/printing/
are two that impress me off hand, but I've only just begun to look around. The first has useful tips on selecting a print company. The second which is run by a commercial photographer who seems to have a good eye (I had a glance at his portfolio) and reviews are encouraging.

I'll ask the local gallery about the the giclee which took me by surprise a few weeks ago, although this may not be enough to tell how well the same printer could reproduce every painting (such as a glossy dark oil.) It used to be difficult to reproduce many darker images well, but the technology is advancing so fast it might now be possible.

Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations?

I guess it's a little like vanity publishing and while this means there are many more awful books, it is also true than many good and a few great writers got their start that way, and heck there's just as much bad original art in the world. In and of itself it shouldn't cheapen an artist reputation as I have been warned. Or could it? What do people think about this?

How does a former starving artist get comfortable with being more business minded? Is it selling out? Or is improving technology challenging old mindsets and prejudices?

Happy New Year!

(-: jp

Last edited by jpohl; 01-01-09 at 07:15 AM.
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