This morning Pam Haddock of Sylva, NC, wrote, “Our art association is in a quandary. One of the requirements of our well-attended and successful group shows is that all work has to be original, with no reproductions. We make an exception for photographers. Now some of our painting members want to keep and enjoy their own originals and are busy making giclees. They want to show and sell them. Some club members don’t want this. I can’t see what the fuss is about — it seems they’re reproductions just like photos. What do you think about having prints among our originals?”
Thanks, Pam. With the low cost and easy availability of giclees, this question is rankling a lot of art clubs these days. While preciousness of original art is a factor, there are many reasons for duplication, not the least of which is the potential extension of financial return. Further, some artists are getting the idea that their art is worth more if it is reproduced. I’ve noticed that this concept works for some artists and not for others. I’ve also talked to disappointed potential buyers who were sad to report an overabundance of prints. “Do these artists love painting, or do they just want to capitalize on it?” they ask. Somehow, there’s still something pure about an original.
While some clubs continue to disallow reproductions, some others are in the throes of a print epidemic. There’s a happy middle ground that tests the waters for both: Exhibit prints and originals in two distinct areas of the venue — and have them clearly marked and advertised as such. Print seekers will move to the print section, while the purists will go to the originals. If the show is nicely balanced, with no great shortage of either, club members can observe the current tides.
Another solution is for a club to make print access available to all members. An ensuing show can be all reproductions. This can actually stimulate some interest in a community that may be weary of art-club events. Further, it permits artists to access and print from better originals that may already be sold and out in the community. While it’s understood that artists continue to own the copyrights to their work, unless they have sold the rights separately, owners are often, but not always, pleased by the compliment.
PS: “They’re building walls faster than we can make original art to go on it. Reproductions are the answer.” (Kiff Holland)
Esoterica: The ongoing problem with ubiquitous reproductions is what to do with genuine prints. Some folks do engravings, serigraphs, stone-lithos and other handmade, limited-edition works of art. I, for one, don’t like to see traditional print-art being marginalized, and mechanical reproduction has gone a long way in doing just that. This is one of the reasons dedicated printmakers tend to avoid clubs. Putting up a sign that says “Genuine prints — this way” won’t cut it either, unless you feel a donnybrook is needed for club publicity.
Digital artwork as one-off prints?
by David Hallowell, Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
What if a print IS an original? This sticky associated problem stares me squarely in the face now. Owing to my lifestyle, travels and my fascination with technology, I have begun to do almost all my paintings on a computer! I work in several programs, including some fascinating Fractal programs, but primarily in Adobe Photoshop. Some of the images I have created are all hand work! A cordless mouse is my brush! Other pieces depend heavily upon technology. I often have my works printed as Giclee prints on canvas, of course, and recently have been working on a series of what will become Giclee-on-canvas paintings that I plan to sell as one-off originals! I really mean I will not make more than one! I believe this will make the original more valuable. I would greatly appreciate advice from you and your community about how to regulate this so it can be authenticated and the buyer can be sure it is what the seller says it is. I worry that there is a greater potential for counterfeiting in digital art. At first I thought that I would place a fingerprint somewhere on the canvas, but one advantage of digital art, namely the portability of the image, is lost thereby. If I send a canvas across national boundaries I need to get some locally recognized art expert to allow it. This costs me a good deal of time and money. I prefer to find qualified partners to receive the piece, digitally transferred on the Web, and print it near the customer or at least near the gallery.
Giclee vs. original print
by Sallyann Paschall
I am a printmaker and painter who also makes reproduction prints of some of my work. If I have prints and reproductions in my booth together, I have developed a spiel to explain the difference between the two. And the price is very different. Also, I have developed a certificate of authenticity for each work that delineates the work as being a Giclee (a reproduction of an original) vs. an original print. Recently, I made a print of an original monotype and have signed Giclee after the edition number, for example “2/30 Giclee.” If that doesn’t signify that it is a reproduction, I’m not sure what would work. I view the whole thing as an educational opportunity. The ethical problems arise when the buyer is not fully informed about what he is getting. And PLEASE don’t tell anyone that a reproduction will appreciate in value! It won’t.
Giclees falling short on watercolour
by James Lange, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
While it’s true that Giclee printing certainly is an amazing technology, I have to say that it never quite captures the true and very subtle nuances of watercolor landscapes. This is especially true of glazed passages, where the print often leaves the image looking a little “flat.” After making a few printers angry and defensive, though, I’ve learned to keep these critiques to myself and just go for the best capture I can get. In the end, there is nothing quite like an original, and perhaps that is exactly as it should be.
There is 1 comment for Giclees falling short on watercolour by James Lange
Prints hurt credibility
by Raya Geisler, Santa Fe, NM, USA
I used to sign contracts with print companies (Poster to Giclees) and I admit those royalty checks are lovely, even if they are getting smaller as the years go by. However, beware Technology has grown so completely. I’ve declined all print offers after I found a reproduction of one of my canvases at a T. J. Max store for $25. The truly sickening thing was that they had managed to reproduce my hard work of texture-making; it looked as though I had painted it! It wasn’t some brushed-over glaze on top of the print, but an actual surface texture (and color) reproduction. The past few years I’ve begun to work directly with galleries (instead of art agents) and having prints out there has hurt my credibility. I recently had a canvas returned to a Gallery because the buyer had taken it to her Framer who told her it was a reproduction! I am currently reinventing myself… Be very careful of the print seduction; if you must, then control all aspects of it yourself, or find a way to paint faster.
The bright side of prints
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA
I am a firm believer in reproduction prints for several reasons. The obvious is the residual income that can be put in place long after the original and the artist is gone — part of the legacy to leave behind for the artist’s family. Also, it is another market to get your image out there as an emerging artist. There are, however, some drawbacks to the going trend of today, and that is the homemade prints on non-archival capability printers that are flooding the market. To have a Giclee made at a print shop, it can get very pricey, which can get the print prices just as pricey. This competes with most emerging artists’ pricing of originals on the lower end of the spectrum. And the high-end reproduction Giclee print market is suffering at the present time for many reasons, which has turned a lot of artists to printing their own lower-cost prints. Having my originals scanned for prints were my way of archiving the image for later use if need be. I, too, have learned a lot of pros and cons of the market since I started. One of the hugest issues is the numbering of the limited edition print. With Giclees being printed on demand, it’s labor intensive to keep track of what number you are on. I suggest leaving them as open editions unless you are going to have the entire edition printed at one time.
Capitalizing on our creations
by Dar Hosta, Flemington, NJ, USA
Well, I love painting and I want to capitalize on it. What is wrong with that? We live in a capitalist society, after all, and I, for one, am tired of the implied attitude from some of the public that artists should simply enjoy what they do and not expect to get a respectable income from doing it. The US film writers were fighting for a measly 3% of a big Internet market while the guys at the top probably thought they were lucky to have writing jobs in the first place! This is my day job and, despite the fact that I receive no health-care, no sick days, no paid vacation and no pension, there are still those who will romanticize the “starving artist” stereotype when it comes to their attitudes about what they will, or won’t, buy. Furthermore, I would like to dispel some of the attitudes that artists and club leaders have about reproductions. This elitist attitude toward originals only is just that: elitist. It means that only one person can have the art and I think that is unfortunate, for the artist and the world. And, frankly, if anyone is paying attention to the economy here in the US, they need to get realistic and see that, unless they are catering to the top 5% of our population, things in the middle are not so good and not many people currently have disposable income for original art. Giclees have nothing to do with hand-pulled prints and I don’t see them being competitive at all. I have my own digital studio and sell high-end, archival, limited edition Giclees of 300 and the truth is that if I didn’t, I’m afraid I’d have to find a new day job. My customers have never complained.
Sharing a labor of love
by Karen Schweitzer Fleenor, Seattle, WA, USA
Over the years I have talked to countless artists about opportunities, such as recognition and residual income, which open up when they publish their work, be it self-publishing or through a company such as mine. But mostly, I love the artist who has the desire to open up a secondary market for their work with the sole intention of getting their artwork into the hands of more than just the “qualified” few that can purchase the original. And that’s exactly it… there are only so many buyers that are qualified to purchase originals. It’s about sharing their labor of love with more people. In all my years of publishing, considering I have worked with hundreds, if not thousands of artists, I have never had an artist call me and say “selling prints has hurt the sales of my originals.” But I have often heard that the recognition gained from the smart production and distribution of prints (I say smart because done incorrectly publishing can have negative consequences) has well outweighed any perceived risks from being reproduced. Now… in the end, it’s really the gallery owner that is the most afraid of the print business. It won’t hurt the artist’s business, but they do have a perception that it hurts theirs. But that’s another story.
Printmakers’ art and Giclees
by Bruce Winsor, Denver, CO, USA
The printmakers’ art is a venerable one requiring as much skill and artistic sensitivity as the making of original paintings and sculptures. The artist’s skilled hand and decision making are key at every stage of the processes of etching, lithography, silk screening, block printing, etc. One only has to think of such great printmakers as Goya, Rembrandt, Zorn and so many more to realize that a print is far more than a mere reproduction, but is a work of art in its own right. In sharp contrast, a reproduction such as a Giclee is little more than a high quality photograph of a work of art and, while it may be beautiful and may provide some of the less affluent members of our world with access to wonderful images, they are not, in themselves, works of art. Although the photographers’ and computer operators’ skill are critical to making good Giclee reproductions, all of the artistic decision making has occurred in the original being reproduced. I think as artists we should be careful to distinguish between the art of printmaking and reproductions such as Giclees, both out of respect for the artistry of printmakers and to avoid misleading the public. By the way, I am a painter, not a printmaker, so I have no financial axe of my own to grind.
The value of original art
by Louise Francke, NC, USA
Being a North Carolina artist who has curated and exhibited in many shows in this Triangle Area, I feel that art exhibits should be limited to originals with the exception of photographic and computer art. People come to an exhibit to see original art. The artist can always say on the price sheet that limited edition Giclee prints are available. Personally, I have found in the past few art exhibits the blush has come off the Giclee print. People currently want to buy the real thing and not a reproduction which could possibly be an unlimited production. I know computer artists who will only have 5 Giclees made of a particular art work. In this manner, they limit the flooding of the market with a particular print. It should be made clear to the buyer that a Giclee is nothing more than an archival photographic reproduction; it will never increase in value. If anything, an environment without air conditioning and humidity control plus direct sunlight will take its toll on the print and decrease its value. As a print maker, I have felt the pinch Giclees have put on my prints. People are not knowledgeable about differences between limited editions of handmade and hand-pulled prints (etchings, lithographs, monoprints, monotypes, drypoints, etc.) vs. the mechanical, potentially mass-produced, Giclees.
Photographs are not reproductions
by Linda Mann, USA
As a photographer, I have to respond to this to correct some misconceptions about my medium and what constitutes a reproduction. Sylvia was quoted as saying reproductions are not permitted in her art show group but exceptions were made for photographs. Many people who are not very knowledgeable about various art mediums think photographs are reproductions, but I was surprised to see an artist and art group member thinking that. Every photograph is an original, always has been, always will be, no matter what the printing method. I know some painters have a problem believing this, but that is the way it is.
Also the word “Giclee” is terribly misunderstood and misused, often as a synonym for “reproduction.” It is simply a made-up name for an ink jet print. If the Giclee is made as a copy of another original piece of art, it is a reproduction. If the Giclee is being used to describe a photograph printed digitally, it is an original. I feel a need to educate regarding this term. I wish people would stop using it, since it creates a lot of confusion. An original is an original and a reproduction is a reproduction, not necessarily a Giclee, but it could be. A printed photograph, printed darkroom or digital, is still and always was an original unless, of course, it is reprinted in another medium such as a newspaper or magazine. I hope you will write a letter about this. Your forum would be a good place to educate many people about all this.
The printmaking community educates
by Amie Roman, Burnaby, BC, Canada
As a printmaker, and an active participant in the printmaking community (both online and locally), I strive very hard, along with my fellow printmakers, to educate about prints and printmaking vs. reproduction prints. I have found that the worst response tends to come from other artists: For traditional printmakers, the concept of the reproduction is not new — after all, lithographs, serigraphs (screen prints), and even block prints were regarded as “cheap” reproductive, quick and dirty methods of creating an image multiple times. Yet in all of these printmaking methods, there is a physical process involved where an artist, or craftsman (or team of craftsmen), working under the guidance of an artist, directly manipulates a “plate” of some kind (wood block, limestone block, silk screen) to create an image which is then transferred, one at a time, to a support. I just can’t justify mass reproduction where machinery does pretty much all the work as the equivalent of an original print method. Printmakers take great pride in the craftsmanship and skill required to master their chosen print methodology. On top of all of this, printmakers are sick and tired of having to qualify their term “print” in an effort to distinguish it from “reproduction.”
On the Wet Canvas! printmakers discussion forum, we have had many long rants about the “print vs. reproduction” topic, as well as what to call an “original art print,” which seems so cumbersome. After lots of interesting opinions, no one has yet come up with a particularly good alternative. Branding is everything, as it were, and printmakers need a really good ad agency to help us rise to the occasion! I do understand the economic benefits to reproduction of original art, and I’m not trying to imply that there isn’t a place in the art market for reproductions; after all, not everyone can afford an original Emily Carr. But perhaps opportunities to provide art-lovers with small gems of original art should be encouraged (with ACEO/ATC as a great example), rather than resorting to the quick fix of the reproduction. And original print art can be one of the solutions to the economic quandary: by their nature, and by the public opinion that anything in an “edition” must be worth less than something that’s one of a kind (even though each print requires equal effort to create in order to be considered acceptable to be included in an edition), original prints are usually very reasonably priced, and it’s often easy to find “shrink wrapped” versions for an even more economical choice.
Making margin for all media
by Barney Davey, firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe there’s room for art at all price points and media. Why not find a suitable way with suggestions such as you offer to make everyone happy without being exclusionary? How can more relevance and importance be fairly placed on reproductions of photography as opposed to Giclees or digital prints? Even if such decisions seem logical to some club members, I doubt consumers would agree. While it may not be the case, making exceptions for photographers creates an inconsistency that could potentially make clubs appear they are run by elitist amateurs. Seems like it ought to be either or without exception. Because I believe art buyers are sophisticated enough to know digital prints can be perfectly reproduced endlessly, I strenuously argue having limited editions of them is purely for marketing purposes, which ultimately reflects negatively on the art market. Likewise, I believe most would perceive the double standard in decisions to allow only certain types of reproductions and would not think more highly of the club or its shows as a result. Reproductions offer so many benefits; it’s hard to deny incorporating them into an artist’s array of offerings. Especially for those artists who seek to make a living from sale of their art. The precedent for artists using prints is centuries old from Rembrandt to Picasso and Warhol. And even with new technology allowing prints to be made more easily and creating some problems in the process, the greater benefit is it democratizes art in ways that lets many more people who love and want the art to own it. More importantly, it frees artists by allowing them to self-publish as never before. I would take that freedom for the inherent problems that come with it any day. Print-on-demand is changing not just art, but music, book publishing, photography and other formally rigid, exclusive marketing and sales opportunities for artists of all sorts. As a successful self-published book author, I say let’s embrace the technology, not stifle it.
Enjoy the past comments below for Prints or originals?…
oil painting, 16 x 16 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Amanda of Western Australia who wrote, “I’ve found it more productive to call my prints linocuts, woodcuts or etchings rather than fight for distinction against reproductions. What’s in a name?”
And also David Rodman Johnson who wrote, “Art creates an aesthetic emotional and spiritual environment… original art, an original human creation. Think of musicians who are battling the same issues by NOT recording their work, and only playing to sold-out arenas for ORIGINAL one-time experiences.”
And also Grace Hill who wrote, “You use the words ‘print’ and ‘reproduction’ interchangeably. I was always taught that a print is a litho, mono, etching, woodcut, etc. and is an original… A copy of a painting is a reproduction.”
And also Beth Deuble of San Diego, CA, USA who wrote, “For those who wish to sell Giclees, advise them to get a blog… they are cheap or free and many will allow a PayPal button.”