Thursday, December 18, 2008

Methods of Reproducing Two Dimensional Artwork - Drawings and Painting

I am often asked by emerging artists: "How do I make prints?" This post will cover two of the most common forms of reproduction in use today. Many artists use one of the following methods for making print reproductions.

1) Offset Lithography
This is a traditional printing process involving the use of plates and ink with printing presses. Lithography is a great option for quantity if you plan to print at least several hundred copies of a print and have the funds to cover up front printing costs. Your cost-per-piece will likely be the lowest with offset lithography. To find a quality commercial printer, you may want to contact your local chamber of commerce and ask about printers who specialize in artist prints. Investigate mid-size print shops, as high end shops focus on much larger jobs than artist prints, and small shops may be more geared to lower-end production printing like advertisements, flyers, newsletters and the like. You want the best quality/price ratio you can get. My printer of choice for my pencil drawing reproductions is North Coast Litho.

Sometimes artists are intimidated by the higher initial cost of offset printing. Keep in mind that a commercial (offset) printer often utilizes giant sheets of paper. He may be able to run multiple prints on that same sheet (2-up, 4-up, etc.) This brings the cost per print down even further, something to be considered if you want numerous prints reproduced.

You can save some money by doing the pre-press file preparation yourself. If you do not possess the knowledge and skills to prepare work for reproduction, try finding a local graphic designer to assist you.

2) Digital Printing
This term covers ink jet, giclee, and other direct printing methods available today. The big plus with digital printing is the ability to print low quantities - even one print at a time. At the lower end of digital printing, you can purchase an ink jet printer (hopefully with archival inks and paper) and print your own reproductions. This assumes that you or someone you know has the ability to prepare the electronic files for optimal output.

At the higher end of the digital printing scale is the giclee print. While still a form of ink jet technology, the equipment used is geared for high-end output such as art prints. Giclee prints can even printed on canvas. Many professional color labs and some commercial printers offer giclee prints. Your cost/print will be higher than with offset lithography, but you can purchase only the number of prints you need. This can be an ideal way for an artist to get started selling reproductions. The same “pre-press” consideration applies here. If you can supply quality hi-res files, you will save money.

A note about archival inks and paper: I have seen artists selling reproductions printed by standard ink jet printers with regular paper. Look at those prints 6 months to a year later and you will often see a faded image on yellowed paper. It is similar to the effect you see on aged newsprint, and has the same cause - acidic ph of the paper. This highlights the importance of using archival paper and inks for your reproductions. The last thing you want is a happy customer today, who morphs into an unhappy customer next year, because his purchase from you had literally faded away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Reproducing Two Dimensional Art: Open Edition Prints vs. Limited Edition Prints

In addition to knowing how to reproduce pencil drawings and other 2D artwork (a topic to be covered in detail in an upcoming post), one should consider the category in which the reproductions will be sold. This posting will address the difference between “open edition prints” and “limited edition prints.”

FYI - Two-dimensional reproductions are often referred to as prints, and I will use the terms here interchangeably. The term “print” is not to be confused with the original print-making process where an artist actually hand-creates each print. For this posting, a print will be known as a reproduction of an original painting, drawing or other two-dimensional piece of artwork.

An open edition print is a reproduction of unlimited quantity. You can print as many of them as you like. A limited edition print refers to a set number of copies of the work of art. Each reproduction is then signed and numbered by the artist for authenticity. As the total quantity available for sale is limited, the sale price for limited edition prints tends to be higher than that of open edition prints. This price ratio increases as the artist gains recognition.

The practice of limiting editions and numbering of reproductions dates back to early printing methods - when the quality of the images declined as the printing plates began to show evidence of wear. By limiting an edition to the best examples of an artist’s work, the artist protected both his or her artistic integrity and the value of the work to the collector. Printing methods have since advanced considerably and editions are now often limited for financial reasons. By ensuring the relative rarity of the work, an artist increases its value.

In addition to a fixed number of edition prints, there may also exist AP prints and HC prints. AP prints refer to Artist Proofs. Artist proofs also date back to early printing methods. These were the first sheets off the printing press which were used to determine ink coverage and general quality. As they were the first pieces to be printed, they were considered to be more valuable. AP prints are signed and numbered separately from the main edition. HC prints, or Hors De Commerce (not for trade) prints, are marked by the artist as prints to be used for business practice: such as samples, display only, etc. Occasionally there are also PP or Printers Proofs. These refer to the prints gifted to the printer responsible for printing the artwork.

A hand-tinted print is a variation on reproductions. Hand-tinting refers to the process of adding color highlights to black & white photographs or black & white reproductions. The process usually involves the application of watercolors or dies applied with a brush. Note that in the case of limited editions, any tinted prints are part of the same edition and not a separate edition. In other words, if print #43 is sold as a hand-tinted print, no other print #43 of the same image and size exists.

You can print open editions and limited editions of the same image, by the way. Try different sizes - perhaps an open edition with a small image that can be matted to fit an 8"x10" frame. Then run a larger print size in a smaller quantity and sign/number those prints as limited editions.

A limited edition print should include a “Statement of Reproduction.” This can be a label or certificate that contains at minimum the following information: title of artwork, reproduction method, artist name, publisher name, image size, copyright declaration, edition size and the number of the print. Also include your contact information. If your prints are matted or framed for sale, this statement should be affixed to the backing board behind the print.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Selling Original Art vs. Reproductions

One of the most common questions I have received from emerging 2D artists is whether to sell their original works or reproductions. Another popular question from emerging artists is “How do I make reproductions?”

Before getting into these two topics, let me share a piece of advice I received early in my career. I once had inquired of a mentor: “What should I draw? I don’t know what people will buy.” His reply echoes in my mind to this very day. Very directly he stated, “Forget what people will buy - you draw what you love.”

When one creates from a place of love or passion, the creative power that comes forth is quite strong. When one creates with the intent of manipulating circumstance (i.e. getting people to buy something), the creative process is distorted. Start with what you love or are passionate about in some way, then let the ideas flow from there.

Now, should you sell original works or reproductions? The answer for me from the start was a hearty “both!” Some artists do not like to part with their originals, and that is indeed a personal choice. My own feeling is that too many works accumulated in my storage area creates congestion, both physically and metaphysically. I like to keep the work moving out, so the consequential vacuum allows new ideas to flow in. Nature abhors a vacuum it is said, and you will find that the moving-out process invites the flowing-in process to continue its natural cycle.

Having said that, I always create a hi-resolution (hi-res) image of an original before it is posted for sale. This hi-res image gives you the freedom to reproduce the work later, and can be archived until such a decision is made. In past years a hi-res image meant a 4"x5" transparency shot by a professional photographer. These days it usually means a digital file that is created either with a scanner or a professional digital camera. If you do not have studio photography experience, then pay for professional quality image recording of your work. I repeat, this image needs to be the highest quality possible. It can be used later to make reproductions, advertise your work, apply to a juried exhibit, etc. This is not the place to pinch pennies.

Stay tuned to upcoming posts as I will be discussing some of the options and “how-to’s” for reproducing two dimensional artwork.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

“Honorable Mention” award received at Museum Show

My pencil drawing “The Eyes Have It” has won an Honorable Mention Award at the Massillon Museum exhibition for Stark County artists. The show is open to the public and will be on display during normal museum hours through February 8.

Also available from my website as a matted horse art print, this drawing will be on display as part of the exhibit. If you are in the area, please stop by the opening and enjoy the wealth of local talent in this wonderful show!

“The Eyes Have It”: