Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When is a print not a print? When it might be a Giclee!

So what the heck is a "giclee"? 

Ever go to a gallery and see an original watercolor, acrylic, or oil painting on the wall 
and a display or bin of "Fine Art Limited Editions" below it for a 10th (Or 100th) the price 
of the painting? Or maybe you have seen one of these things framed under glass or 
maybe it looked like stretched canvas. A giclee can be used to reproduce photographs 
onto canvas as well. Giclees can even have texture that looks like brushstrokes! 

Giclee comes from the French word giclee and refers to the nozzle 
on an ink-jet printer. Yes, a printer like you might have in your office only with much 
better color reproduction. Giclees are prints since they are printed. But making
a giclee is not printmaking. 

A high-resolution photograph of the art is taken and an image is printed onto a
substrate using a large ink-jet printer. It is a mechanized process and the artist is not involved. 
An artist may have labored over the original art and approved a proof, but now, it can be
printed quickly as needed: JIT art. 

A giclee can be printed on fine art paper or canvas and can even be "enhanced" with oil 
paint and varnished like an oil painting. They can be hand-signed and numbered by the artist
Thomas Kinkade was notorious for hiring "master highlighters" to add blobs of paint to 
improve the artwork. It enables an artist to make reproductions of their paintings and sell
them for much less than the original. Hotel chains use them all the time. You can see
very inexpensive ones everywhere, even IKEA. 

There is nothing wrong with giclees...as long as it's clear that they are sold as reproductions
of an original piece of art. They are not considered fine art. They are much less expensive 
than original art for good reason.
As an artist, there is nothing wrong with making giclees from some of your popular pieces.
If you have a market for them, go for it. However, there is a reason they are banned from 
juried art shows, print shows, and even some art festivals. 
Posters are not giclees and usually not mistaken for anything other than what they are. 
Nothing wrong with posters either. When you are on a budget or want a souvenir from
a special museum show, these make a lot of sense. 

But please do not confuse giclees with hand-pulled etchings, woodcuts, intaglios, monotypes, 
monoprints, silkscreens, drypoints, mezzotints, engravings, or lithography.
These are examples of fine-art printmaking processes where a substrate or matrix of metal,
stone, or wood is used to create an original artwork that is sometimes printed as a 
limited edition by the artist, each signed and designated an "artist's proof (A/P) or numbered. 
Not a giclee..this is a monotype and is one-of-a-kind

Be careful when you buy giclees misrepresented by unscrupulous galleries that are selling
giclees as something similar to a fine art print such as an etching. They may be overpriced
and are certainly being misrepresented as another type of art. Buyer beware. 
Just buy them knowing what they are. Or buy original, hand-made fine art prints from 
a local artist and be happy knowing you have just purchased something very special. 

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