Thursday, 8 May 2014

Is it time to rethink Art?

Well, not art itself, but the roll it has in people’s lives. Yes, we can all view wonderful art in galleries and museums, but it’s the art in people’s homes that affects most artists. Art sells to people, not museums. And it’s here we have to consider the changing value of art to the homeowner. 

Why do they buy art? Well, except for the ones who see it as an investment, most want it to  enhance their  homes - to decorate their walls. Unlike art collectors of old, who kept buying until their walls were full, today’s buyer needs pictures or a piece of art to complete their current interior ‘look’, and this change in lifestyle means we need to rethink the roll of art. 

Most people will live in more than one home during their adult life, some might remodel their homes many times over, changing the ‘look’, and the pictures or art to suit their needs or current lifestyle. Here’s where artists need a deep intake of breath because anything that doesn’t ‘fit’ the new look  will be discarded. Let’s hope they don’t throw away original artworks, but they will give them away or store them in their loft - often never to be seen again!

So, for the money-earning artist, coming to terms with the fact that their work could only hold a temporary value will need a significant rethink. And this is where the significance of a giclée print comes in because it’s of a lower cost and can instantly be reproduced, it t matters less if it gets thrown away. In fact, it creates a whole different business model for the artist; the original artwork then becomes the means to produce the prints, which can be reproduced as many times as there are buyers, and the original can be kept or sold when the popularity of the prints has raised its value. Many artists now view the originals as their ‘pension fund’.

But it does mean that the artist needs to ‘invest’ in the scanning and reproduction from the start and not wait until the original sells in order to pay for it. The other advantage of majoring on prints is that there’s an ‘asset value’ that can be handed down. The prints could continue to sell long after the artist has ceased to produce new works.

Prints don’t devalue original artwork, they enable more people to enjoy it.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The risks of buying fine art printing:

Not all fine art printers are the same. There is no ‘standard way of working’, so it’s important to know the prints you get are as good as they can be.

There are two basic methods to reproduce art; conventional litho/digital printing or giclée printing.

Conventional litho/digital printing:


It’s cheap and fast. 


The range of colours and colour detail (gamut) are very limited. There are normally only four colour inks - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and the inks are not lightfast. They will fade over time. The papers also have a ‘limited life’ and will eventually discolour. The minimum print run is usually 100 copies and there can be some variation in quality over the run. Repeat orders might also not look exactly the same. Generally, prints made in this way hold little value over time. 

Trying to find a good litho/digital printer is not easy, mainly because the art world is not good business for them. To make money, they need to keep their machines running all the time, and they need long runs of commercial work. They also work to tolerance level that’s fine for disposable print, but might not meet the needs of the discerning Artist.

Giclée printing:


Currently, the best quality prints available. The range of colours and detail is the highest available for prints. The number of inks used is normally at least eight, which includes three ‘blacks’. These are very important as they provide a continuous ‘grey-scale’, which is the basis of most other colours. The inks are all pigment, so they won’t fade, and prints can be made on acid-free, often mould-made, papers that are of archival quality and won’t discolour or affect the print ink. 

Apart from the level of quality achievable, the next greatest advantage for the Artist is that they can order just one print - and know that every subsequent print will be exactly the same. Giclée prints are recognised as a valued reproduction of an artwork and can increase in value, particularly ‘Limited Editions’.


It’s not a ‘cheap’ product and printing is not fast, as each print is individually produced.

Giclée printers are more available and better understand the needs of the Artist. They normally don’t do ‘commercial work’. However, not all giclée printers are the same. If you’re hoping to sell your prints, you need to be working with the best - your customers will expect it.

The things to look out for when selecting a giclée printer:

  • Can you trust them - they will have digital ‘masters’ of your work?
  • Can they provide you with the level of understanding, service and turnaround you need?
  • Are their premises secure - they probably will have your original artwork onsite for a while?
  • How are they going to ‘capture’ your art? There’s a big difference between a properly scanned file and one taken by a regular camera. For quality prints, you need big, high-resolution files without any compression (JPEG).
  • How good are they at matching the print to your original artwork? This is a real skill and requires a totally calibrated system - from scanner to printer.
  • Will they provide you with a copy of your master file? Some have been known to ‘hold their clients to ransom’ by insisting they hold onto the master file, thus preventing you from using another printer.
  • Are they ‘Accredited’ by the Fine Art Trade Guild? Accredited printers are required to have their prints laboratory tested each year to maintain their accreditation.

On the more technical side:

  • Are they using ‘Manufacturers Inks’? Some printers try to reduce their costs by using cheap ‘alternative’ inks. These are usually not lightfast, quality controlled or meet industry standards.
  • Are the papers/canvas of ‘Archival’ quality? Again, printers can reduce their cost (increase their profits) by using cheaper materials. They get the benefit, not you.
  • Are they using current technology? This influences how good your files/prints are and keeps your investment in the scanning/mastering your work up to date.

Make your selection based on track record, level of 'real' service offered and quality of work. Find accredited printers on the Fine Art Trade Guild website: www.fine

Overall, you need a good working relationship. Often it’s a long-term relationship, so you need to be confident they’ll still be around in the future and they’ve not diversified off into some other business.

Salt of the Earth has been an Accredited Printer by the Fine Art Trade Guild since 2003.