Monday, 17 October 2016

Why some websites don’t look good on smartphones.

To understand the problem we have to go back in time. In the days when you could only view websites on a desktop computer, the ‘window’ size was fairly predictable, so was the resolution - 72dpi. The advent of smartphones and tablets caused some issues, but these were generally solved by giving websites three standard formats; desktop, tablet and mobile. That was all fine until the screen sizes within each format began to grow, so much that there is no longer any ‘standard screen sizes’. Also, people began using their mobile devices more than their desktops. So, although you can still see websites, the size of the content or buttons are too small to be effective. You can of course ‘zoom in’ but that looses you the overall context of the page - you can press the ‘buy’ button, but no longer see the image of what you had just bought!
The answer is to make your website re-configure itself to suit the viewing platform. It’s called making it ‘Responsive’. The idea is that the content can be re-sized, re-configured and edited to suit the individual platform/screen. For example, you might be happy to read a screen full of text on a desktop, but that same text on a smartphone will seem to scroll down forever. Its the same with pictures, an image scaled down proportionately to show on a smartphone might become ‘unreadable’  on the 
screen, its the same with text. So, with ‘responsive’ websites some content is allowed to re-scale and some is ‘fixed’ at different screen sizes. It all gets a bit complicated during the design of a website, but if you want every visitor to have a good experience, the work is essential. Because of the massive increase in the number of people using their smartphones for searching online, some web designers have started to design for the smartphone first and then scale/reconfigure the content up for the other format/screen sizes. Unfortunately, this might result in websites being more functional than entertaining in future, but it does seem to be the way things are going.

So, if you want your website to be valid and give your visitors a rewarding experience, make sure its ‘responsive’. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Why is fine art paper so expensive?

When you compare the price of an A4 sheet of fine art paper with a sheet of regular copy paper, the fine art paper is significantly more expensive. Why should this be? Surely they’re both just paper?
The answer lies in the weight, materials and longevity. Fine art papers are much heavier (thicker) than ordinary paper, but it’s the longevity that really counts. Fine art papers are designed to last, to not discolour or loose their stability over time. They’re produced to stringent ‘archival’ standards. They’re also made from cotton and not cellulose pulp, which needs acids to break it down during processing. The cost of the basic material is vastly different and so is the manufacturing process.
Copy paper, or any everyday paper, is made at high-speed in massive volumes. It’s fibre structure has to be capable of being run through very fast printing and processing machines under high tension. Fine art papers need very different qualities and are produced to a much higher standard that requires a consistent surface texture, accurate colour and overall stability. For painting, they must be able to take a wide range of applications, from watercolour paints through to oils and spirit-based inks. They mustn’t distort or warp under the applications and need to be durable enough to take many layers of application and workings. 
For fine art printing the paper requires a special ‘inkjet’ coating to take the giclée printing ink. Again, the surface needs to be accurate in its colour and consistency.

Fine art paper can be ‘on display’ for many years, so the ‘archival’ quality is essential to keep it pristine. The best papers are made in Germany or the USA, but there are some paper mills in the UK producing adequate papers. There are also many variations in the types of fine art paper available. Papers with different textures, colours and composition. Many people will only work with one type of paper, much in the way they’ll only use one brand of brushes or paint. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of papers available to allow for individual tastes and styles.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Where’s the best place to sell art?

The easy answer is where there’s a market for it, but that doesn’t really help. Finding that ‘market’ has always been the challenge for artists. Even Van Gough found it hard to sell his work to his brother, who was an art dealer! Finding the right market for your work often means looking outside the area you live in. Whilst, your ‘local’ Gallery might claim to ‘support local artists’, its sales you need, not just ‘support’. Interestingly, you and your art often hold more appeal if you’re not ‘local’. That’s because it makes your ‘story’ more intriguing/interesting to potential buyers. And people like a good story to go with their art, something to tell their friends when they show off their new art purchase.

Looking outside your local market can be quite a challenge, but it can also prove to be very worthwhile. Here’s some extreme examples. I once worked a consultant to the creative sector in Wales. In doing so, I was able to help quite a few artists find new markets for their work. A very good figurative artist was having problems finding any market for his work in the UK. So he was encouraged to try Germany and then had great success. Another artist, who produced large abstracts, found it impossible to get more than £600.00 for his originals locally, but an introduction (though a Government scheme) to a Gallery in New York now sees his work selling at $40k plus! Closer to home, there are artists in Scotland selling well in London, just as artists from Berkshire selling their work in Ireland. One artist that we’ve been printing for over the last ten years, finds the biggest market for her Suffolk scenes is outside Suffolk. Makes sense really. 

It also appears that the best prices can be achieved outside your local market - ‘local’ art doesn’t seem to hold the same value proposition. One of the framers in our own town sells ‘local watercolour originals’ at not much more than the cost of the materials and frame!  Crazy!

So, to answer the opening question of where’s the best place to sell art, you have to step out the box and introduce your work, and yourself, to new markets. Find new places and new buying publics. Van Gough would be amazed if he knew the best price for his work was actually achieved in New York!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Limited Editions of a Limited Edition?

An interesting puzzle came in a recent phone call. Etchers normally produce a short run of prints from their work and often one of them comes out much better than the rest. These prints are all produced by hand, you roller the ink onto your etching plate and then lay sheet of paper over it and apply the pressure. Each print is from a ‘Limited Edition’. So, what happens if you take the best one and have it giclée printed as another type of ‘Limited Edition’? This challenges the whole concept of ‘Limited Editions’. There’s no law governing ‘Limited Editions’, other that the contract you enter into with a buyer when you say you are selling him say ‘No 5’ of a ‘Limited Edition’ of 50. The buyer would have good reason to sue you if he found you’d sold another ‘No 5’ or if the Edition was expanded to 500. But what if there were two number ‘5’s, one was an original etching print, the other was the fifth giclée print copy from that original print. It would be good to know what the lawyers thought of this?

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

High-resolution scanning is essential in creating the best prints.

The way an artwork is ‘captured’ for printing directly affects how good and faithful your fine art reproductions will look. If you don’t get it right, your prints can appear ‘soft’, lack detail and not show the full range of tones you used in creating the work. To the public they will just look ‘flat’ when compared to the original. This lack of impact could well loose you a sale.

To achieve a quality scan, one with all the definition, colour and tone detail, we scan at a much higher resolution than we're able to print. The reason is that a normal 8bit scan can only capture 256 shades of grey, which are the basis of all other colour tones. When you paint, you have every colour and tone at your disposal. By scanning and mastering at the higher resolution of 48bit we capture thousands of shades, in fact it’s a continuous range from black to white - with no ‘steps’. This is vital in reproducing the subtle differences you create when painting a picture. So, if you want the best possible reproductions of your work, make sure it’s scanned and mastered to the highest resolution before printing.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Giclée prints don’t like getting wet!

With the wonders of today’s digital printing, it’s easy to forget that giclée inks are water-based and will run if they get wet. This is not critical with paper prints, as they are normally behind glass in a frame, but canvas prints can be exposed to all manner of risks. The popping champagne cork can cause damage, steam can ‘lift’ the ink, even wiping with a damp rag can affect the print surface. This is also important for artists thinking of ‘enhancing’ their prints by over-painting - but I’ll cover this issue in another blog.

The answer is to ‘seal’ your prints with a protective spray - Hahnemühle produces a good one. But if your canvas is to be stretched, spray it after the stretching to ensure the protective coating gets into the weave of the canvas. If you spray it before stretching, the process of stretching will open up the weave and ‘break’ the protective coating. Your canvas prints will also benefit from the UV protection the spray gives, which is important if they’re not behind glass.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The curse of the JPEG - for fine art reproduction.

JPEGs are a neat way to make a file smaller. The process was originally invented for uploading pictures to the web as the normal high-resolution, wide colour range of image files was unnecessary for  viewing on the average PC screen, the file size also had to be as small as possible for use with the internet.

JPEG works  for standard printing, as the CMYK process had a limited colour range, and high speed/low cost printing is a compromise on quality itself.
Where you need the finest quality and most faithful reproduction, and file size is not an issue, Saving an image as a JPEG represents a big compromise. 

So how does JPEG make a file Smaller? Well, instead of each colour/tone having its own reference, JPEG ‘averages’ colours; it groups similar tones together and then assigns a group reference. This makes the data, or file size, smaller. The higher the compression, the bigger the group, the less colour detail.  Of course JPEG has different levels of compression, the process that makes files smaller but, as most people use it to make the files as small as possible, they ‘squeeze’ all the colour detail out in the process.
And its this colour detail that differentiates a giclée print from standard printing. The number of tones and colour range (gamut) are much higher with giclée printing So, if you’re sending a file for giclée printing save it as an un-compressed file, a TIFF or PSD. That way you’ll get the most faithful print at the highest quality. 

Sadly, there no way to ‘recover an image saved’ as  a JPEG once its been compressed. The data is lost forever.  Re-saving  a JPEG as a TIFF or PSD will not improve the quality and the detail will be lost forever.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

What is the best way to send art?

It depends on how big the original artwork is, how it was created and whether it is framed or not. Also, if it is on paper or canvas, can it be rolled?

So, let’s deal with those  points individually:
If your art can be rolled, this is the safest way to send it, providing you use an 8cm+ thick-walled tube. If it can’t be rolled, then ‘sandwich’ it between two sheets of thin MDF, making sure you protect the face of the work, and seal it down to ensure nothing ‘moves’. Wrap in brown paper and seal all the edges with packaging tape. It’s good to also wrap the ends, where the most wear will happen. Mark the package with ‘Handle with Care’ stickers or tape, and remember to add your ‘sender’s address’.

For small art that’s under 61 x 46 x 46 cm, it’s best to use Special Delivery via the Post Office. Again, package it well.
For big art - over the size the maximum Special Delivery size, you'll need to use ParcelForce or one of the Courier companies, DHL, FedEx, etc. Again pack the art well and be aware that most packages are machine-handled, so make sure you package is robust and will withstand part of the journey on a conveyor belt with lots of other packages! Bubble wrap on the inside of the package is ok, but not on the outside -  as this can cause the package to ‘snag’ during processing.

Pastels, deep impasto oils and montages are the most difficult to pack and ship, if in doubt speak to your local framer, they will have a lot of experience packing and shipping art. They might also stock the expanding boxes that are great for shipping - we have a few, but not all sizes. The two biggest risks for shipping art of any size are; the package being ‘punctured’ by another package, and things inside a package moving about and damaging the contents.

To insure your package or not? 
The issue here is whether you’ll be paid out what you think your art is worth. Just because you take out a ’£1,000.00’ cover doesn’t mean you’ll get £1,000.00 in compensation. The compensation is normally calculated on what the item was worth in the eyes of an insurance assessor. This can be the sum of the material costs balanced against the proven retail value, minus any profit. And ‘proven value’ means documentation to establish the value. To quote the Post Office: “Proof of the items value which must show what it cost the claimant to acquire, purchase or manufacture the original item”. Therefore, an artwork which you hope to sell for £1,000.00 might only achieve £150.00 in compensation!

To realistically insure your artwork in transit, you need to speak to a specialist insurer or ask advice from the Fine Art Trade Guild.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Who sets the price for art?

At what price should I sell my art?

This dilemma is not exclusive to art. Anyone who creates something new is faced with the same question. But, as with sculpture or a ceramic pot, you really need to start by establishing how much it costs you to create the work, a level below which you would loose money. This has to include all the materials, promotion costs, packaging and maybe framing. Plus you need to add your time, which has a value, and don’t forget the ‘fixed costs’ - lighting, heating, travel, location/studio. Once you have this basic cost established, you then need to factor in any possible commissions that Galleries or Agents might expect, plus any other ‘selling’ cost.

Now you’ve got a realistic basis to work from, the rest should be your profit. As always, how much profit depends on how much a buyer is prepared to pay for your work, and this depends on how much appeal you’ve created for your work. For example, most of the ‘Old Masters’ made very little profit from their work because they were bad at ‘creating appeal’ - or marketing as we now call it. Those who did make the money from their work were the people who bought the work and then sold it; plus the auctioneers and agents, and they made a lot of money! Its the same today, if you get the marketing right, you can set the price as high as your buyers are prepared to pay. There is no ‘correct’ price for art. Get it right and you’re onto a winner, but unless you want to known as ‘cheap’, don’t sell your art cheap!

Monday, 27 June 2016

What is ArtSure?

ArtSure is basically a register of prints that meet the Fine Art Trade Guild's highest standard for printing. All prints that meet the criteria are given an individual registration number and can be viewed on the ArtSure section of the Fine Art Trade Guild's website:

The benefits for the Artist are that the registration establishes the quality of the prints and differentiates them from all the 'cheap' reproductions on the market today. It also reassures their buyers that the print is going to last and remain a faithfully reproduction of the original. There's an additional but not stated benefit for the Artist; it establishes the date of the work - important for copyright.

The benefit for the buyer is mainly that they can be sure the print they've bought won't fade or discolour, and it'll hold a realistic value. It will also sit comfortably in a frame with no 'cockling' or distortion over time. But the biggest benefit is that it will look good, so good that you'll think it was the original!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Can you print from any picture file?

Technically yes. But the quality of a print is dependent of the quality and resolution of the image file. Many images are captured at ‘screen resolution’ - 72dpi.To achieve a good print you need an image of 240-360dpi. There can also be problem with images shot as JPEGs and heavily compressed to make the file smaller, this reduces the overall quality of the image and colour detail.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Do giclée prints fade?

Yes, in time, but nowhere near as fast as other methods of printing. This is because they use pigments inks rather than dyes, and this makes them colourfast. Displayed correctly, that is behind glass and away from direct sunlight, they should remain pristine for a ‘lifetime’.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

What is giclee? 

Giclée is the name used to describe a method of high-resolution ink-jet printing that uses specially coated paper or canvas and 8+ colour pigment inks. Giclée printing is recognised for delivering the finest quality for Fine Art and Photographic prints.

Friday, 29 January 2016

New for 2016 - My blog is going to be dedicated to answering all your questions about giclée printing. If you have question either respond to this blog or email me at: