Words like original and unique are broadly used today, often meaning "not your everyday run of the mill item". We consider "The Original" to be the image that the artist hand painted using watercolors, oils, acrylics, pencils etc. It is the image that is then scanned into a digital file to be made into giclees, lithographs, serigraphs etc. Some paintings are made commercially in studios, where several craftsmen paint a set design on the piece. While these images are named originals their abundance usually makes their value minimal. Some giclees are enhanced with hand work. These are sometimes sold as original. We recommend that buyers choose art that they enjoy living with, and make an informed choice when buying "originals".
When more than one piece of an image is made they are called reproductions or prints. If they include advertising copy they are called posters. The quality and amount of work needed to produce them varies tremendously. Following are some methods of reproducing an original.
A Giclee (pronounced Gee'clay) is made on a large format printer using a digital image taken from the original. The major advantage of this method is that the artist can manipulate the image, using photoshop until he is satisfied with the results. Size of image can be selected later, so many small artist proofs are generated in the process until a giclee that is the same or better than the original is produced. This work requires good computer skills and an artist's eye for color and Pantelis prefers to do the work himself. Once the master file is ready, the image is then printed on heavy watercolor paper using archival inks. Giclee comes from the french word to squirt and the oversized printer does it's job, producing an image with a full range of tones and hues that make the image difficult to tell from an original watercolor. When framed and displayed at a show, only the price will distinguish it from a watercolor. The giclees are made one at a time and can be made any size up to 40 inches on the shorter side.
Lithographs are made with a photo-mechanical process. The image is scanned or photographed. The size of the print is then chosen and color separations are made, often using four colors but sometimes six or more. The separations go to a printer who makes a proof for approval. The printer can tweak the process a little; darkening one area gives the illusion of lightening the one next to it. However the printer is limited to working with the quality of the scans. The regular printing process also tends to produce a faded appearance on watercolor paper so a coated paper is used to make the inks lay on the surface and give a more vibrant look. Edition sizes are usually larger because most of the expenses of this process are setting up the print run. Choice of image size is usually limited because each size has to have a set of color separations.
This is a print made by the silk screen method. Parts of the image are superimposed on a fine mesh screen. Areas around them are blocked out creating a stencil. The ink is then applied by pulling it with a squeegee across the screen which covers the paper. This is a hand done process and the paper is left to dry between each application of ink. Layers of ink create different colors than the primary colors and artist 's paints can also be used. This process is usually done on heavy paper and the editions are small.
Archival is used to describe the quality of the inks and paper used in the giclee process. High quality inks, that resist fading, give a product that has a much better useful life span than the lower quality inks from a standard printer. Paper quality is also important because acid content burns the paper and slowly destroys it, so neutral PH is important. This concept carries over to originals also. Amateur artists sometimes buy less permanent watercolors, to save money and/or because mistakes can be more easily lifted from the paper. So make informed choices.
The origins of limited editions come from printing techniques such as etching. The etched plates get worn down with each pass of the press, so the images become less sharp and less desirable, hence the preference for low numbers. The opposite is often true when making giclees. The artist will often tweak the image over time as he strives for his ideal. In most cases "the limited edition" is a marketing tool, but not a well defined one. Some artists considered an image to be new edition if a different size is made or a different paper is used. When we began making giclees we made two standard sizes and numbered them as separate editions. As we began to get requests for the same images in custom sizes or on canvas we changed our system and now all new editions are numbered in the same edition whether they are a standard size, custom size, on watercolor paper or canvas. Usually the edition is limited to around 400 pieces including artist proofs.
Minis and cards, with an image under 5" x7" are not counted as part of the edition. A certificate of authenticity is provided with each limited edition giclee or original.