Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's a Giclee?

I have been neglecting my blog for several years and much has changed in the fine art digital printing industry during this time. As a senior with a background in the global creative industry, I paid little attention to the new media.until I attended a social neworking seminar by Rebecca Coleman in January. The power of networking was confirmed with the revolts in Africa and Egypt.

Over the next few weeks I am going to invite discussion on the digital fine art industry including  giclees,  the new mixed media, limited edition print disclosure laws, the various original print mediums and a section on art fraud.. 

In this first Blog I would like the reader to understand the meaning of the word "Giclee", it's authors intent in 1991 and try to clarify the confusion that exists about the word 20 years later.

What is a Giclee?? When you hear the word think "museum quality digital reproduction"

Giclee Printing is the technique of producing fine art prints using digital imaging technology. Archival pigmented inks are printed onto special coated fine art media such as artist canvas or a variety of cotton rag papers. This high standard technique is used by museums and galleries around the world for their art reproductions.

Giclee prints are made by scanning original artwork, scanning a film transparency or inputting digital  photography. This high resolution digital file is then adjusted in the computer to capture all of the nuances in the artwork. The ability to capture the digital information accurately and precisely is a marriage of the technology and artistic ability. The skill of operator and the quality of the equipment being used will determine the final print quality.

The biggest challenge in working with artists is managing expectations. It is a new medium. The longest serving and largest customer base of this technology are self published artists working the various show circuits. Through experience, they have learned how to create artwork maximizing all this medium offers and make a substantial living. Today emerging artists, even "Sunday Painters"are taking advantage of this affordable, museum quality, reproduction technology. This includes the use of giclees in the creative process of the New mixed media

How Giclee got it's name.
In the mid 1980's the one thing that became quickly apparent to the early digital art pioneers, was the lack of a proper name to describe the prints that they were making. By the close of the 1980's, digital printers were installed all over the world and spinning off full color proofs in commercial printing plants and pre-press shops. These prints were used to check color and get approvals before starting the the main print run. They definitely were not meant to last or be displayed on anyone's walls. In 1989 they were referred to as IRIS Prints, IRIS Proofs or simply IRIS, based on the name of the lead pioneering manufacturer of digital printing equipment at the time Iris Graphics of Bedford Mass. The name stuck.

However this wasn't good enough for the new digital fine-art printers such as Jack Duganne, who was the first printmaker at Nash Productions. He and his associates wanted to draw a distinction between the beautiful prints they were labouring over and the quickie proofs the commercial printers were cranking out. In short, a new name and brand identity was required for the the makers of archival quality fine art prints destined for global galleries and public art sites.

And, they got it. In 1991 Duganne had to come up with a print-medium description mailer announcing California artist Diane Bartz' upcoming show. He wanted to stay away from such terms as "computer" or "digital" because of the negative connotations the art world attached to the new medium. Taking a clue from the French, Duganne opened his pocket Larousse and searched for a word that was generic enough to cover most inkjet technologies into the future. He focused on nozzle, which most printers used. In French that was le gicleur. What nozzles do is spray ink, so looking up French verbs for "to spray", he found gicler, which literally means "to squirt, spurt or spray". The feminine noun version of the verb is (la) giclee (pronounced Gee - clay) or that which is sprayed or squirted. An art industry moniker was born.

Today, 20 years later, although the debate continues among some, the term "Giclee" has become established with traditional media artist and photographers. The term "giclee" has become part of the printmaking landscape; a generic word like Kleenex, that has evolved into a broader term that describes any high quality, digitally produced fine art reproduction.

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