Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Giclee VS. Printmaking

Kelly Alder directed me to this post recently on the Fantagraphics Blog. It was written by Jacob Covey who has been organizing an all hand-made print show with art and related art from the book BEASTS!, which is a gorgeous book that Rawn and Meg Gandy shared with me earlier this past year.

The issue is that Mr. Covey has excluded digital prints including giclee prints from this show in favor of hand-made print such as letterpress, etchings, lithographs, and of course one of our favorites: screen prints. He makes a great point about the value of a digital print vs. any hand made print. Read his post to get his full opinion, but in my crass paraphrasing he is making the case that because digital prints can be so reliably executed at a moments notice, with very little human interaction they are worth little more than the paper and ink involved. That may seem harsh especially if you happen to be a digital artist and a giclee may be your only physical manifestation of your work, but I think Mr. Covey is really only referring to digital reproductions and the hollow posturing of the 'limited edition' print run of a digital print who's printing and reprinting is really not limited in any way.

Here's my take: A limited print run is supposed to reflect how the execution of a single handmade run will yield a finite number of prints that share the same preparations. For example, if it is screen printing, they will share the same batch of hand mixed inks, the same transparency preparations and screen exposures, as well as a similar state of environment they are printed under, possibly including the weather that day and the artist's mood, or how much their carpel tunnel was acting up (just ask Rawn or Meg about that one). On the flip side, a digital print could be printed on two different printers, on two different parts of the globe with the simple push of a button and reliably yield indistinguishable results.

The point is although a digital print can be a work of art and certainly there are variables to be creatively manipulated and unique ways of expression to be achieved, a digital reproduction is a rather effortless reflection of the original that does not hold any artistic value of its own. A handmade print, requiring the human hand and human consideration all throughout the process does yield its own original works of art, each one its own unique piece affected by the artist.

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