Art For Art’s Sake, Money For God’s Sake

The RLA did a street show this past weekend. It wasn't on a street, though, it was in a garden. Specifically, Pinecrest Gardens, or, as it was formerly known, Parrot Jungle. The parrots are gone, as are the flamingos and cockatiels, but the giant feral iguanas are thriving. It is mating season for iguanas, because they were turning bright orange. Nothing like a six-foot long bright orange lizard to make your day. No, I do not have photos. Please.
The RLA sold three pieces of work, to R&MJ, which we could have done without the additional cost of a booth fee. The hottest seller at this show was Cuban art. Each artist was more Cubanisimo than the next. We were between a woman who painted very vividly colored canvases of Cuban coffee makers and conga drums, and a man who painted Cuban markets and cigar-rollers' houses.

Mostly they weren't selling their original paintings, though, they were selling prints of their paintings. Not just any prints, mind you, they were selling Giclees. I kept hearing the patter, as one or the other explained to their buyers that Giclees are like modern lithographs, or serigraphs.

For the sake of clarity, I'd like to give you dictionary definitions of those three terms.

Serigraph: Silk-screening, which is also referred to as serigraphy or screen printing, is a centuries-old process that originated in China, It is, in essence, a refined version of a hand stenciled process. The image is divided, as it were, by a color, with a screen corresponding to each shade of ink that will appear on the final surface-paper, canvas, fabric, etc. The ink is applied to a screen, transferring to the paper only through the porous segments. A separate screen must be created for each color. On average, it takes between 80 to 100 screens to create a serigraph. The elements are hand-drawn onto mylar and photographically exposed onto each screen. Inks are matched to the hues of the original and custom mixed. Each edition takes approximately eight weeks to complete: four to five people handle the several stages of the process, and 80 to 90 percent of the production time is devoted to making color separations and the screens.

Lithograph: The process of printing from a small stone or metal plate on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area is ink repellent. The artist, or other print maker under the artist's supervision, then covers the plate with a sheet of paper and runs both through a press under light pressure. The resultant "original print" is of considerably greater intrinsic worth than the commercially reproduced poster which is mechanically printed on an offset press. Color Lithography or Chromolithography is the process of using several stones or plates (usually one for each color). The result is a color lithograph, which differs from a print which is hand-colored after printing.

Giclee: A computerized reproduction technique in which prints are created using a very high quality inkjet printer. The word Giclee itself is French, and means spurt or squirt, however the spray is more like a mist, each droplet being the size of a red blood cell. The inks come in various grades of water-based dyes. It is very important to use UV glass with these prints, because being printed with dyes, which historically are not very colorfast, they can fade quickly.

Do you see the difference? Lithography and Serigraphy are both hands-on, labor-intensive techniques requiring time and skill. Giclees are INK JET PRINTS people. INK JET PRINTS!! Like, from that $99 Epson printer on your desk. And most of these guys don't even use archival inks or paper, which means that that reproduction you just shelled out $250 for is going to degrade and fade.

Unlike, say, the $90 original, hand-drawn, ink on paper that the RLA did and had framed in a museum-quality frame which you did NOT buy.

I started getting a little snippy about it by the afternoon of day two, telling prospective buyers that everything in the booth was an original, never reproduced, no Giclees, and once it was bought, it was the only one of its kind, period.

Nobody got it.

There was one guy who came in to the booth, and just raved about the RLA's work. He spent a lot of time looking. Then he went next door and bought a painting of a conga and another of a cup of Cuban coffee.
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/24 at 12:03 PM in Buy Our Art Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/24 at 12:03 PM in What the Fuck is Wrong With You People

(4) Comments
#1. Posted by Reecie on January 24, 2005

Woman, I know you know this, but apparently it bears repeating: NEVER underestimate the intelligence or taste of the general public.

I’d shell out a lot more than $90 for one of the RLA’s hand-drawn originals. He is known around our house as The Man Who Can Make Clovis New Mexico Look Good.

#2. Posted by Miss Bliss on January 24, 2005

GAH!  People drive me nuts!

#3. Posted by RJ on January 25, 2005

Frankly, I would always rather have an original, one-of-a-kind of whatever stripe.  After that, signed and numbered, hand-finished (as long as the run isn’t ridiculously high). It’s basically what really strikes us, bound by what we can afford.

  I didn’t know what a “giclee” is until I read this.  I’m frankly stunned!  I saw those signs all over the art show on Saturday, and had no clue.  I’ll bet most of those “buyers” don’t know what it is either, but were won over by the French word.  Damn the French and their language!  Why do they have to make even the most mundane sound sooooo romantic and attractive!?! 

S’il vous plaĆ®t passer le bol de pets de chameau.
(Please pass the bowl of camel farts.)

#4. Posted by Becca on January 25, 2005

Thank you so much for the definition of “giclee!”  I wanted to buy my boyfriend something by this animator he really likes, and the drawings/cels are obviously quite expensive…but I found a “print,” described as a “giclee,” that was much more affordable.  Now I know why!

Kinda like when I say “Tar-jay” instead of Target: saying it with a French accent doesn’t change the fact that it’s a middle-class version of Wal-Mart.  And a giclee is still an ink-jet print.

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