Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buying Art (Lesson 3): Limited Edition Reproductions - Lithographic Prints and Giclées

As I touched on in my last installment, Buying Art ( Lesson 2), Authentic Art Reproductions vs Fakes, there are several different types of "reproductions" of original art. But, like everything else, there are some major differences. In the case of Michael's art, our reproductions are not only incredibly close to the original paintings, but also, produced on the highest quality papers, with the best inks, in the best methods available.

Michael at the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum in Alexander City, Alabama
with Gallery Edition Canvases of Six Pack Salute, Feeding Frenzy, B-Movie Night and End of the Line and a framed Giclée Print on Watercolor paper of Service Fit For A King.

Today, limited edition reproductions are primarily produced using one of two printing processes; offset lithography and giclée printing. Offset lithographs have, for the most part, replaced traditional lithographs and serigraphs. Offset printing is relatively fast — a print run of 800 takes only about 2-3 hours — and the quality is pretty consistent throughout the print run. In other words, the first print and last print are the same quality. All the prints in the edition are run at the same time. The printing plates are metal and have to be destroyed at the end of the run. Most offset presses utilize 4-5 color "stations." Due to the way the multi-colored image is "separated" to accommodate the press, offset lithographs have a dot pattern (see Buying Art ( Lesson 2)) which is invisible to the naked eye. Giclée prints are produced on a press that "sprays" ink, from up to 11 color stations, onto the paper or canvas, so there is no dot pattern. Each print takes about 10-15 minutes to produce, each canvas can take up to 45 minutes to print. Giclée prints are renowned for being, at first glance, almost impossible to differentiate from an original painting.

If you've ever watched a show like "Auction Kings", you've probably heard talk about acid-free paper. They touch on the value of prints, etc. printed on acid-free vs non-acid-free paper. Because the acids in the paper will damage the reproduction over time, the acid-free ones have a greater longevity and, therefore, value. Technically, all paper is made using a wood-based pulp that naturally contains acid. This causes paper to yellow and deteriorate, especially when exposed to heat or light. During production, acid-free paper is treated with calcium or magnesium bicarbonate - neutralizing the natural acids in the wood pulp.  Once treated, this paper will be preserved for at least 100 years. So, you can see the importance of printing limited edition reproductions on acid-free stock. 100% acid-free canvas, such as we use for Michael's Gallery Edition Canvases, is based on the same principle.

Then there is the actual feel and weight of the paper, itself. For Michael's offset lithographs, we've stuck a #1 sheet (best quality paper available) with a satin or matte finish, 10pt stock. It has a beautiful finish and nice weight. When papers are too thin (poster-like) they tend to crease easily. And, ones that are too shiny, tend to have a lower quality, poster look to them. Michael's giclée prints are printed on 100% acid-free, heavyweight watercolor paper. Also utilizing the giclée printing process, Michael's canvases are printed on the best quality, heaviest, 100% cotton, acid free canvas available, today.

Ink also play as huge part in the longevity of a reproduction. There are printers that can produce low run, large format prints (signs and promotional banners are produced by this method these days), but they are NOT produced using giclée inks. The same goes for offset prints —brochures, posters, etc, are printed on the same type of press, but on second rate paper and with ordinary ink. In both Michael's offset lithographs and giclée reproductions, we use only specialty inks, which are specifically designed for 100-200 year light-fastedness. That being said, any work of art (originals included) should never, never, be hung in direct sunlight. Although a reproduction on acid-free stock with specialty inks will hold up longer than a poster or photocopied print, it will eventually succumb to the damaging effects of the sun. Even the best paint job, with layers of clear coat, will fade if you leave the car exposed to the elements!!

We really pride ourselves on the quality of the reproduction of Michael's work. His Limited Edition Prints and Giclée Prints are the exact same size as the original watercolor paintings, while the Gallery Edition Canvases are enlargements. All 3 types of reproductions are incredibly close in color, quality and sharpness to the original paintings. Michael hand inspects each reproduction himself, before it leaves the Studio.   

Like Michael and myself, most enthusiasts buy collectibles they like, rather than for their future value. However, due to the differences in quality and longevity of a reproduction, as an art buyer, you need to be as informed as possible about what you are buying.

Key questions to ask:

  • Is it a limited reproduction - how many have been produced?
  • What size if the original? What medium was it painted in?
  • What kind of paper/canvas is it reproduced on? Is it acid-free?
  • What is the process with which the reproductions were created?
Remember, when choosing art, there really is no right or wrong, only what inspires you, brings you joy, and/or adds to the color of your life. Thank you for including Michael's work in your collection! — Linda