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             The People of the Giclee

“Five hundred dollars for a print?! You must be joking! I can whip something off in less than a minute on my Hp for maybe 20 cents!”

“I know Mona, I know, it sounds crazy, but these are no ordinary prints. They're created on a very expensive, large scale ink-jet printer that produces a very high resolution print. It's called a giclee”.

“ I don't give a rat's rear what it's printed on! It's a print! Nothing but a print! Look here Leo, it ain't art! It's a computer generated piece of technological do-do, not art!”

“But Mona my dear, you know as well as I do that art is a very subjective thing. No one can really say what's art and what's not; it's all in the eyes of the beholder.”

“Nice try, Leo, but just because twenty people get talked into thinking something is art, doesn't mean it is! My cat ain't no chicken, if he were, he'd be joining us for dinner!”

(sigh) “Just take a look at it. I know it's not the original, nobody has to tell me that, I'm just saying it's not bad at all, and a nice reproduction is better than a horrible original — or nothing at all. Wouldn't you rather that people have art on their walls, even if it's a reproduction? Would you rather they have bare walls, or posters? Just take a look, it can't hurt to have a look.”

“Okay, okay ... hmmm ... okay, so it's a nice print of a great painting of a pretty scene — it's still a print!”

“Wouldn't it be nice if all sorts of people could have a beautiful piece of art in their homes, painted by a famous artist for a fraction of the price of the original? Wouldn't you want that for people? You're the one who said everyone should have art.”

“A true art lover wants only the real thing, the original!”

“That may be so Mona, but we're not all kings and queens, original art can be expensive.”

“ I hear you Leo, I hear you. Okay fine ... so how much did you say one of these things sells for? ”

“Good! I knew you'd come to see the other side of this. Now sit down and let's do that painting we were talking about last night. I've never painted you before and I've never asked because I know how much you loath getting your portrait painted.”

“On one condition. You're going to do a magnificent painting of me, then you're going into your little room back there and you're going to spin out a zillion of those — what do you call them, 'giclees'? I want 50 percent of all the profits from all the giclees of my portrait; I want half, Leo, or you can forget it!”

“Yes, yes, fine Mona, now just park your nice little Italian butt over here.”

“I don't know anything about posing or being in a painting. What the heck do you want me to do?”

“How about think about all those people you're going to make happy by having your beautiful face on their living room wall.”

“That's the last thing I want to think about!”

“Okay, then think about all that money your going to make by selling all those foolish people something that isn't really art.”

“Hmmm ... okay, that I can do ... paint!”



One of the great things about the internet is that you can quickly and efficiently hunt down dozens of experts that vehemently disagree with each other on almost any subject. In the realm of the giclee, there's two camps. In one of them live all of the people who think giclees are an insult to art and a very polite way of ripping people off. This camp also says that selling giclees takes money out of artist's pockets because people are buying giclees instead of originals. The other camp think giclees are very respectable and a fine addition to the art world. They also think that giclees are putting money in artist's pockets because anyone who is not able or willing to spring for an original has an opportunity to purchase a print.

When it comes to whether or not you should consider buying a giclee, you can read all the reasoning, study all the arguments, statistics and “facts” and come up with a well researched, logical conclusion — or you can just do what you feel like doing. If you like giclees, buy them, if you don't, don't. Wasn't that easy? Giclees are either a travesty or a miracle, you get to choose.


Now, if you do like them, and are thinking of purchasing one, there are a few things you'd do well to consider. There are people who make and sell giclees and care a great deal about quality. They put their bed right next to their giclee printer so they can get a glimpse of it when they get up at night to pee. They read strange magazines about ink and spend more on printer canvas than you and I do on tires. These are The People Of the Giclee.
There are also people who make giclees on a printer in the basement, right next to the cat box. They'd be thrilled to provide you with a lousy ink-jet print that sits on your wall looking like an insult to art and beauty; and if that's all you want, bless you, may you one day see the light. Pseudo-giclees may have been created with cheap paper or canvas, weak frames and inks that will fade quickly.

A proper giclee begins with the original artwork being captured digitally or on film, via a very nice, very expensive camera that has been properly set up. That image is then printed on a high-end printer, loaded with high quality canvas or paper and archival inks. Both the camera and the printer must be run by someone who has a keen, sensitive, experienced eye for colour. Each giclee is then signed by the artist who created the original and is given a number, indicating it to be part of a limited edition. Although many of us may not want to call a giclee “art”, in some ways, it's an art form on its own, you've really got to have a feel for it.

Perhaps the main difference visually between a giclee and an original is that the original, unless it's a watercolour, will have texture from the paint. Giclees are smooth. To many artists, texture is a very important aspect of the artwork, so that's one area where a giclee really doesn't compare, but then getting too caught up in comparing a giclee to the original is not an overly good idea in the first place. Silk flowers are in no way real flowers no matter how beautiful they are, but they are beautiful. There are, however, giclees that the artist will paint on in certain areas, giving the print a somewhat more "original" feel.

In theory, no true artist would put their name on a less than lovely giclee — but that's only a theory. Feel it out. Go to the their website. Are you dealing with a person who cares deeply about their art? I hope so. You can also contact the gallery that represents them and have a chat. It's usually not that difficult to tell when everything's on the up and up, but keep your eyes open.

Buying giclees online can be risky, simply because you can't see it before it's laying on your kitchen table, but again, the artist has to have okay'd and signed each piece, so hopefully you're safe. Make sure you can return it if it shows up looking like something you'd prefer to use as a bath mat.

The price of giclees varies as much as the price of original works. Each of us gets to decide how much we're willing to pay for something that came out of a machine. At what point does it become ridiculous? If an original work of art sells for a hundred thousand dollars, does that mean a giclee of it is worth five thousand? Who can say? Giclee's are just like original works, in that perception is the biggest indicator of value.

For hundreds of years, people have been wondering what Mona's up to. That sly little smile — it's like she has a secret. Well now you know what it is. And it's a good thing nobody saw Leonardo's next painting of her a few years later: big, toothy grin, fur coat, Lamborghini in the garage; practically laughing her head off. Would have ruined everything.


If you're looking into purchasing a giclee, I recommend doing a little more reading. Here are some helpful links:

My thanks to Tom of Digital Editions for his expertise. Tom doesn't sell giclees, he creates them for artists.

In future issues of The Painted Lamb, we'll address other important issues, such as how to light your art and art framing. You think your art looks good now? Wait, my friend, just wait...

Jay Roma Lamb

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