THE WHAT, HOW, AND WHY OF GICLEE PRINTS
Yesterday, My Man Jim and I drove down to my hometown of Kilmarnock, Va to pick up work from my framer, and leave with her the last two paintings to be framed. We also took the new pieces to the company which has been shooting the digital images for my reproductions of Women’s Studies. I have a customer who needs a print of “The Woman With An Issue Of Blood.” We needed to talk about several issues concerning this. It was a great shoot for the new work, and a great conversation about the giclee print.
Giclee? What the heck is that? Well, it surely isn’t an off-set lithograph print, which used to be the standard for all art prints mass produced up until the 1990s. It is a somewhat generic term used to describe a print made by an ink jet printing machine.
This is how it works in the simplest of terms. The imagery for giclee printing is shot with a digitized camera, where color adjustments and flaws can be adjusted or removed through a computer screen. The term “giclee” came from a French term which means to spray, squirt or otherwise force liquid onto something, and that is precisely how these prints are made. This printing method was developed in the 1990s with the invention of a state-of-the-art commercial ink jet printer equipped with thousands of tiny nozzles that spray the ink onto the paper or canvas. This allows the tiniest details and intricacies of color to be reproduced truer to the original than any litho process could hope to achieve. As stated earlier, it also allows you to print your work on canvas as well as paper. Canvas, stretched over a frame as an original oil painting would be, looks just like an original. Paper prints require glass for protection from dirt and other accidents, such as exposure to moisture or water, but canvas prints do not.
I can’t conceive of any reason why I would ever again use off-set lithography to produce a print. There are many draw backs to the off-set litho method of printing. First, the prep work and machinery used to print lithos requires one to print a god-awful amount of prints at one time to be economically feasible. Hundreds, or even thousands of them. Storage space for all these prints can become a real issue. Second, all of the costs are up front, and that can break your bank account! It can cost several thousand dollars for a single print edition, and make take years, if at all, to get your money back in sales. Third, they fade. Litho inks are dye based. They are not color-fast when exposed to sunlight or any other light source producing UV rays, such as fluorescent lighting. Everyone has seen the prints in businesses or opposite glass-lined walls that have “gone blue.” The reason? The yellow and red dyes have faded out from over exposure to UV light rays, leaving only the blue, which has a longer wave length. Giclee printing, on the other uses pigment based inks which do not fade. Although giclee prints haven’t been around long enough to stand the test of time, lab testing has proven them to be light fast up 100 years or more. I’ll take that any day! I’ve had too many customers cry for replacements when they hang an expensive lithograph print right in front of their windows. Nowadays, with the energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs becoming the norm in every household, even dark corners of a room are no long safe. One of the best reasons to use the giclee printing process is the ability to print on demand. You don’t have to print (and pay for) the whole edition up front. There are no metal printing plates to break down because everything is digitized and stored on a computer, CD or DVD. If you need one print, you can order one print. If you need five, or ten or 50, you can order those amounts and pay for those amounts. Fourth, As stated earlier, this process also allows you to print your work on canvas as well as paper. Canvas, stretched over a frame as an original oil painting would be, looks just like an original. Paper prints require glass for protection from dirt and other accidents, such as exposure to moisture or water, but canvas prints do not. Technology has indeed made the fine art print business fast and economical for just about anybody!
A few words of caution: Research your giclee printer. Make sure they use archival inks and papers. There are many online giclee painters out there who may offer the cheapest prices, but will also give you the cheapest quality of prints. If you want an excellent, long-lasting product, you can get that from a reputable printer who may charge a little more, but will still be very affordable.
THE ART OF MAKING ART IN A BOOK
Yes, that’s what I’m engaged in right now. Who thought putting a book together was an art? I never gave it much thought before. Until I had to do it myself! There is so much to writing I never knew! Ever since I was in high school and college, people, including teachers, always said I was a good writer. Friends and family members told me I should write a book. I read prodigiously when I was in school, which prompted the desire early in my life to do just that. I never knew what I wanted to write about, and the idea got shoved to the back burner as painting took precedence. Throughout the years, I gave thought to the book idea occasionally, but it never went anywhere except back into my memory bank, stored in the “Some Day” file. If you have read my page called “About My Book And Its Art” on this site, you already know how I’ve come to be writing a book, my first. Of course, there is a series of my paintings showcased in the book, but they aren’t merely paintings. They depict 12 women from the Bible, and the life lessons they can teach each of us through their stories. So, first I had to paint the paintings. That took me almost three years. In between paintings, I wrote about each woman. I wrote like crazy, anything and everything that came to my mind about them. There. I was finished! I thought I’d done a pretty good job!
I had no idea the hard part was about to begin! A dear friend who had some writing background offered to look at my manuscript. She was my first experience with “editing.” When I got it back, it was COVERED with red ink! Run-on sentences, punctuation errors, and poor word choices where her major complaints. But she loved my poetry and noted the positive things also. It was nice to know that not all the red ink was bad! Then, my son, who has a college degree in English with an emphasis on writing and editing, offered to edit the book for me, I gladly took him up on his offer. He CRUSHED me! I hadn’t had such a blow to my artistic ego since art critiques from The Pastel Society Of America many years ago! It was like having a baby you loved dearly, and someone telling you that it was the ugliest baby they’d ever seen, and you should try again! It took me a few weeks to get over my hurt feelings and really delve into the sense of his advice. I went into another writing frenzy, trying to incorporate the suggestions John had given me. I lost count of how many times I rewrote the whole thing. At least four or five. I began to have terrible misgivings. I cried. In tears, I said to John that maybe I wasn’t such a good writer after all, and had nothing to say that anyone would want to read. That’s when my son said these precious words, “Mom, EVERY writer says that at some point!. Get up and keep going!” Learning to accept editing advice in writing is just as important as critiques in art work. If anyone truly wants to improve his or her work, this is a must! .
I began to listen to webinars from noted authors. They offered tips, techniques and writing apps to help aspiring writers improve their skills. I read books on the subject of writing. I read many other books with an eye to discerning which writers held my interest, which didn’t, and why. I got a Hemingway app for my computer to edit my manuscript with. It was amazing how much better my manuscript read after going through that process. John is continuing his deep editing, which covers things like redundancy, sticking to the theme, unnecessary filler, and so much more. I had to define my target audience, and write on a level I’m not used to for easier reading. I Googled my book title and found there were millions of “Defining Moments” titles already out there, ranging from history, science, and sports to every art form. This means I will re-title my book.
Finally, I can paint beautiful paintings, create unique and imaginative poetry, write interesting prose, but it I don’t put it all together well, it is a lost cause. I exhort my fellow artists and writers out there to do your homework if you are thinking of putting together a book. If you want to write a book about your art, I advise these simple things to think about first: paint and write what you are passionate about. Target your audience, write to that audience, and write it well! If you cannot afford to pay an editor, at least download a writing app (several are free). This will catch many structural and grammatical mistakes and improve readability. Then, transfer it to your MS Word or Office Word and take it through spellcheck. If you are self-publishing, check the customer reviews of the publishing houses you are considering. Call and talk to their representatives. Compare their publishing packages, because they all offer different services in varying packages, depending on the price point you’re aiming for. Yes, there is an art to this thing! If you don’t do it well, it’s bad art!
THE LAST OF THE “WOMEN’S STUDIES” ART AND EDITING THE MANUSCRIPT
Well, it’s done. Last week I completed th e last of my paintings for “Women’s Studies”, number 12. She is “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” I had a few little issues with painting her, but overall, it wasn’t bad. Doing the calligraphy for her was amazing. I lined it all out, inked in the title, filled in the text, and completed the border, all without making a single mistake. That was truly a first for me, and also a miracle! Now I must move on to rewriting my manuscript and getting that ready for the final editing. This is not my favorite cup of tea! It is, however, something that must be done if I am to have a good quality, well-written book. So, onward!
With that in mind, I want to say a few words to aspiring writers out there. First of all, I read many, many books. Some are good, some bad. The writing makes the difference in many cases! A well written book will hold my interest, but a poorly written one quickly becomes boring. I can’t make myself finish reading a boring book. One that may have interesting subject matter, but is written so “scholarly” also becomes a dusty old tome on the shelf rather than a valuable addition to my library.
It was not until I got to the editing process of my manuscript that I began to realize so many mistakes new writers make, because I was making those same mistakes! After listening to some webinars from noted authors, I took their advice. I downloaded an editing app on my computer. The one I’m using is called “Hemingway” and is a free download, or you can pay a minor fee to purchase it and get free upgrades to the app as new versions come out. I paid the price for future upgrades. This thing has proved invaluable in improving the flow of my writing, its readability, and sentence structure. I had no idea it could make such a difference! There are other editing apps out there, too.
Now, it won’t tell you when you’re going off the main subject on tangents. It won’t correct redundancy or spelling errors. And it certainly won’t cut out unnecessary words, phrases, or sentences. You will need human eyeballs for those! (I transferred my manuscript back to MS Office Word for spellcheck.) But an editing app will help save your editor much time correcting mistakes you could’ve done yourself. Human editing is costly. It is priced out by the word count in the manuscript. Who wants to pay for words an editor will cut out? These apps will force you to rewrite in a more concise manner, lowering your word count. Any words eliminated before an editor sees it will lower your bill and make their job much easier and faster. Who doesn’t want that?
On top of all that, it will make you become much more aware of common mistakes and avoid them in your future writing!
Some words of caution: Don’t get so carried away by an app ruled by algorithms that you lose your writing style and personality. It’s OK to ignore a few things the app will tell you to change. Use common sense. Read up on your app to see what it does and doesn’t do, and break the “rules” where you feel it is necessary to retain the integrity of your work.
Last week I completed # eleven in my twelve-part series of paintings of “WOMEN”S STUDIES–Defining Moments.” I started this project in the fall of 2014, and I will finish it in the spring of 2017. Two and a half years! I’m not sure I’ve ever been so dedicated to any single art project before. It has been a journey, a learning experience not just about the women and their times, but also about me, how they spoke to me down through the millennia about issues I grapple with today. There were times I never thought I’d make it this far; times I never believed I could make it this far, and yet, I have. I remember wanting to throw out certain paintings when I hit road blocks I couldn’t get over, but somehow, I found the fortitude to move around instead of over those road blocks, and move forward. Two and a half years… Who’d have thunk!
Last week I finished up “The Woman Caught In Adultery”. Tonight I started her accompanying scripture calligraphy, and will finish that tomorrow. Then, I will be moving on to # twelve, “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” What’s next? What happens after this? Where do I go from here?
In a way, I will be sad to see this project come to an end, especially when I remember how I thought I’d never finish! It has been a driving force, a goal I knew in my heart that I must complete. But, already I am thinking about another book with art and poetry and painting tips, etc. Already I have some other paintings on my to-do list, some secular and some biblical. Already I wonder if I can get it all done! Can’t wait for God to show me exactly where He wants me to go with this next phase! Past experience has proven to me that He will show me the way. I have no reservations or feelings of being in the dark about what lies ahead, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and I walk in His light while He shows me the way; and I abide in His truth. Man, what a way to go!
WHAT ABOUT THAT GLASS?
Last Wednesday, My Man Jim and I journeyed to my hometown of Kilmarnock, VA, to see my framer of 35 years. I was taking to her the newly completed and unframed paintings of “Ruth”, and “The Woman With An Issue Of Blood”. I would also be picking up three newly framed pieces: “Sarah”, “Mary, Mother Of Jesus”, and “The Woman Who Anointed Jesus”. Wow, they surely did look nice, and I knew the ones I just took in would look just as good when I pick them up in the future. The framing is great; the suede mats and filet bring out the colors perfectly, and…there is no glare on the glass, which makes it look as if there is NO glass at all over those pastel paintings! So what’s up with the glass? It seems like something relatively insignificant in comparison to the molding and matting. Glass is glass, right? It’s just a clear covering to protect the art, isn’t it? Well, yes, but did you know there are all sorts of glass you can put into a frame, and that some are far better than others for protection?
So, here’s a little tutorial on glass. Most people select clear, smooth picture framing glass because it has some obvious advantages. It is made perfectly smooth, with no warps or air bubbles to distract the eye or distort the image underneath. You may have noticed that it has a very slight greenish hue, but most people don’t think it affects the work underneath, if they notice it at all. It’s only noticeable if you compare the art with glass over it, and then take it away. You’ll see it is just not quite as bright with the glass over it. It is, however, an inexpensive way to protect the art from dust, dirt, and moisture, and most framers have it on hand in abundance. Its drawbacks are several. It is highly reflective. This can be a disadvantage if you must hang a work under glass in a room with many windows, or strong lighting. Because it acts like a mirror, you may be seeing more of the reflections from the room than the image under the glass! .Also, UV light can penetrate through the glass and will fade whatever is underneath it in relatively short order. It is the main reason lithograph art prints go “blue” over time. Fabrics and other materials can also fade, not to mention the matting. UV light comes from several sources, principal of which is sunlight pouring through windows. Never hang a prized piece of art where it will be subjected to direct sunlight, Even sunlight which is reflected around a room off of mirrors or light colored walls can fade a piece of art. Many people don’t realize that UV light is also emitted from fluorescent light bulbs and fixtures. This was never a problem when most household light bulbs were incandescent, but with the energy saving bulbs today, your art is bombarded almost constantly with UV light. This glass will not protect your art from fading. So you may turn to non-reflective glass to solve some of these problems. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work either. Non-glare glass is NOT non-glaring! I’m not sure why it’s called that! Non-glare glass is smooth on one side, and slightly ‘pebbled’ on the other side. The pebbled texture is extremely fine, producing a “satin” finish that, when placed over an image, does not create the mirror reflections of regular glass. Instead, it produces a uniform glare from the light shining on it. You still can’t see the image if strong lighting is hitting it. It’s a little better, but not much. It also is inexpensive. An annoying drawback to this glass is that if it is raised just a bit from the surface of the image, it will soften crisp lines and sharp details. It’s not too noticeable with a double mat, but beyond that, it can make your image look fuzzy because of its finely frosted surface. You certainly could not use it in a shadow-box framing situation! Alas, it does not provide UV protection, either. Your third option is to use conservation glass, which usually has to be ordered. It is considerably more expensive, so most framers do not carry it in stock. It will protect your artwork from 95% of the UV rays, but it is still reflective, like regular picture framing glass. If you have a spot to hang art that is not facing windows or bright lighting that would reflect strongly, I would recommend it. But what’s a person to do when the art has to be hung in a room with nearly all glass along the opposite wall, and ceiling lighting that is all fluorescent, along with table lamps, etc.? Here is what I now use exclusively on my original art: museum-grade conservation glass. This glass has a greenish, bluish coating on one side which cancels out the greenish hue from the glass itself. An example of how that works would be to look at the color yellow through a yellow film, and you won’t see yellow because it’s filtered out! This coating is very hard to clean, so it is placed on the inside of the frame, facing the image. The coating is also almost completely non-reflective, so you don’t have to worry so much about window glare or light bulb reflections. This glass was made to protect priceless museum art works from UV damage from lighting, and also to render the piece reflection-less for the viewing pleasure of the public. The glass itself is still UV protective up to at least 95%. Best of all, you cannot tell it’s even there! It is truly amazing how much brighter and more vibrant art looks under this glass! Once it is properly framed by a professional framer, with proper care and handling, you should never need to have your art re-framed again. But, be prepared to pay a price. This glass is expensive compared to ordinary picture framing glass, and it, too, will have to be specially ordered. If you have a dearly loved piece of art that you truly care about or that was costly, I highly recommend this glass. It is worth the price to preserve something of such great value, whether sentimental, monetary, or both!
The Progression Of “Ruth”
Ruth is number ten in my series of “Women’s Studies” paintings. My daughter, Alexa Carlo-Hickman, was my model for Ruth, so this was especially personal! I really wanted it to look like her, and it does resemble her, but, like the rest, it is not an exact portrait. I had to change her nose, eyes and eyebrows. I did a lot of research for the background of this painting, as I had done for “The Shunammite Woman”. There is a mountain range all around the eastern and southern edges of the Dead Sea, with a heavily traveled trading route on a ridge all along the range. This is the setting for Ruth’s declaration of loyalty to Naomi. I had a pretty good time painting Ruth, especially while I was thinking, “Only two left to go…”
“RUTH” PATTERNS STARTED! CARTOONING TECHNIQUE
Here is an interesting little art history lesson on pattern making. It’s a technique that is truly time tested!
Tonight I started on the pattern(s) for “Ruth”. I use the plural because Naomi’s back, and the frontal view of Ruth will be in different sizes, and I have to make them separately in order to achieve the proper perspective in accordance with their proximity to each other. This requires two different grid sizes. OK, so here’s what happens in this process: I draw out my pattern, then mark it off in a grid, usually 1/4 inch. If I’m going to enlarge it, I draw out another grid, let’s say 5/8 inch. Then I number off both grids. I look at the lines in block 1 on the smaller grid pattern, then start drawing those lines in block 1 on the larger grid pattern, following the lines block by block until the pattern in completed. After the outlines are completed, I usually fill in the basic shading and correct as many mistakes as I can see on the completed larger pattern before transferring to the final art paper. The purpose of all this is to make my mistakes here, so they don’t get transferred to the art paper
This technique has worked for centuries. Michelangelo learned the process while he was an apprentice under Leonardo DaVinci. It was called “cartooning” back then, and was used for putting patterns on wet plaster for fresco painting. By the time Michelangelo was on his own and painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, he had an army of apprentices working for him, too. He would draw out the patterns. His apprentices would grid them out according to the size of the area of the ceiling he was working on for a particular scene, and blow them up on a huge grid to fit that area. Then, they would punch tiny holes along the lines, much like a punch wheel is used today on pattern transfers in sewing (for you seamstresses out there, or sign painters who use a punch wheel for lettering patterns). After that, Michelangelo would apply wet plaster in whatever area he was frescoing, place the pattern over it, and dab the holes with a bag of powdered cobalt chalk. The chalk would sift through the cloth of the bag, through the holes in the pattern, and onto the wet plaster. When the pattern was removed, it was outlined in blue chalk powder on the wet plaster, just waiting for Michelangelo to fill in the details with paint. Voila! Frescoes!
I do exactly the same thing except I’m not using wet plaster or blowing up the images so huge. I figure if it worked well enough for Michelangelo, it surely is good enough for me!
Over the last week I’ve been working on “THE WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE OF BLOOD.” She is finished now. I have a photo shoot lined up for Thursday, October 20th, to photograph the model for two of the last three remaining paintings. I’m really excited about that! Here are a few photos of the work in progress for this completed painting.
A NEW PAINTING ON THE DRAFTING TABLE!
After a couple of days gathering my model photos and selecting the ones I want to use, I have finally begun work on my ninth painting in my series of twelve women in my “WOMEN’S STUDIES — Defining Moments”. I had to get three different photos to incorporate all the details I want for this painting of the “The Woman With An Issue Of Blood”. I didn’t get real far this evening, but it’s a start! I’m always glad to make a new start on a new piece of work!
This is crazy! I started working on the pattern for “Mary, Mother Of Jesus” on August 12th, and I finished her just FOUR DAYS LATER, on August 16th! That’s a real record for this project! I had no major problems or obstacles that needed to be worked out, not even anything I want to fiddle with after the fact. Everything went quickly and smoothly. Wow! Would that they all could be so painless! With the completion of Mary, I am now two thirds of the way towards my goal of finishing all twelve paintings. I’m getting excited to get them finished. I have her calligraphy yet to do, but that shouldn’t take but a couple of days or so. I can’t get over how fast it went. I think Jesus just wouldn’t want me to mess up His Mamma! I thank Him for letting me paint her (as I envision her) so painlessly!