The Art of R. Geoffrey Blackburn


Giclée (pronounced (jee'clay) is the latest cutting-edge digital printing technology using special ultra-high resolution printers, pigmented inks and archival canvas or paper. These prints reproduce such incredible detail and color vibrancy, that they are virtually indistinguishable from the original art work and are considered the gold standard for fine art reproduction.

The first step in reproducing a piece of artwork is scanning. This creates a digital copy of the image– in other words, a copy that can be edited on a computer. Before an image goes to the printer, it is carefully inspected by a live human being. Any inaccuracies in the colors of the image (caused by the scanner’s light source) are corrected using state-of-the-art software.

Next, the image is transferred to the giclée printer. Giclée is a French word meaning "to spray." The process is actually an inkjet technology designed specifically for fine art reproduction. The technique is also known as "Iris printing," after the brand of printer that was first used to produce digital fine art printing. Inside the Giclée printer, ink is applied to paper or canvas on a whirling drum at a rate of four million droplets per second, each droplet being about the size of a red blood cell! These droplets combine to form over two thousand colors, resulting in a super-high-quality reproduction of the original scanned picture.

• Serigraph, Serigraphy (Screen Printing): Consists of forcing an ink by pressing with a squeegee through the mesh of a netting screen stretched over a frame and onto paper. The non- printing areas of the screen are protected by a cut-out or stencil or by blocking up the mesh.

Serigraphic printing is done largely by hand, the frame being lifted up after each color is applied, removing the printed sheet, positioning a new sheet in its place, lowering the frame, applying the ink with the squeegee, again lifting the frame, and transferring the printed sheet to a drying rack.

Since the application of each color requires the handling of each individual print, as the number of colors increases, so does the risk of damage to the work already done. Moreover, with each successive application and handling, registration (the exact placement of a given color relative to other colors) and color mix become increasingly more critical and difficult to manage. Therefore, it is most common for such prints to run from 5 to 10 colors, occasionally up to as many as 15, but seldom much beyond this range as the costs and degree of difficulty are generally prohibitive.

• Etching: The art of producing pictures or designs by means of etched plates. In etching, the plate is first covered with varnish or some other acid-resistant ground, on which the drawing is scratched with a needle or similar instrument: the plate is then covered with acid, which corrodes the metal in the lines thus laid bare. Impressions are then taken in ink from this plate. Etching is a venerable art form employed by many of the Old Masters."

• Original Offset Lithograph: An offset plate can also be drawn on by hand just like a stone or flat metal plate and then printed on an offset press. This creates a hybrid print known as an Original Offset Lithograph. The images is drawn by hand, but is printed mechanically. In the 19th Century there were presses that produced offset prints from hand drawn litho stones. There is a great advantage to using this process, especially if there is any text included in the image. Most print processes reverse the image on the plate, including hand lithography, but by printing the image on a rubber "blanket" or a roller and then transferring that wet ink onto a sheet of paper, a double reversal of the image is achieved and the print is an exact copy of the plate or stone instead of being a mirror image. The only other print process that does not reverse the image during printing is Serigraphy.

• Edition: The actual numbered run (not the proofs)

• Limited Edition: A finite and specific (limited) number of authorized original copies of a work of art. Each reproduction is assigned a number corresponding to the order in which it was produced or issued. Hence, the first work completed is assigned number "1", the second number "2", and so on. This issue number usually appears over the edition size number. Therefore, the number 3 issue of an edition of 250 works would read "3/250".

Upon completion of the production run the image producing materials used, such as printing screens, plates or in the case of sculpture, molds, and so forth, are immediately destroyed, thus insuring that the number of reproductions does not exceed the limit authorized for the edition.

Traditionally, one of most important factors in determining the relative value of a given edition piece is its issue number. This was due to the fact that the printing screens, plates, etc. tended to deteriorate with use thus the lower the number the better the quality of the reproduction. With the advent of modern materials however, little actual appreciable deterioration occurs. Yet the tradition persists and the lower number reproductions are still considered more valuable thus commanding greater prices than their higher numbered counterparts.

• Artist's Proof (A/P): The 30 or so prints pulled off a press run of an edition by the artist to check quality. These become the standard of quality for the edition and hence are usually valued at $100 and up over the edition price. They are not given issue numbers, but marked " A /P".

• Stage Proof or State Proof (S/P): During the course of a printing, should a correction be needed to bring the prints in line with the A /Ps, those prints that differ from the standard are called "stage proofs" ( S/P ). If these S/P's are satisfactory in and of themselves (though markedly different from the rest of the edition), they are valued upwards as much as $100 or more above the edition price due to the uniqueness of the piece.

• Printer's proof (P/P): A printer's proof is a print that is outside of a regular limited edition that is the property of the master printer. Printer's proofs are produced for the printer's consideration and approval.

• Bon á Tier (B.A.T.): The bon à tirer is the first impression which is fully acceptable to the artist and the printer. It is printed on the same fine paper or canvas as will be used for the printing of the edition and is inscribed by the artist, bon à tirer (or, if abbreviated, B.A.T.), literally translated as "good to pull." This impression serves as the standard of quality to which each impression is compared as each edition is printed.

• Hors de Commerce (H/C.): (Not for Trade) traditionally were the graphics pulled with the regular edition but marked by the artist for business only (H.C.). These graphics were used for entering shows, exhibits, samples, etc. Today, however, since people began to acquire and collect them, these graphics now generally find their way to the market place through regular channels and are sold.

• Remarqued/Enhanced/Embellished: When the Artist adds something to the print, either on the plate or separations (which will then end up on all prints but be different from the original painting) or when the Artist uses a pencil, pen, paint, etc. to slightly modify an area of the finished print, this is called "remarqued" (pronounced remarked) and is valuable since: l. the Artist did it, and 2. each print is then unique as no two will be exactly alike. This adds $100 or more to the edition price.

"Gallery Wrapped" —some paintings and prints are "wrapped," that is, the canvas is stretched around the mounting frame so the wrapped edge is actually meant to be seen. In this case, framing is optional but not necessary.


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Revised: 02/07/17