Giclee, The Next Generation

by Mark Staples

Many years ago I made some predictions about where the Giclee industry was headed. Actually, some of my prognostications predate the time that Giclee could even be called an industry. I'm talking about a time when most people thought RIP software was a mortuary management program and companies like Epson hadn't yet produced it's first wide-format inkjet printer. It was kind of like building a cabin in the wilderness, using stone axes and wooden pegs instead of nails, pretty primitive.

However, I knew it wouldn't stay like this for long. Just like most other things in life, if someone can find a way to convert an art form into a commodity, then it will happen, and it has happened at breakneck speed. While this transformation has had some beneficial effects such as Giclee making it affordable for many artists to become self-published, even this positive result is something of a double-edged sword. In the last few years I have been hearing an increasing chorus of art professionals who are saying that the Giclee art print market is becoming oversaturated. There is a consensus among many dealers and galleries that print collectors are being turned off by this phenomenon and are returning to the collecting of original works. While it is uncertain how this will shake out for Giclee printmakers who are strictly in the business of making reproductions, it certainly creates some terrific opportunities for creative types who are willing to innovate.

Let's take a look at some experimental methods of Giclee printmaking that involve a fusion of craftsmanship and technology. By now, anyone with a computer and inkjet printer is familiar with the large variety of commercially coated papers that yield excellent image results. But how about printing on all of the other cool stuff out there? Japanese rice paper, decorative papers, fabrics, metal films, Thai papers, cardboard. Many artists are finding it refreshingly challenging to incorporate the look and textures of unusual substrates into the composition of their art. And while the materials I mention here (and you are by no means limited to this short list, basically anything that will fit through an inkjet printer can be used creatively, and some companies such as Mimaki produce printers that accommodate some pretty thick media) are not precoated to accept water based inks, there are some precoat products like inkAid that can be applied by hand and yield excellent results.

Carrying the experiment further involves more exploration and work. Printing layered images over watercolors or oil paintings is one method. By applying spot colors to areas of digital prints you can incorporate enhancements such as metallic bronze, silver and gold, glitter, and fluorescent paints. Items can be attached to the surface of digital prints to create collage. The possibilities are only limited by the boundaries of your imagination.

While I could continue with endless pages of different ideas, my point is this. In the new world order that we are facing, Giclee printing can provide a foundation for innovation that can make your artwork stand out in the crowd. Embrace the changes and your art career will thrive.

Mark Staples is president of Staples Fine Art's Heritage Giclee Studio and founder of the DaVinci's Crew Creative Network. Over the years he has been a frequent contributor to numerous trade magazines and is featured alongside Jack Duganne in the book "Mastering Digital Printing" by Harald Johnson.

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