New Possibilities for Artists/Interview with Stan Bowman

Are you an artist thinking of different ways to reproduce your work for sale? Have you considered having giclee prints made?

Stan Bowman, an artist, photographer and printer from New York state is an expert in creating giclees for artists, using the latest technology. We spoke recently about his business and I was impressed with his integrity, thoughtfulness and understanding of the many concerns of his customers. Stan is able to be consultative when discussing planning, printing and marketing strategies with his artist clients, drawing on his many years of experience as a successful professional himself. We talked about several aspects of giclees that emerging artists may want to know.

What are the results like?

One reaction artists often have when seeing the giclee reproductions of their work is that it’s amazing, and some say even better than the original! Stan states that it’s different, not better, but there are some expanded possibilities that giclee printing offers which can enhance the work and allow the artist to make adjustments when desired.

For example, a watercolor, when scanned, can have colors changed, deepened or corrected to the artist’s taste, even offering color saturation which would be hard to achieve with the watercolor process. Like an original watercolor, the giclee inks sink into the fibers of the paper and give an appearance hard to distinguish it as a print.

How long will giclees last?

Stan has been working with printers for many years, and spoke about their evolution. With the advent of new technology, the lifespan of giclee prints has increased significantly. Originally, printers were geared more towards business applications, and inks would fade quickly.

Within the last fifteen years, however, Epson started manufacturing printers which were geared towards artists, using archival inks. These pigment-based inks (as opposed to the old dye-based inks) have undergone extensive testing in labs. Experts expect them to last anywhere from 50 to 100 years.

Stan indicates that bright sunlight will, of course, shorten the lifespan of a print.  UV glass can help reduce fading and also protect from other environmental contaminants which degrade the print.

What about beginners or artists on a tight budget?

When asked this question, Stan said that he has spoken many times with artists who are just starting out, or don’t have a lot of capital to invest into a print inventory. His suggestions:

  1. Understand what you will be doing with the prints. Do you have a venue to sell them? If you are not sure, proceed with caution, making a small number of each print. Look for outlets and gauge the reaction to your work. Your scanned artwork can easily be reproduced with giclee printing, in large or small numbers. Unlike lithography, you don’t need to make a run of multiples. He cites an example of a prospective client who wanted hundreds of prints made because larger quantities are discounted, without knowing whether they would sell.
  2. Is your body of work mature? As you grow professionally, your work will mature, and you will move up to the point where you can make a living selling your work. Without dampening the enthusiasm of the client, Stan suggests that artists consider how far they are in their development before they have too many prints made. If you are a beginner, be conservative.
  3. Stan works individually with artists on their plans. Offering suggestions as to marketing strategies and proper planning, he helps them make wise business decisions, especially for those just starting out. Established artists who are confident in their market may want larger quantities of prints, which have significant discounts.

What is the future of giclee?

Although nobody knows for sure, Stan sees this technology as only part of an expanding number of formats which artists can use for their work. Will we move past paper? Will future images just be digital files? He doesn’t see a time when paper or canvas won’t apply, but other ways of working will be developed. Artists needn’t be defined by one medium for their artistic expression.

Want to find out more about giclees? Visit Stan’s website at www.perfectartprints.com. His artist website, showing his portfolio, can be accessed at www.stanbowman.com.

Comments

  1. I think giclée printing is wonderful for artist. Thanks for this article.

  2. Thank you for interviewing Stan! Just recently, I got back into making a business out of my artwork -I worked as an Exec. Chef for the past 12 years and only sold some commissional work once in a while. I have to say, a lot has changed since my last exhibition in 1995 and I am grateful for any great business suggestion.
    Great article,

    Franziska San Pedro
    @FavorDesigns

    • Jean, I have a lot of information about giclee printing at my web site. Please feel free to visit there and you are also more than welcome to contact me if you have other questions.

    • Franziska, the whole scene for artists has changed dramatically with the new possibilities of giclee printing. Look at my web site where I include a lot of information to help guide those just beginning to explore giclee printing as a means of getting their artwork out into the marketplace and developing a new line of income. Also you are welcome to contact me for more info.

  3. no.
    You are only competing with yourself. Why would anyone pay full price for an original when you have unlimited multiples available cheap? Unless your work is in such high demand that you cannot make art fast enough tot fill it; I think it just waters down your value.

    • It may look to you like that but you are actually expanding your marketing base and potential for income. For example people do pay full price for original paintings rather than giclee reproductions because they want the actual painted surface. But others who might prefer the original note the price, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, and opt for the giclee print in the hundreds of dollars. And often the giclee looks as good as the original up on the buyers wall… sometimes even better.

      An abstract painter friend of mine sells both original paintings in the thousands of dollars and giclee in the hundreds. She sells about 40% originals and 60% giclees. Offering giclees has not diminished demand for her original paintings but simply added another source for sales. Without giclees her income could diminish by as much as 40%, so she thinks.

  4. I’m a printmaker/photographer. I’ve been printing my photographs on 250 lb. Museo Max 100% cotton rag paper with an Epson R2400 Printer that use K3 pigmented ink for close to 5 years. Much before that I was doing photo-etchings and photo-serigraphy on a variety of surfaces. I sell my altered photographs as fine art, just as I sold the etching and serigraphs. I might be using similar tools but my prints are not giclees, they’re photographs from start to finish.

  5. Janis, some people will probably refer to your prints as “Giclees” since they are derived from ink jet printing. I think what you are meaning is that your prints are not copies of an original separate work of art, like of a painting. A lot of this currently is confusion about what is meant by the term “Giclee” which has become a catch all for just about anything printed on an ink jet printer. A lot of photographers are currently calling their prints “archival pigment ink prints” in an effort to be more descriptive and get away from the generic “giclee”.

    Also regarding your R2400 printer, you do realize that this is old technology and that Epson as well as Canon and HP have new and better printers available. Epson’s new printers have HDR inks and 11 color lines from which extraordinary prints can be made, and so does Canon. Technology marches on and you might want to upgrade, maybe to a Epson 4900 or a Canon IPF 6300, both amazing.

  6. Thanks for your answer Stan. Yes, I’m very aware of the newer printers and inks. It will be some time before I’ll be able to upgrade my equipment, but thank you for the information.

  7. Starlight Stan,

    Thank You for doing what you do!

    I sell a good amount of prints of my work, and I am happy to have discovered this market. Giclees are beautiful, and well worth the money. I agree with ‘better then the original’.

    Keep working to define yourself, and you will attract the people who recognize the quality of giclee.

    You can also offer inkjet prints to give people a wider price point. This takes more work, but, if you really want to share your quality with as many people as possible, I recommend the lower priced inkjet prints too.

    A lot of my art is digitally enhanced, so having prints is a necessity.

    Have a magnificent day!
    🙂
    Christine Marsh

  8. I was not getting the quality I wanted from gicleé printer operations so I took the plunge and invested in my own wide format printer.
    Best art investment I ever made.
    I get higher quality, quicker response in creating the art (wanted it tomorrow, I will print it tonight!), more flexibility in creating art (I do lots of experimenting and have made several different print designs from one work of art), more control over my art and lower costs. (I even skip the middle man in buying my canvas and buy direct from the manufacturer – my canvas costs are 1/3 what they used to be.)
    You can read a bit more about my in-studio gicleé printing here.
    http://www.charleskaufman.com/print-info.html
    If you have any questions, please let me know. 🙂
    Charles

  9. Charles certainly gave a good argument for doing giclee printing yourself. And looking at his web page he has an impressive studio and top of the line equipment.

    However there are things to consider. While having your own studio and equipment may help an artist obtain better prints setting up a studio operation like this is an big investment of time and money. To get first rate equipment including a high end wide format printer can set you back $15,000 to $25,000. There is also a learning curve for creating first rate prints and those who do it professionally have spent years learning the ins and outs of printing, learning about differences in inks, papers, color profiles, etc.. And if you are spending your time doing this you are not making art which really is your primary focus. Prints can be a good source of supplemental income but for some artists the sales of original works are often primary. In that case reproductions of originals may be best left to a professional print house.

    If you are starting out as a young artists trying to establish a career and reputation doing your own printing may not be the best answer because of the time and money involved. Often more seasoned artists may be better off turning their printing over to someone else at first. Even to just test the market for your prints getting them from a professional print house may be the right first step. However if sales of reproductions of your originals takes off then you might want to set up your own shop operation to make a better profit. It is really a matter of economics.

    I see it as really an issue of what an artist intends to do with reproductions of their original works, how they will market them, and what they have in terms of time and money if they decide to explore making their own prints. One the other side of the coin I also think that if an artist chooses the right print house and establishes an ongoing relationship with whomever is doing their printing that in the long run they can get outstanding prints at reasonable cost that can be very salable.

  10. Stan – I understand that you are wanting to offer your services to create prints for others. Congratulations and best wishes for your business.

    One does not need the newest and greatest and most expensive large-format printer to create prints.
    I bought my printer used (a 1-year old Epson 9800 at the time) and it cost me $3,500.
    It works great. My prints are great.
    I also have a smaller Epson 3800 that has been making me money on A2 and smaller prints on paper for years.

    The biggest complaints I have are from people who own the original painting and they think my full-size canvas prints look exactly like the original.

    Regarding taking the time to learn how to use a printer.
    Hmmmmm…..it took me about 20 years of learning how to paint before I finally got that right. Taking a few days to learn how to print on a wide format printer does not seem much.
    Before I bought my Epson printer I took a digital file of a painting to 4 different printer companies….and got back 4 different looking prints. Each printer claimed his was the best print! (To me they were all mediocre.)
    That convinced my to invest in my own printer. So glad I did.

    Granted, one has to invest in a good computer and software (and know how to use it).
    If one does not or cannot figure out how to use a computer and the software, then one has no alternative but to use a print service.
    But that quickly limits the possibilities of creating and selling prints. It quickly becomes too costly and too inflexible and shuts off lots of ideas in creating different print ideas.
    The key to being a profitable artist is to control as much of the production and distribution and sales as possible.
    If you control the production then you can then cut your costs…..tremendously.

    Stan you write: “And if you are spending your time doing this you are not making art which really is your primary focus.”
    Do not agree. Anything I do with my art is my primary focus of creating art. My prints are art.

    As I said before, buying the wide format printer was the smartest investment I made in my art business so far.
    And when I get a larger art studio I will buy a second, even bigger printer!
    People have asked if I make prints for other artists. No, I do not.

  11. Hi Charles, I think we have been in some discussions previously on Linked In.

    The crux of the issue here is whether an artist should consider making the investment of money and time to make their own giclee prints of their art works, for sale. Now I can see that you Charles have found ways to do it easily and more economically and you are to be congratulated.

    But my response here is that if an artist wants to consider doing their own printing they should carefully look at all the upfront costs involved and all commitment of time needed. You had many years printing with your 3880 Charles so upgrading to the 9800 was not such a big step. But for other artists who will start from scratch the learning curve will be great. It can take many months to years to master the printing equipment and get proficient with the software.

    You also speak of cutting your costs tremendously. But have you factored in money spent initially on equipment and your time spent in production? Many artists forget to do this and just consider only materials. In any business overhead (including equipment) and the time spent by staff are probably the major expenses. That is why print shops charge the prices they charge. You are paying for the expertise of the staff doing the printing.

    Moreover this also has nothing to do with whether I offer printing services or not. I simply want to lay out the issues that an artist might consider if they want to make their own prints.

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