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Fine Art Opportunity

Recreating Art with Solvents

By Kim Crowley

Firms specializing in fine art printing use giclee to capture original artwork and create art reproductions for mass and limited edition production, mass retail reproduction, gallery posters, books, and more. Many artists use giclee to cost effectively bring their work to a wider commercial audience.

Fine art reproductions were first created nearly 30 years ago, using Iris dye-based printers. Today, this art continues to move widely into digital printing, where printhead technology, print resolution, ink, and substrates continue to advance.

Printer’s Palette
A digital file commonly achieves the best possible giclee rendition of an artist’s work. Artwork is photographed using a digital camera back or scanned with a flatbed scanner. Proper lighting, focus, and color accuracy are all important in the capture stage to retain the finest details of the original artwork.

Next comes the print. Hardware choice is important to the quality, reputation, and profitability of a fine art reproduction house.

“You need a good print engine. The biggest cost is ink and the biggest concern is speed—you’re always looking for a cost reduction in those things,” notes Al Marco, owner, MFA Talon Graphics, Inc.

“I moved into solvent printing with the purchase of several printers. Whether it’s a Canon U.S.A., Inc., Epson, Mimaki USA, Inc., or Roland DGA Corporation printer, shops are always looking for the latest technology. You amortize the cost of the machine. I see a shift to solvent printing in the fine art market soon. It’s the new wave of technology, and that’s what you’re going to see a lot of.”

A giclee print is completed with the artist’s personal touch and desired finishing techniques. The prints can be manipulated with paint, decoupage, or gold leaf and turned into one-of-a-kind masterpieces. Prints are bound in books, stretched to canvas, matted and framed, or simply sold as rolled posters.

Master Craftspeople
Al Marco began his career at a law firm producing trial evidence graphics. On the weekends he helped an artist friend sell art, but the high cost and long lead time from the print shop pushed him to open a small studio of his own in 1984. Today MFA Talon Graphics is a thriving, 16,000 square foot, fine art studio in El Segundo, CA with 30 employees.

The company scans, prints, finishes, stretches, and custom frames fine artwork. Customers include Guy Buffet, Robert Indiana, Sharon Kaiser, the Walt Disney Corporation, and marine artist Wyland. “When artists come in they’re always pushing the envelope. We print on board, add glitter, include metallics, and offer gold leaf—it’s just endless,” says Marco.

MFA Talon Graphics also houses a series of master contemporary books through its fine art division, MFA Contemporary Atelier. The company was one of the first studios in the country to produce collectible fine art books entirely in silkscreen.

Master Equipment
To create high resolution digital files of clients’ artwork, MFA Talon Graphics uses a capture system from Better Light, Inc. with a Cambo four- by five-inch camera scan back.

For printing, Marco admits avoiding early giclŽe Iris technology because the prints quickly fade. “You can’t reproduce something like art—that’s supposed to be around for a while—that’s going to fade,” he states. “In the early days, everybody stuck with a lot of the Iris printers and they would try adding top coats to make prints last.”

The company has a total of 16 digital printers, mostly from Epson. “I’ve gone back and forth on a lot of printers. I’ve tested many,” notes Marco. The company’s most recent printer addition is an Epson Stylus Pro GS6000. The GS6000 is a 64-inch wide large format solvent printer with an eight-color ink set. It prints at up to 1,440x1,440 dpi and has a variable droplet size of as little as 3.7 picoliters to reveal sharp quality. It prints at up to 340 square feet per hour at 720x360 dpi, two pass.

The environment is important to Marco, and it is one of the reasons he purchased the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 printer with new solvent-based Epson UltraChrome GS ink. “We were one of the first studios to move—when we were a serigraphy studio in the 1980s—to water-based products, and no one could believe it,” says Marco.

Reed Hecht, product manager, Epson, says that with the new Epson UltraChrome GS solvent ink, there is no need for ventilation or air purification. “We take the solvent and make it act similarly to our aqueous printers, which customers are accustom to in the fine art space. Now we have the added ability to create a canvas that doesn’t need to be coated, has longer durability, and is generated significantly faster, from a more industrial type of printer,” says Hecht.

Marco says technology has blossomed. MFA Talon Graphics already produced 5,500 prints with the one GS6000, and recently ordered two more printers. “That’s a tremendous amount of prints, and I have not had a single problem,” notes Marco. “Solvent ink costs dropped, which saves me literally $50,000. The device is fast, saving me and my staff time.” The company uses media from Epson and Permalite. MFA Talon Graphics also owns silkscreen equipment, a UV coating machine, and equipment that adds aqueous varnish.

Cutting Edge Art
Artist Michael Godard possesses a rock star persona, with paintings that pull together whimsy and humor. Godard is the number one selling artist in the U.S. His original paintings are priced upward of $75,000 and giclee reproductions are very popular.

MFA Talon Graphics does everything for Godard including printing, stretching, varnishing, frame design, printing certificates of authenticity, and shipping—rolled and framed prints.

“Godard is very creative and spontaneous. It’s normal to have many changes on a project in a creative sense, and always at a fast pace,” states Simone Boia, director of operations, MFA Talon Graphics. “But it’s a lot of fun,” she adds.

A new edition of Godard’s painting, Marlin Martini, was just released on 24x30-inch fine art paper using the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 printer. MFA Talon Graphics also made prints of the painting on Epson canvas with a gloss coating.

Marlin Martini, like many of Godard’s other paintings, features representation of light and very rich colors that are a challenge to precisely reproduce. “One of the hardest things to accomplish with this job was the deep blacks,” notes Boia. “Epson helped us build an environment and set up the printer to print the way we expected,” she adds.

Fine Art Opportunity
Giclee creates prints that are collector quality and true to the artist’s original work. While Marco says it’s tough to be in the printmaking business, he sees a lot of potential for lucrative success in art and specifically giclŽe. “There are a lot of local artists out there. Printers can make quite a bit of money reproducing artwork,” he says.
 

Feb2009, Digital Output

 
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