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The Capture of Art

Fine Art Reproduction Depictions

By Melissa Donovan

Capturing the smallest detail and translating every nuance from an original piece of artwork to a reproduction is painstaking work. This step in the process must occur with little error. Print providers in the fine art reproduction space rely on a range of tools.


Wide format digital scanners provide the ability to capture large prints in a single pass. Camera backs are another alternative, where a piece of art is laid down and a picture is literally taken of it. In either process, the result is the same—a high-quality image that can then be tweaked until a perfect match occurs.


While there are many wide format scanner and camera back manufacturers, some fine art reproduction houses take it upon themselves to tinker and create a proprietary device.


Manufacturer to Art Reproducer

Van Gogh Again, of Broomfield, CO and Drexel Hill, PA, planted its roots in large format scanning. In the mid 1990s Doug Komhyr, president, Van Gogh Again, worked for a manufacturer selling capture devices. After drawing up some preliminary diagrams of a new device, he presented them to engineers who claimed the scanner would never work.


Instead of continuing on the same path, Komhyr and a colleague found investment money to start their own business. Moving from CO and PA, they began the first Van Gogh Again in 1998. There, they created an “erector set” version of a scanner and started servicing customers such as publishers and artists.


With business booming, in 2000 Komhyr moved back to CO to open a second branch of company. He fully intended to begin manufacturing multiple wide format scanners, but soon realized the cost to break into the business was too high. Instead, he stuck with what he knew and continued offering services in fine art reproduction with a new proprietary scanner built at 44x90 inches, allowing for capture to occur in a single pass.


Today, both locations employ roughly six to eight people. The company also dabbles in the Web-to-print space with, which began five years ago. An online gallery for Van Gogh Again’s artists, it allows each customer to create their own Web site using templates. Other tools can be added such as guest books, site statistics, and even shopping carts.


Van Gogh Again’s proprietary scanner defines its business. Komhyr says it captures just about any size art because it’s built flat. The largest print captured to date was 88x88 inches. All details, including shadows, are scanned at a one-by-one ratio.


Complementing the scanner are a couple of wide format printers. Van Gogh Again originally relied on Iris printers, and Komhyr admits he recently recycled the last few. From there, it acquired a Mutoh America, Inc. Falcon II RJ-8000, a 52-inch machine and more recently, an Epson Stylus Pro 11880. The 64-inch width, quality, color gamut, and media versatility were all large factors in the purchase decision.


Popular media options are glossy and/or matte finish canvas and watercolor paper. The fine art shop use to offer a lot more media options than it does today. However, Komhyr looked to minimize the selection to focus on color management. The fewer paper types, the less color profiles necessary—and Van Gogh Again builds all of its own color profiles. Because it creates the file based on the media and not the printer, files built ten years ago still work on the Epson printer today and easily match anything coming off of the Mutoh as well.


Working in the higher end reproduction space, Komhyr realized how critical color was to the operation and took the steps to make it easier on him and the staff.


Part of the color process is the proofing. Once an image is scanned, the client is invited back to the shop. The proof and then the original are hung on a black wall and Komhyr and the customer sit and discuss the differences—if any—between the two.


It’s this part of the workflow that Komhyr believes is the most critical component. “Your color management system is essential. You need to think about how color is managed before you even get to the printer,” he explains. In addition, the original image must be in good quality, because starting with a poor image won’t do much for the reproduction.


Van Gogh Again recognizes what it excels at and leaves other elements of the process to the experts. For example, framing is outsourced to a wholesaler who then returns the finished product. It does offer canvas stretching, with gallery wrapping done on a proprietary stretcher bar, which is milled by a local woodworker.


Its customers are mostly of the local variety, which Komhyr notes has changed in the last few years. “People are using local printers more than they use to because of the color proofing process, they want to be part of the process—being very hands on,” he shares. Orders generally fall anywhere from one to 150 copies of an original piece of artwork. Turnaround time varies, as it’s based on when and how the customer wants it.


One repeat customer of Van Gogh Again’s is Segal Fine Art; which specializes in motorcycle imagery. The company rents space in the fine art reproduction provider’s building, but has worked with them since 1998. The fine art site showcases work by artists including David Mann, Michael Knepper, and Tom Fritz. Van Gogh Again provides them with files for advertisements and print literature, which are then brought to shows so patrons can easily choose which paintings they would like to purchase. These orders are then routed through Van Gogh Again. Komhyr estimates that it sometimes receives three orders a week from the company.


Falling Into Fine Art

According to Brian Wanta, fine art printer, FotoTechnika Fine Art Imaging, this business is not your average print shop. Located in Jacksonville, FL the company operates in a 100 year old house in 3,300 square feet of space with three full-time and two part-time employees.


John and Saundra Howard opened FotoTechnika in 1987 as a full-service photo lab and graphic arts shop. Over time it evolved into a digital lab offering fine art reproduction, digital capture, and digital press work. The lab is known for its high-quality film processing and made the leap into digital with a Nortisu America Corporation minilab and a ZBE Inc. Chromira 30-inch RA-4 digital printer. Spring 2012 brought even newer technology to the table with a Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. bizhub PRESS C6000.


It also offers traditional photographic—machine processed silver halide prints, scanning services to restore photos and other custom products, and more. Clients include individual consumers as well as photographers, which range from the professional to the hobbyist. Artists, frame shops, galleries, churches, non-profit organizations, and advertising agencies make up the rest of the customer base.


Its fine art reproduction department is a one man show, made up of Wanta and accounts for about 20 percent of its total business. The company started offering fine art reproduction in 1997 when it inherited a LaserMaster DesignWinder wide format inkjet printer. Its first job actually occurred by accident.


“Our original intent was to print poster-size photo prints. Early on, a local artist mistook the DesignWinder for an Iris printer and asked if we would attempt printing her pastel artwork on watercolor paper. After much trial and error, we achieved the result she was looking for and a new opportunity opened up for us,” explains Wanta.


FotoTechnika upgraded to a Roland DGA Corporation Hi-Fi JET PRO FJ-500 printer three years later to create high-quality fine art output. A second Roland device—Hi-Fi JET PRO FJ-600—was added in 2005. Both printers utilize eight-color pigment ink sets and have undergone extensive testing with FotoTechnika’s ink/paper and canvas/coating combinations to ensure an accurate reproduction.


What followed was an investment in a Better Light, Inc. scanning camera back system in March 2006. The Better Light Super 8K-HS is mounted on an AIAXact 4060 DV Repro workstation. The unit is equipped with variable speed remote for up and down movement. Focusing is achieved using Better Light’s ViewFinder digital scanning camera software. The print provider chose this particular scanner because of the high-quality capture and large file size, which is up to 549 MB.


“We were accustom to large files in the past; drum scanning four- by five-inch transparencies for large format output. We needed something that would meet or beat our then current methods and quality standards. The Better Light did that and trimmed a full day from our workflow,” says Wanta.


Wanta goes on to explain that high-quality capture is one of the most essential elements of properly recreating a fine art print, and the Better Light allows them to do that. It’s even more important when making larger prints, “without good input, you’re fighting an uphill battle,” he asserts.


In addition he cites the importance of powerful editing software, such as Adobe Systems Incorporated’s Photoshop. All of the print shop’s editing, color correction, and cleanup is completed in the program, allowing artwork that was once flawed to look perfect in the reproduction.


FotoTechnika worked closely with Jacksonville, FL artist Helen Hoffman and her children to reproduce original oils and pastels. Most of Hoffman’s work is scattered throughout private collections across the U.S., and the Hoffman children approached owners to borrow the artwork over a short period, recreate the prints, and then return the originals with a full-sized print.


The project went on over a three year period, with over 50 of Hoffman’s original works of art reproduced at FotoTechnika. Hoffman herself was adamant that each reproduction matched the original and was involved in the entire process. She personally approved each proof.


Each piece of art was scanned on the Better Light at 330 ppi at the full size of the original. Most of the originals were 30x40 inches or smaller. “The beauty of the camera stand is the simplicity of the setup. Once the lights come up to full brightness, it’s really just a matter of focus, crop, and shoot. The pastels were often very delicate and required special handling. Once the scans were completed, the files were sent via our in-house network to the editing area for clean up and color correction,” shares Wanta.


Hoffman’s work is filled with bright highlights and subtle shadows with broad gradation. Custom printer profiles were created to limit the ink in certain areas. Both Roland printers were used to print the reproductions. LexJet Corporation’s Sunset Select Matte Canvas worked best for the canvas prints. For the pastels, Hahnemühle William Turner watercolor texture paper was used to match the texture of the original works. Each print was coated in a spray booth using Marabu North America LP’s liquid coatings. FotoTechnika always strives to ensure that the look and texture of the original art is mimicked in the reproduction.


Demanding Results

The fine art reproduction process is full of nuances and challenges that only an experienced print provider truly understands. The capture part of the workflow is essential. The correct device scans every detail in an original piece of artwork—shadows, lines, highlights, hidden colors—in as few passes as possible to make it a true reproduction.


Sep2012, Digital Output

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