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 FineArtWorld.com, 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.