Thursday, April 21, 2011


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa.

I was going to stop at #2. Really.

And then, here's what happened: I had two paintings to deliver. We agreed to meet halfway, so neither of us would have too long of a drive. So, we met and were sitting at Panera, having a cup of coffee, talking about the fund raiser for the Linn Creek Arts Festival (Marshalltown, Iowa) which the two paintings will hopefully help with. After a good chat one of the committee members handed me my check for the paintings, and I prepared to leave. She stopped me with "oh, wait, I have to do a write-up for our newsletter, and I want to make sure I've got all the details correct." I'd already given the committee a copy of my artist statement and info about the paintings.

What she said next made me realize #3 had to be written. Here we go. She said "I know a little bit about art, but sometimes it can get confusing. these are real paintings, right? With all the things people to to paintings lately, sometimes it's hard to tell". Oh dear. So you see? I have to write this, take #3.

And then I remembered my recent visit with the computer tech. I'd taken the desk top beast in for help. We talked about a part that had three initials on the front and six or seven on the back of it's name. All Greek to me. I am not a computer tech, and I don't know their language. Every now and then, I try,but I'm pretty sure I'd have to spend a lot more time with it to get it. I am not a construction worker, and I don't know their industry lingo,either. Nor am I a doctor, and maybe that's why we have web md, the lay persons guide to should-I-go-see-my-doctor? We are artists and in our conversation cache are words like copies, reproductions, limited edition reproductions, giclees, enhanced giclees...

I wondered: if computer tech talk is Greek to me, then are limited edition reproductions and giclees just like Greek to the bus drivers of the world? The physical therapists? The gourmet chefs?

I went to an alternate website and asked people this: "I am working on a project and need opinions from normal people (not artists!) Do the words reproductions, prints, giclees and paintings all mean the same thing to you? Or are they separate and distinct? Couldn't care less?! :) No right or wrong answers, but I do need real people insight..."

Was this a numerically constructed and officially supervised survey? NO. It was a what-do-you-think inquiry. Nothing hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnells's back porch.

Interestingly, most of the responders were teachers, there was a mental health professional, an arts center staff member (theatre), a CPA, a gallery owner, and of course, artists. I didn't consider the gallery owner's personal views, because she is also an artist, but speaking for her clients she said "But in the industry it does make a huge difference how you list reproduced products", which I think echos the thoughts of an earlier commenter that educating patrons is important.

I'll list a few responses and please note that they are unedited ( and I mean that!) quotes:

1. I'm totally uneducated in art lingo, but as a normal consumer, to me painting means an original, prints and reproductions are copies, and a giclee means something highbrow enough that I probably couldn't afford it."

2. "I don't know about the "normal" part, and although I would love to be an artist, I am not, but here's my opinion on this. To me, the word reproduction or print, means "cheap", and painting means a one of a kind original that I would buy. Giclee? After googling it and finding out it's and inkjet print, I was disappointed. The name sounds much fancier thant that :)"

3. "Reproductions, prints and paintings all have a distinctive different meaning in my mind, not sure if they're the right meanings, but...I've never heard of giclees, but I love learning new words so I'll look it up and add it to my vocabulary!"

I was pleased to hear that these three commentors, as well as most of the rest, knew there was a difference between reproductions or copies, and paintings, and understood them somewhat. The word giclee, however, was a problem.

Early commentors to this discussion (take #1, and #2) mentioned that it was nice to have a reminder of an artist, and a reproduction can do that. It makes me think of VanGogh posters of Starry Night in the art center gift shop. Everybody knows they are copies, but they are reminders of time spent at the gallery viewing paintings. They often have a title and artist name listed in text, down at the bottom in the margin. We can all mentally image that, right? No doubt of what their purpose is. Does that bring us to the giclee?

Wait: maybe we need the dictionary:
1. Giclee
A giclee (zhee-CLAY) is an individually produced, high-resolution, high-fidelity reproduction done on a special large format printer. Giclees are produced from digital scans of existing artwork, or a digital file.

Let's ask questions about the giclee--it seems to require it :) What is the purpose of the giclee? I've heard artists say patrons can't afford an original painting but they want a reminder. The poster style reproduction would cover that, right? So why the giclee? If your patrons just want a reminder of your painting, why go the extra bucks for a giclee? We've agreed a giclee costs quite a bit more than a poster, right? Still better yet,why computer print a painting on a piece of canvas, if we are just after a reminder of the original painting? And the enhanced giclee--why would we swipe a loaded varnish brush over the surface of a giclee, or dab on on a few spots of real paint , if we just want a reminder of the artist's painting?

To the art patrons of the world, I hope you ask questions. Many a teacher has told us the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked. So ask away. Sometimes what's put in front of you can be confusing.

Later, Cooper