Best of Both Worlds, or fun/work/fun

I spent today doing art of a different sort.  My project still required an inspired use of color, judicious contrast and value control, a nod towards tactile pleasure, and a desire to produce the best art I was able to create.  But instead of paper and paint (or even pixels) today’s art consisted of fine art inkjet printing.
The subject of creating a print from your original artwork could fill a volume – several volumes, in fact – and there are plenty of good books out there on the very subject.  There are also wonderful online communities full of dedicated users who spend countless hours discussing paper profile mismatches, black point compensation and the proper color gamut of alizarin crimson.  There are those who rail against any kind of commercial art printing as a snub to traditional lithography, and there are plenty of people who throw around words like “archival”, “giclee” and “limited edition”, without any real grasp of what those words truly mean to the artist or their customer.  There is a world of information out there, and it would take several lifetimes to learn all there is to know about this business of printing art.
This is what I do know.  I can finish a painting, photograph it, convert it into a digital file, proof it, color correct it, proof it again (repeat as necessary), and create a beautiful piece of affordable art to pass it on to my collectors.  They get a beautifully printed, high quality “copy” of an original they may not have been able to afford, and I make a little extra money.  It’s a beautiful thing.
I’m fortunate that I have the ability to control every phase of my artwork, from conceptual idea to  finished product in the client’s hands.  Part of my college schooling was dedicated to computer illustration, typography and design.  While I am by no means a computer artist (but my husband is! I view Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Painter as tools in my arsenal.  In fact, most of my “professsional” life has involved those programs.  Over the past 10 years, much of my work has revolved around the world of fine art printing.  There is still art and artistry in this.  Creating a stunning fine art print is more than just running some great paper through a machine and pushing a button or two.  (And trust me, there’s some really, really great paper out there.)  Granted, the technology has gotten much better since the first inkjet printers were introduced and today’s machines produce great prints and are easier than ever to use, but an artist’s eye is still required to create the perfect print.    
Why would that be?  Because an inkjet print is, at heart, a digital creation.  While the new printers are very, very good, there is still a huge difference between an original oil on board and a series of digitally controlled pigment ink droplets sprayed onto canvas.  The magic of what has happened on your board is digitized, crunched, converted to code and reassembled on a computer monitor with different light, different colors, even a different “white”.  It’s like comparing apples to… computer generated apples.  Once you’ve taken a good photo (another art form in its own right) and the image has been reassembled as a digital file, the real fun/work/fun begins.  When the image on your monitor finally matches the original art (variable 1), you must then print the image onto the chosen media (variable 2) and compare.  I usually do side by side comparisons with a red pen handy, and scribble cryptic notes to myself like “not jello-y enough” or “perfect shade for murder”.  Then I sit back down at my computer and make my color adjustments, going for a nice refined claret instead of a “homicidal” red, for instance.  After I’ve corrected the image and saved my corrections as a new file, I print again and compare.  That’s the process I repeat as long as necessary.  Simple?  Yes.  Easy?  No.   At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to me is the piece of canvas that comes out of the printer.  That is what is going to my client, and I want it to be the best print I am capable of creating.  
Tonight I’m heading to a gallery opening for a customer of mine.  He knows me from my 9-5, where I work with artists and photographers who print their own stuff, answering questions and giving advice on  papers, printers, varnishes, ICC profiles and color corrections.  On Sunday I have a gallery opening of my own to attend, with two of my paintings (well, a painting and a scratchboard) up for juried awards.  In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds, and I am looking forward to both shows.  But right now I will take my freshly created print and inspect it one more time, looking for any flaws.  If it passes final inspection, I’ll number it (1/60, for a brand new edition) and finally sign my name, signifying that this, to me, is art.  I made it, I created it, and I am proud to send it out into the world.
“Only the Lonely”  
Limited Edition giclee inkjet print from an original graphite by Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011. 
  © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2011.  All Rights Reserved.
 Limited Edition of 60, signed and numbered by the artist on 100% cotton rag paper, 18 x 24