Rubini Gallery of Fine Art

Rubini Gallery
1833 Araby Dr. #31
Suite 1015
Palm Springs, CA
92264 USA
(800) 454-0443
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About Art Reproductions

One of the most commonly asked questions in the art galleries about fine art today is the question of what reproductions are, usually in the form of "is this a poster?" "what's the difference between a lithograph and serigraph?" or "what is a serigraph?" or "is this a good reproduction?" etc..

In a book written by Ralph Mayer, "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques," 3rd edition, Viking Press, 1979, it states that reproductions, or graphic arts "designates all processes for the production of multiple-proof pictures on paper on a handmade basis, the work being done either wholly or in most part by the original artist, and editions limited. Prints are made either in black and white or in multiple color impressions and the individual copies or proofs may be signed and numbered by the artist in pencil on the lower margins. Making an impression is called pulling a proof. The term 'graphic art' excludes all forms of mechanically reproduced works photographed or redrawn on plates; all processes in which the artist did not participate to his fullest capacity are reproductions."

This definition was a good one for many years but has not kept up with the times.

Originally, reproduction was a mechanical technique for the making of multiple impressions for written materials and images for mass distribution, as opposed to copying by hand. Several artists eventually picked up on the idea of using this new technology for the creation of multiple originals. As printing technology progressed, so did the artists use of it.

Today, many artists are involved in using the computer as a tool for reproductions. Purists, however, still debate over whether or not photography is a true artistic medium. The debate with purists on reproduction hinges on the use of mechanical techniques, and artist involvement in creating the multiples. However, the purists' point of view is quite moot with the acceptance of many new techniques by both artists and collectors.

Current Techniques

A.   Lithographs are produced by drawing and/or painting onto the surface of a flat surface (limestone or, now, metal plates) with grease. The surface is then treated with various chemicals to stabilize the image. Once the image is stabilized, water is sponged onto the surface, and ink is rolled onto the image. The areas where the grease image is are the only areas that will accept the ink. Paper is then placed on the surface and run through the press. In most cases, each color requires a different stone or plate. Quite often 40 or more stones or plates are used. The surface of a lithograph has only the texture of the paper.

B.   Serigraphs or screen prints are produced by creating a stencil on thin fabric (originally silk, now man-made fabric) that is stretched across a frame. These screens are then placed on the paper or any other surface to be printed on and a squeegee with ink is then pulled across the screen leaving ink on the paper where the stencil is open. A new screen is used for each color. As opposed to lithography, serigraphs can have texture, and quite often opaque inks are used thus giving the serigraph the feel of an original oil or acrylic painting. Quite often serigraphs are done on canvas for this effect.

Digital Process

Giclee or Iris prints are created by scanning an original piece of artwork or a transparency of an original piece of artwork onto a computer where the image can be manipulated by the artist, if needed. The image is then sprayed on to high quality paper or canvas using vegetable dyes instead of inks or paint as in most other reproduction processes such as serigraphy, lithography, etching, engraving, etc. The process allows for over 3 million color possibilities, and because the information is stored on disk, the full edition can be done on an as needed basis.

The giclee process was originally designed to produce high quality commercial graphics for advertising. The dyes used were developed for high quality, short term use. When the process was eventually used by publishers and artists to produce limited editions, the longevity of the vegetable dyes was tested. The commercially used dyes used were not permanent - fading after a few years under normal lighting.

Recently, however, dye manufactures have developed more permanent dyes. They are not as brilliant as the commercial dyes. Because of this some giclee printmakers began using both dyes in the process. This has lead to the formation of a standards organization to certify that the fine art dyes are being used.

Several artists have produced limited edition giclee editions that have literally been repainted over with acrylic paint thus creating a near original numbered graphic.

Mechanically Produced Processes

A.   Offset Lithography is usually a four color process where the image is photographed and color separations are made for red, yellow, blue and black. Usually, half-tone (tiny dot patterns of varying density) plates are made for each color. Variations on color are created by the varying dot pattern density and overlaying dot patterns for each color. The original plate is a reverse image of the original image; therefore, the image is transferred to a roller that picks up the image and transfers the image to the paper. Offset lithography is purely a mechanical process. It is used for the printing of magazines, brochures and posters. Some limited editions are produced by this method; however, the quality compared with hand-pulled reproduction techniques is inferior. Several artists have found this to be a good process for producing inexpensive signed and numbered limited editions for the limited-means collector. However, the edition quantities are usually in the thousands as in posters.

B.   Canvas transfers are essentially offset lithographs where the image has literally been lifted off the paper and placed on canvas. The image looks as though it was painted on the canvas because of the texture of the canvas. Again, the edition sizes are usually quite large.

Photographic Process

Cibachromes or Ilfochromes are produced by creating a photo-positive or transparency of the original and exposing photographic emulsioned paper to this image. There are three colors (dyes) used in photography - magenta, cyan and yellow - to create all of the colors you see. Editions are usually kept low, and prints can be made as needed. The longevity of the prints (noticeable fading, changes in color balance, and/or staining) under normal household light is approximately 29 years.

Hand Enhanced

Hand enhancing is where the artist or assistant actually paints back onto the print image to create the brush or palette knife texture or the original. This becomes quite labor intensive, and often the artist will make certain changes that makes each a distinct original piece.

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