Life As An Itinerant Artist

Stories and anecdotes from fifteen years on the art show circuit. 

Some thoughts on editions

My work consists of two kinds of prints: canvas gallery wraps and traditional matted and framed prints. The canvases are all long skinny aspect ratios, both horizontal and vertical; the prints are all 2:3 aspect ratio, so the mix isn’t too glaring in the booth.

There is a distinct difference between my canvas prints and my traditional prints. I use canvas for oversize panoramas that can’t be glassed. My other alternative would be laminated and mounted prints; the gallery wraps work better for me, as I can make them myself. For me, this is an important distinction.

The substrate is not as an important part of the determination within the print editions for me, as printing an entire edition at one time is no longer necessary or practical. I use archival, fine art paper for each image — current favorites are Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper and Breathing Color Chromata canvas. Inks change, printers change and often the same substrate changes over the life of an edition, especially show editions, which are typically 250. I think of these editions as somewhat organic. Usually the changes make the image better. 

If I change the image significantly, it becomes a new edition — ie crop, color vs black and white. At that point, I’ll often discontinue the older edition. If the edition changes only slightly, it remains in the same number sequence, and becomes part of the history of the image itself (improved contrast, slight saturation changes, different substrate. All of the sizes are part of the single edition. My COA states this.

OTOH, if an image has both prints and canvas, I do create a separate, smaller edition for the canvas prints. The break point is size and the big difference between the look. They are very different usually, in aspect ratio, presentation and the feel of the detail in the print. I’d characterize the canvas images more as “décor” pieces, while the traditional prints are more formal.

I’ve seen lots of bad prints — but quality is somewhat subjective. Sometimes you can see banding in fine gradients or noise in the shadow details. Some folks like lots of saturation, or really really sharpened prints. Blotchy color, banding, magenta or green color casts are all hallmarks of a poorly printed image. Too much of anything makes a print look bad. 

A really good printer can overcome many defects in an image, but just like the darkroom, pushing it too far runs the risk of making the print look garish.  I’ve made a few of those myself, and over time, as I get better at the craft, will go back and refine my printing technology to remake those image. The early prints become a record of where I was, even with those defects. 

The key for me is that I print my own work, and record the various moves in the edition, as well as the provenance of each print. That history is important to me, even though it entails a lot more work than sending a batch to the lab.

November 7, 2008

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks! Nice post.

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