As I have listened to people talk about art over the years, I have realized that there is much confusion surrounding the differences between originals, prints, reproductions, giclees and hand-embellished reproductions. This article is intended to be a quick and dirty description of each to help clear up a few of the common misconceptions surrounding two-dimensional art.
An original work of art is the easy one; it is the original painting, drawing, watercolor, computer-generated image etc. that was first produced by the artist. It is created from the mind and brought into being at the hands of the artist.
A print is created during the printmaking process where an artist creates an original image on a stone, plate, screen, or block and then hand pulls or supervises the hand pulling of a print from this surface. It too, is derived at the hands of the artist or artist assistant. Editions i.e. more prints can be pulled from these blocks, but at some point the surface will deteriorate (or be destroyed) and the image will no longer be able to be printed. This is what makes a true print more valuable than a reproduction. Each print has some element of change and possible imperfection in each subsequent image, making them each one of a kind.
A reproduction of art is an exact replication of an original image. An artist creates an original image through various media i.e. paint, ink, watercolor, pastel etc. A photograph or scan records this image in digital form and then it is printed out onto a surface in the form of a paper, canvas print and various other types of surfaces. The type of printer, ink and paper is at the full discretion of the person/company creating these reproductions.
A giclee (pronounced soft zhee klay or gee klay) is a reproduction, but is known for being a higher quality reproduction created by an inkjet printer with high quality ink on high quality paper or canvas. Giclee is the term used to describe the shooting of color ink into the surface to create a high quality reproduction of an original art image.
Something else you may have seen is what is called a hand embellished reproduction. That means that the original image has been photographed, reproduced on a surface, and then hand embellished with something to give the piece texture or an element of something that makes it look hand made or more original. This is most often seen in department and home decor stores. A real artist probably created the first image, but what we buy from the chain store is not the original and cannot be called a painting. It is a reproduction.
You might ask yourself, “How do I know the difference when I am looking at art?” The best way is to look very closely. One very simple indication is if you can see the hand of the artist in the piece. This means you can see a brush stroke, or a directional line drawn with graphite. If you look closely, you can see the medium applied to the surface. The price is another indicator. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Original art takes time to create and it is one of a kind, so the price should reflect that in most circumstances. Reproductions are a wonderful way to be able to appreciate an original work of art while staying within a budget. The important thing is to know the difference when you are spending your money. When all else fails, ask the person selling the art!
As far as my art goes, I wait until a painting sells before I make a reproduction of it. Right now, the only reproductions I sell are greeting cards that I have printed up by Vista Print and then I pay my kids to package them nicely to be sold during the art fairs. One day, I would like to have reproductions on my web site. I am also interested in getting high quality prints made in the future, but in truth, I would rather spend my time creating original paintings!