Just as digital cameras have become more powerful and more affordable, the capabilities of inkjet printers have soared while prices have plunged. Epson, Canon and HP now all offer pro-model inkjet printers priced from under $600 to $5,000, depending on whether you want to be able to make prints that are 13, 17, 24 or 44 inches wide. Pro-model inkjet printers use 8 to 11 colors of pigment inks to create prints on canvas or watercolor papers that can last 100 years or more if properly protected and displayed.
More and more artists have taken their art reproduction into their own hands. Here are profiles of two of them, Jeffrey Neumann and Bill Patterson.
This artist’s photorealistic oil and watercolor paintings of roadside Americana capture some of the wonderfully idiosyncratic architecture that appeared during the period of great optimism and exuberance following World War II. His goal is to help preserve the fondly remembered road trip landscape that is quickly vanishing now that so many interstate exits look depressingly similar.
See one of his paintings, Lobster Pot (oil, 30×40), here. (© J.L. Neumann; Collection of Ms. Marilyn Herrington.)
While the artist continues to have his open-edition prints made by Jack Leustig Imaging, Neumann uses an Epson Stylus Pro 4000 to make limited-edition prints of his paintings.
His hand-signed 13×19 and 17×22 prints are so faithful to the originals that they sell side-by-side with his original paintings at the Art Exchange Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Hanback Gallery in Lenox, Massachusetts. Priced at 10 percent of the original works, the limited-edition prints are affordable enough for many gallery visitors who purchase them as an impulse buy.
When Neumann bought his Epson printer a few years ago, it came with a tutorial by Mac Holbert of the Epson Print Academy. He also took an intensive fine art printmaking workshop with photographer Carl Corey of GalleryPrint. But Neumann already understood many of the fundamentals of digital printing because as an employee of Canson (which distributes Arches papers in the US), he had helped develop a version of the Arches paper that could be printed with the pigment inks used in lower-cost pro-model inkjet printers. Although he uses a variety of papers for his portfolio work and presentations, Neumann continues to use Arches Infinity paper for his limited-edition prints because it’s 100 percent cotton, has some thickness to it, and conveys a sense of “fine art” when you put it in someone’s hands.
He works with a commercial printmaking studio to get 300–400 MB files from a Better Light scanning-back camera, which he color corrects in Photoshop. “We do a few proofs until I get one that I’m happy with. Then, I sign off it and get the file from the photographer.” As long as the photographer, the art publisher Jack Leustig Imaging, and Neumann all print with calibrated systems, prints made from the approved file should look the same as the approved proof.
“As long as you can get good files from someone, you don’t have to be a color-management genius to succeed,” says Neumann. “You can get into it as deeply as you want to, but really you just have to have some basic ability to follow directions.” (www.neumannfineart.com)
This Simi Valley, California-artist gets revved up by painting, by motor sports, and by painting scenes of motor sports in front of live audiences of race fans. “I try to paint the speed, the power, the noise, the emotion and everything about motor sports that gets me so jazzed,” he says. He paints live at cocktail parties, dinners and fundraisers held in conjunction with big races and usually has between 45 minutes and an hour to complete a painting, which is then signed and auctioned.
Patterson created this particular digital painting, ALMS, Laguna Seca 2006, using a Wacom tablet and Painter program.
Sometimes corporate sponsors want a few copies of Patterson’s paintings to give to key executives and supporters. With lithography this would be prohibitively expensive. However, with digital printing, it can easily be done at a reasonable cost.
Patterson has been printing limited-edition reproductions of his work since 2004, when he bought a 24-inch Epson Stylus Pro 7600 printer. Sales of his first edition easily paid for the cost of the printer, materials and ink. He has since acquired a 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro 9800 and has printed about 10 editions of 100 or fewer reproductions.
He works with Geoff Graham Photography, which captures the 1.5 GB files that Patterson then tweaks in Photoshop and prints. He prints on LexJet’s Sunset Hot Press Rag, Sunset Fibre Matte, Sunset Select Matte Canvas, and Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.
He not only uses his printer to output reproductions, he also uses it to output original paintings he creates with Corel Painter software, a Wacom tablet and a pressure-sensitive pen. “Painter is such a wonderful tool,” he says. “It allows me to try out techniques and go in directions that I wouldn’t be brave enough to try with traditional art media. I can make copies of a painting in progress and go in different directions from a given point, then return and start again.”
Patterson believes today’s inkjet printers provide much more spectacular reproductions than lithography. He admits that learning how to print his own work was frustrating at first: “There are a lot of variables and it took me awhile to figure out what mistakes I was making. I would do a lot of work to get the color right, then come up with some of the weirdest colors. I didn’t realize that if you let Photoshop handle the color management, you need to turn the color-correction off in the printer.” (www.billpattersonart.com)
Eileen Fritschhas been writing about large-format inkjet printing since 1994. She was founding editor of two magazines that show how digital printers are being used in fine art reproduction, professional photography, signage, interior décor and advertising.
Don’t miss her article “Is It Practical to Print Your Own Giclées?” in the September 2008 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
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