Art Terms Explained and Art Buyers Tips

Sometimes buying art can be a little intimidating or confusing with weird terms like giclée and remarque and wild range of prices from a few dollars to priceless. Myths and incorrect assumptions abound and unless your in the business (and often even then), most of us don't feel comfortable with their art knowledge.This part of my site will put you to the top of the class right away! Email me if you want to see something added!

What is an originals paintings vs original prints?
What is a giclée?
What is a remarqué?
What are art prints?
What is a gallery wrap?
What you need to know about color fading
Caring for your artwork

What is an original painting vs original print?

Original Painting

An original painting is a one-of-a-kind art work that has been fully created and produced by the artists themselves. With real paintings, subtle nuances of color, paint application and surface texture can be seen when compared to even the best reproductions. This is always the most valuable form of two dimensional work.
Good points: best visual appeal, most prestigious, best color light fast ratings, best investment value.
Poor points: most expensive

Original Print

An original print is usually a print created by hand and by the artist. Using a variety of techniques an artist may produce one or several near identical images yet call them all “original” which is a matter of contention amongst collectors. Most follow the general concept of: 1 creating one or more three dimensional patterns, 2 applying colored ink to the pattern, and 3 pressing the colored pattern against a paper (like a giant stamp) to reproduce the image. How that pattern is made determines what the print is called.
Etching: A technique where the pattern is made by painting a resistive agent onto a metal plate, then washing the plate in a corrosive solution to remove the unpainted areas. This gives the metal plate a slight three dimensional property
Block and Lino Print: Here a wooden block, piece of linoleum or other similar material is hand carved to produce the three dimensional relief.
Contact Print: Various three dimensional objects from Oak leaves and body parts to you-name-it are rolled in ink and pressed against the paper.
Serigraph: The patterns in this process are not etched, cut or carved but painted onto a series of fine silk screens. When dry, paper is placed under the screen while colored ink is applied to the top surface. Ink is transferred onto the paper in the areas not originally painted.

Good points:  investment value (valuable as an original), usually less expensive than hand painted work.
Poor points: an original print often looks like a regular mechanical print to the untrained observer, tonal and texture range are often over simplified and limited. Inks can be prone to fading in a relatively short time.

Prints (in order of value)

Art Prints are reproductions of original paintings by various methods and are generally done electro-mechanically. Numerous methods for reproductions exist but the biggest differences between them are print quality and longevity. Prints are a great way for people to get some nice artwork at very low cost. Prints however do not go up in value as readily as originals or remarqués. Except for giclees which have excellent fade resistance properties, it is generally better not to hang most prints in brightly lit locations. Avoid hanging prints right next to a large sunny window for example.

Remarque

A remarque (ree mar K) is where an artist takes one of his prints and paints on it. Because remarqués are partially hand painted, they are more valuable than a limited edition print but not as expensive as a full blown original. Typically an artist will add hand painted enhancements and new details which make every remarqué one-of-a-kind. That removes any conflict between a limited edition print that may be in production.

Giclée Prints

Pronounced gee-clay with a soft J sounding g as in gel or better yet a French sounding JJJee-clay. A giclée is the absolute best and most advanced form of printing technology in use today. Unlike most prints which print a set of 3 colored dots (plus black) to make up an image, my giclée printer uses 12 colors! And the inks are sprayed in place so even under a magnifying glass there are no dots. Giclée's also use specially made inks with true light fast pigments similar to artist paint and archival papers and canvas. This ensures that the artwork you purchase will retain it's color. Independent laboratories have rated the inks I use to be fade resistant to 150 years. I further hand paint all my giclée canvas prints with true artist grade acrylics which besides being waterproof, have additional UV stabilizers in them to extend the print even further. 350 years?
A true giclée is basically the best type of art reproduction there is.

Limited Edition Prints:

is a print where the total number of prints to be made has been predetermined or limited. Numbers from 100 to 1000 are common. Often the means to reproduce further prints beyond the said limit has been assured by destroying the original plates.
Often a small number of prints are made before the main run, for the artist to evaluate and distribute for promotions etc. They are called “Artist Proofs”. When the normal prints have a numbers like #56/250 (the 56th print out of 250 in total), artist proofs are small and have numbers like AP3/15 (artist proof #3 out of 15). Artist proofs are worth more than the regular limited edition numbered prints.

Art Print or open edition print:

are art prints that can any number of copies made. There is no limit. It doesn’t imply that the print itself is inferior. Typically there isn’t much investment value but that may not matter for it’s intended use.

Lithograph

Lithographs are made by creating 4 large (and expensive) metal plates which are etched and used in a very large press to print the image. 3 colors (yellow, magenta and cyan) plus black are used to reproduce the print in 4 individual passes within the press. They can be “limited editions” or “open editions” as required.
Lithograph technology used to be considered good (pre 2000). But their tendency to fade, especially with the reddish hues and the advent of far superior giclées have pretty much put them out of use.

Laser Prints and color copying

are not considered to be “art prints”. Why? Copying machines are made to produce quick and economical reproductions for reports and pamphlets etc. As such they don’t need to last for years so the inks and paper used are not archival. They fade and change color extremely fast.  Cover one partially with black paper and tape it to a south facing window and you'll soon see. Modern copy machines and home printers produce great looking copies but they’re not suitable for resale or actual “art prints”.

What is a gallery wrap?

Canvas is normally stretched onto a wooden frame and fastened by stapling the edges. The staples are hidden from view when the painting is framed. Many high-end art works are framed using a clean-edge (gallery wrap) technique. Here the canvas is attached to the back instead. The artist paints or finishes the clean staple-free edges as part of the piece. The painting can now simply be hung "as is", without having to invest a lot of money in an expensive frame. It gives a very nice contemporary look to the painting. Very artsy! If you prefer your paintings framed, they can still be done as easy as before. My standard canvases are 30"x40".  As part of the image is on the edges, the frontal surface dimension becomes 28"x38"

What you should know about  color fastness and fading

Everyone has noticed colors fading on things - clothing, furniture, old Coca-Cola signs. But nowhere is it more important than in artwork! Does all art work fade? Do watercolors fade more than oils or acrylics? How about prints? How can you tell if an art piece you own or are about to buy will last?
Paint and ink manufacturers can't "make" the 3 primary colors. When they need red, yellow and blue, they have to go out into nature and find things that are those colors. Everything from iron oxide (rust) and dirt to exotic plants and semi-precious gems are ground up to make up the pigments in artist paint. Some pigments are naturally very color fast or "permanent," as it is called in the art world, and others are not, and are termed "fugitive". A red made from ground up rubies will last forever. Yellow ochre and lamp black are simple permanent pigments used by Neanderthal artists and have lasted thousands of years.
Pigments used by themselves would not stick well to anything, so a carrier, or "glue," must be added to the pigment to make it useful as a paint or drawing medium. When the carrier is oil it becomes oil paint; gum arabic creates watercolor paint; wax makes wax crayons, and acrylic polymers, acrylic paint. As it is the pigment characteristics which determine the light fastness, and not so much the glue, all painting and drawing mediums have the same permanency for a given pigment. Unfortunately, several non-permanent, fugitive colors are used in paint today, even "artists grade" paint. The trick is to know which ones to use. Some "artist grade paint” and inks will have noticeable fading or color change in just a few weeks! When you purchase a painting from an artist, try to ensure each and every color they use is light-fast and permanent. This is extremely important, especially if the work will be hung in a well lit environment. It is your right to know about your art investment. Light fast rating numbers of 1 or A and AA are used by manufacturers for their best paints.
If an artist doesn’t know his paint or isn't concerned about such things, they’re amature. Their ignorance will be your cost to bear when your new artwork fades. Do not buy.

Caring for your original painting or giclee print

Acrylics are easy! I use only the very best light-fast and archival quality paint and materials. The colors on these paintings will not fade even when hung in bright or sunny locations. Cleaning is also easy. Simply dust with a feather duster or hairy brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. If something spots the surface, just wipe clean using a soft cloth and plain water. (Acrylics are 100% waterproof). If the spot is stubborn, try warm soapy dish water. Like most acrylics and plastics, do not use cleaning products with ammonia, such as Windex.