Working as an artist, one of the issues I've run into is that once a painting is sold, if I don't have it digitally archived it's gone from circulation for good unless the buyer resells the original. Creating a continuing revenue stream on sold works by way of reproductions is beneficial to the artist and enhances the value of the original and investment for the buyer. The option for a high-end print of an original is a cost-effective way for an art lover to own work without the often daunting price tag of the original piece. To ensure that I have access for quality reproductions of paintings that are sold and out of circulation, I have for many years worked with various print houses to recreate my my original works on watercolor paper using a high-end large format digital printing process often referred to as Iris prints (or Giclèes). The results varied wildly during the initial stages as the on-demand printing starting to evolve, with the most frustrating part of the process involving proofing the prints and adjusting levels in a seemingly never-ending cycle of visits to the printer. The last printer I worked with had a good eye and the results were often spot-on within two visits, but typically, the proofing cycle could involve so many more visits to fine tune the print. The challenge for me has always been to find a printer with the visual perception to produce a reproduction with an excellent approximation of the original painting.
Unlike most print houses, Camera Commons in Dover, NH, (described on their website as "for photographers by photographers", but as a visual artist I found they are really so much more than that) provides the opportunity to personally control the final product - from digitally archiving my original work, to printing a high-end reproduction on quality watercolor paper. Now I can rent time to shoot my work to digital file, refine the levels at the computer via Photoshop and output to final print on my own schedule. A bonus: that the pricing is very reasonable!
David Speltz, photographer and the mastermind behind Camera Commons, graciously invited me to bring in a painting to see what kind of results we could achieve working together, and to provide me with the potential means to do this work myself in his studio space. What a concept! I brought two paintings to choose from to take through the entire process, digitally archiving with a digital camera to final output on Epson Watercolor paper, exclusively processed for reproduction work. I chose "Late Summer" (featured above) for it's depth of shadows and brilliant white highlights. I wanted to see how well the deepest values would print without compromising detail in the highlights and sunlight elements of the painting. Once the work was photographed on a tripod using a Betterlight Scanning back and a Digital Hasselblad and studio lights, we then were able to enhance the image through Photoshop and Lightroom to the point that it was virtually identical to the original artwork. The computer programs and monitors at Camera Commons allowed me an approximate view of what the printer would produce, and it was as spot-on to the monitor's visual calculation as one could hope for. Using a RIP (raster image processor) called Mirage on the computer, the final print-ready image was then sent to one of three Epson printers: the Epson 9900 which could accommodate prints up to 44 inches wide (and as long as you wish). Also in-house is an Epson 7900 for prints up to 24 inches, and a smaller Epson 4900 dedicated to matte prints only. The finished image was then printed to Epson Exhibition Watercolor Textured paper to mimic the paper properties of the original watercolor painting.
There are print houses that offer the equipment and expertise to produce a high-end reproduction with a price point not too much out of the same range as do-it-yourself. However - and for me this is a big part of the appeal of Camera Commons - being able to control the reproduction proof as easily (I am not kidding) as we were able to, and within a space of just a few hours was serious selling point. To professionally archive artwork in high-definition for future print projects, or even to have for online art shows, references for galleries and uploading to a professional website and blog is good practice for any professional artist. Renting the space and equipment for the afternoon to archive my work moving forward will be my next step.