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Printmaking Definitions

Giclee: The Definition : Giclee (zhee-klay) - The French word "giclée" is a feminine noun that means a spray or a spurt of liquid. The word may have been derived from the French verb "gicler" meaning "to squirt".

The Term : The term  "giclee print" connotes an elevation in printmaking technology. Images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed with archival quality inks onto various substrates including canvas, fine art, and photo-base paper. The giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction.

The Process : Giclee prints are created typically using professional 8-Color to 12-Color ink-jet printers. Among the manufacturers of these printers are vanguards such as Epson, MacDermid Colorspan, & Hewlett-Packard. These modern technology printers are capable of producing incredibly detailed prints for both the fine art and photographic markets. Giclee prints are sometimes mistakenly referred to as Iris prints, which are 4-Color ink-jet prints from a printer pioneered in the late 1970s by Iris Graphics.

The Advantages : Giclee prints are advantageous to artists who do not find it feasible to mass produce their work, but want to reproduce their art as needed, or on-demand. Once an image is digitally archived, additional reproductions can be made with minimal effort and reasonable cost. The prohibitive up-front cost of mass production for an edition is eliminated. Archived files will not deteriorate in quality as negatives and film inherently do. Another tremendous advantage of giclee printing is that digital images can be reproduced to almost any size and onto various media, giving the artist the ability to customize prints for a specific client.

The Quality : The quality of the giclee print rivals traditional silver-halide and gelatin printing processes and is commonly found in museums, art galleries, and photographic galleries.

The Market : Numerous examples of giclee prints can be found in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Chelsea Galleries. Recent auctions of giclee prints have fetched $10,800 for Annie Leibovitz, $9,600 for Chuck Close, and $22,800 for Wolfgang Tillmans (April 23/24 2004, Photographs, New York, Phillips de Pury & Company.)


SERIGRAPH: Serigraphy from the Greek Words serikos (silk) and graphos (writing), is basically a stencil process. A screen of silk, nylon or wire is tightly stretched across a frame. A non-porous material is then used to block out parts of the mesh in a chosen design. The "open" parts of the screen allow for the ink to be squeegee through to the paper below resulting in the final printed image. Each color must be printed separately and the paper must be allowed to dry each time before  the next color can be applied. The prints are on drying racks to keep each print separate to protect them from damage and to allow air to circulate for drying. Serigraphs are often printed with 40 or more colors.

The idea of printing with stencils is thought to go back as far as the drawings of early cave dwellers. It is a known fact that they were used in the Middle Ages to enhance other prints. It became a medium promoted in the U.S. during the depression, but seemed to loose interest in the 1950's. At this time artists in other countries picked up the medium. Finally in the 1960's it once again made a comeback in the U.S. and has since become a very important part of the art market.

Silk-screening is a very popular medium chosen by artists because of it's versatility. The equipment is easily assembled and relatively compact and inexpensive, The screens can be stretched to accommodate large works and there are a number of techniques to produce the stencil image on the screen.

Although the procedure may sound easy, it is really a complex process which must be mastered by the artist. Serigraphy itself  is an art form and serigraphs have become valuable collectors items.