What IS “original” art????

So you all get to hear the terms “original art” “giclees” “contemporary art” (pronounced zeeklees), etchings, serigraphs and other words surrounding the art world. What do they really MEAN?? I am about to explain hopefully and put light onto the matter.

“Contemporary” to me in my gallery means of TODAY (living artists)  although some say that contemporary is everything from World War II (late 1940s) onwards.

“Original” quite simply means a unique one-off piece or small edition hand-pulled print from the artists own hand i.e an oil, acrylic, watercolor painting, etching or a drawing  (i.e. not a machine driven process like a giclee).

This term “original” however gets a little complicated when we get to the world of  prints. An “Original Fine” print means pulled from the copper plate, lithographic stone or woodcut that the artist carved, etched or drew or carved into him/herself”.

Certain artisinal printmaking techniques are extremely respected and still taught at Art Colleges worldwide.  Under the “printmaking” umbrella falls works on zinc/copper “etchings”,  stone lithographs, lino cuts, woodcuts and even hand pulled silk prints (or serigraphs which Andy Warhol made famous).  I guess the basic potato print is the most basic form of original printmaking I can explain. The  art print business, however,  can use the words to his own advantage ie. “original lithograph” means that yes it IS a lithograph from a lithographic stone, but not necessarily from the artists own hand. In many cases, the lithographic stone was used to produce large amounts of works too where master lithographers took the original images and “translated” them onto the stones. These are techically not ‘fine prints” but are called “afters” (ie. a print “after” a design from the artist).   Alot of the modern masters did do the work on the stones themselves using this artisinal process and these pieces are always worth more money.

Original works from the artists own hand are always more valuable and desirable.

Giclees (derived from French “to spray”) are NEVER from the artists own hand, because its a mechanical process whereby the original image is “scanned” in and then the printer can recreat the image either on paper or on canvas. A kind of massive ink jet printer.  This has become a cheap way for painters to mass produce their works. Sometimes they can even go in and hand embellish parts of it, but its is NOT a respected nor artisinal art form.

Photographers use the giclee process alot to translate their works onto large scale canvases because the actual image/photography is the art form in this case.

There is a new law in the French Quarter that allows “original art” to be sold sales tax free. Anything original or under 100 prints. The hand pulled prints (etchings, woodcuts etc) fall into this catagory, but machine driven giclees do not. This is a cool bonus for locals to buy original art in these “cultural product districts” and save themselves almost 10%.

Oil paint is a great medium. Basically pigment in linseed oil. One of the most respected and the oldest used. Its advantages are great use of the mediums and a whole range of glazes and techniques. Its disadvantages are that it has a longer drying time and some artists can be allergic to the chemicals used.

Acrylic is great it is basically pigment in a “glue” thats fast drying and holds its color forever. Water based, non-smelly and easy to dilute to make glazes or use with fillers to make body.

Original art collecting can be fun and a great hobby to get the whole family involved in over the years. A great investment to bring warmth and color to your home, and if you buy the right hard working, desirable and prolific artists,  you can watch your investment grow while enjoying the art with friends and family on a daily basis.

I am always happy to answer you art questions should you have them.

BE original BUY original is our motto at Gallery Orange !!

Tracy Gielbert, Gallery Owner and Director