I have been receiving a lot of questions about prints and editions from friends and people that I've met at art shows, so I wanted to take a moment to inform you about what it all means in case you were curious. This is information that I have gathered throughout my life admiring other artists, and now through my own experience as a professional artist. If you feel that I missed something or some part of it is not accurate, please feel free to comment and I will edit it for everyone. This is purely to educate anyone interested, so they can make art purchases more confidently.
Let's start with originals, they are always the best option to own. You know that the artist touched that paper/canvas/wood, whatever it is, and it looks exactly the way he or she intended (well sort of, sometimes they have a life of their own). The colors have not been changed through the process of capturing and reprinting, it is what it is, and is usually the most expensive.
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with owning a print of a work of art that you like. For most of us, that is the reality of our personal finances, or it is not a priority to have the original, and that's okay too! Artists started making prints because they wanted more people to be able to enjoy their work (in my opinion). It helps reach everyone, at every income, gaining more exposure for the artist at the same time. On the other side of it, if you own an original and there are prints of it, that means that your original becomes more well-known, and possibly more valuable because it has been seen by a larger audience- you have the bragging rights of owning that original. If you have an original that does not have any prints, it is also of value because it is literally one of a kind. Sometimes it's harder to prove that it belongs to that artist, unless they have a very distinct style of working. There will also only be a very small audience of people that see it in your own house. If it has been in an art show, won a prize, is online on the artist's website or social media, or there have been articles written about it, it can help prove the work's authenticity and popularity.
Now for the editions… There are a couple things you should know about limited editions before you purchase a work of art. There is a little fraction on the painting, in the margin, or sometimes on the back of the giclee (print) that tells you about this specific piece. It might look like this- 23/250. The first number tells you the order of printing, is it a young print, (lower numbers) meaning that the artist just started making prints of it recently? Or is it closer to the second number in the fraction, meaning it may have been around for years? The second number tells you how many there will ever be in this size and medium (paper, canvas, etc. whatever the art is printed on is the medium). If there are no numbers at all, it means that it is an open edition and thousands of people could have it. If this happens, make sure it is at least signed and dated. Buying art at Home Goods or Target means that there is a good chance your neighbor might also have it along with thousands of people all over the country. There is nothing wrong with that, but some people want their collection to be a little more unique, (and support their favorite, local artists). So ask yourself, "How many other people do I want to share this image with?" If you don't care, don't worry about it. If you want to be one of a small few, look for the lower numbers. I myself try to own pieces that are under 500 at least, but the lower the better. If you happen to get an Artist Proof (i.e. AP 2/7), that means that the artist was trying out that size or medium and wanted to see how it went before committing to an edition. 7 is a very low number, however, and increases the value of that specific print.
Obviously the smaller the edition, the more expensive it will be. If you are purchasing one of the last prints in an edition, it may even be more expensive than the original price. 49/50 of an edition that use to cost $40 may now be $50+ if it is the last one. Remember though, it might not be the absolute last print of that image. The artist could later make a different size and another small edition, or as I said, come out with an Artist Proof. Most artists are not trying to devalue their own work and saturate any of their images, but if it is a really popular one, it's nice to have the option to provide it in different ways to a customer. For example, a local of Boynton Beach, FL might ask for the Boynton Pelican on a canvas as a 20"x24" piece even though the original was small. If the resolution looks good at that size, I would have it made for them and call it AP 2/15 even if the 11"x14" printed edition was closed already. Why did I choose 2 when it is the first one ever printed at that size? The artist usually keeps the first of all of their editions just in case they want to sell them later, or they just want to have one of their own. I have not been doing that with all of them, (some of you know because you have number 1) but I did start with some of my favorites, especially of Lantana where I live. The value of the print does not depend on how low the number is- unless it is number 1. When I do a commission, I am not oppose to giving number 1 to the person who commissioned it if they ask, because it wouldn't be in existence at all if it wasn't for them commissioning. So if you can ever have number 1, do it!
Why are some images printed and others are not? Sometimes it may be that I just sold the original before I had a chance to capture and make prints, or judging by the lack of likes and comments on Facebook and instagram (what a world we live in with instant feedback), it might not be the most widely liked, so why invest in printing? Sometimes I'll start an edition and find out that it is not worth following through on. The Manta Ray with the scuba diver on Boot Key is an example of that. After going months without selling one at a show, I stopped printing at 14, (good news if you have the Manta, because even though it says 500, there will only be 14 others with it unless someone orders one specifically). Another reason not to print is if a subject is over done. If I already have 3 of the Jupiter area, for example, I won't print more until an edition runs out, unless of course I'm going to be in an art show in Jupiter. If you are looking for a specific print from me, the best thing to do is look at the commissions and sold works page of my website to see if you want one that is not sold as a print. I can always order it, but just might not have it on hand.
Last but not least, The Series. What does that mean? Some artists paint all kinds of things and change subject or medium all the time, while others prefer to work in a series. Some of the most famous artists have series that you would recognize. Picasso's Blue Period, Matisse's paper cuts, Rembrandt's self portraits, for example. They could last a couple months, years, or they could stretch out for the artist's entire life. It's a way to really perfect a technique, explore a concept, or just enjoy a subject. Sometimes it evolves into something else, and sometimes there is an abrupt change if they find something new that attracts their attention. My own nautical chart series is completely different than the series before it. I use to do portraits of people in oil paint, and then yoga poses in ink washes. Working as an art teacher at a school with a maritime theme, and living in South Florida near the ocean, has helped make this series one that stuck. I honestly thought I would make one for my house, and a couple for friends and be done, but I am having too much fun to stop now!
A sub-series would be anything that branches out of this series with slight changes. The Underdog series: under appreciated marine life, is an example of that. I love painting creatures that don't usually make it into artwork and maybe have never been seen by most people, helping to bring some awareness to ALL the creatures that we share the ocean with. The Palm Beach Mini series is another one with close up, nautical charts of Palm Beach County areas and different sea life. I also just started another new, sub series, changing my medium to canvas and acrylic paint, instead of watercolor. We'll see how it goes soon!
To Recap, I think the most important thing about purchasing artwork is to make sure that you have a connection with it first. Could you look at it for a long time? Does it show you new things every time you stare at it? Does it fit with your decor, or will you change the decor to fit it? Remember not to buy artwork as an investment in hopes that it will pay for your retirement. Having a commission made to talk about your own life experiences, vacations, family, etc. will give you life-long enjoyment, while you put your money in more solid investments and savings! Teddy and I recently had a commission made by the artist, Nathan Ledyard. Each of his pieces are hand carved into wood and then painted with acrylic. We had him make our home break during Hurricane Sandy, before the Lantana lifeguard tower was destroyed by the waves. It has a special meaning for us and we will always cherish it. The tower at Lantana now is completely different and the waves that we surfed during that time will always live in our memories. I hope you also find artwork that speaks about your own life, so that you and the generations in your family to come will always share that history.
I hope this was helpful and answered some of your questions. Always feel free to contact me and/or comment with your thoughts.
Thanks so much,
Carly Mejeur is a floridian artist, inspired by her ocean hobbies and travels. This Blog is for news, events, and just for fun. Click here for the artist's Bio.