Giclee Print Trumps Antecedent Oil Painting
By Rodney "Pygoya" Chang
June 25, 2008
When I am satisfied with a digital image on the monitor, I have four choices as output for display. The most obvious is creating a paper print with a digital printer. For this I use archival inks and museum-quality paper. Another possibility is saving it as a digital file and taking it to a photo-processor to make a photographic print. The next two options are not conventional but "output" never-the-less.
The image can merely be resized to accommodate downloading time and monitor size for the Internet audience. I, along with Ingrid Kamerbeek of Germany, co-founded "Webism" in 2003. My online manifesto states that an image made specifically for exhibit online, as contribution to the global cyber-culture of the Internet, is "Web Art." We and the almost 100 worldwide Webists consider it an innovative art "movement" spawned from high technology and the Information Age. Unlike art hung in a physical gallery, electronic art can be seen and shared in multiple locations and at the same moment. This is a new global reality for the viewing, sharing, and appreciation of fine art.
The last method of output for my digital imagery is copying it as a physical painting. This last method has been most intriguing - as well as controversial. For me it's a matter of perspective and purpose.
One of the challenges of painting is to be able to start with nothing more than an idea and work the canvas towards a successful completed work. Many a time the outcome does not hold up to the expectations of the artist. The results can be mediocre or even a failure. The result does not do justice to the initial inspiration.
But in my case, through digital tools, I can foresee the final image desired. I can make the final result predictable. With a masters degree in painting and long term experience with the digital medium and its resources, I can work the digital image with the desired goal of creating the appearance and feel of an oil on canvas. I can simulate the final appearance, achievable through skillful execution of the painting task. As "painting designer," I provide a "blueprint" to copy for the collaborating artisan. The painter does not need personal creative vision but must be a superb craftsman. This is how masterpieces by Rembrandt are "reproduced" so faithfully by copyists that, for the most successful results, the original can only be identified from the fake by an expert.
In my process, however, there is no "original" painting, just aggregations of pixels on the computer monitor. For the most accurate "reproduction" of the digital image, the most faithful copy is through the use of a high end digital printer. But by selecting the paint process, a precious hands-on quality is embedded into the digital design. Many think the completely digital image is a bit "sterile" and mechanical in image quality. By injecting made-by-hand copying, the computer picture is homogenized with a humanizing element. Plus the sensuality of actual paint in this medium conversion is incorporated. However, counterbalancing these gains, there inevitably also will be "human error," or results not exactly mirroring the original digital image. By intent, my digital images can be very intricate, so really difficult to copy. Not all painters have the same level of skill nor the dedication to do detailed tedious and demanding repetitious work. There is variance in the paintings. Quality varies, if the digital original is used as reference for the standard of quality. Therefore, I do not consider the resultant painting as the end product of this method of output. It is a means to an end.
I examine the painting and inevitably will find pictorial elements that I want to refine. So I re-digitalize the paintings, making the image once again resolution-dependent. Once transformed back into pixels, I do touch up through editing with software. Then the revised painted image goes to final output as a high end archival Giclee print. It is justice to start with the digital and also end with the digital.
What happens to the painting? I may sell it, signing with "Pygoya," the name designated for the collaborative team, as differentiated from Rodney Chang, the "painting designer" and digital printmaker. The painting can also be stored, like a negative in photography, to be used in the future to create modified spin offs for other Giclee print editions. But mostly the paintings are preserved with the intent to exhibit them in some future digital art museum (paradoxically appearing as oils on canvas), as historic relics of the multi-media process that I now engage, experiment, and develop as a pioneering digital artist (since 1984). In a personal way, the compilation of paintings also provides a sense of transforming my digital visions into tangible objects, providing concrete evidence that as a digital artist, I, like other types of artists, make real "stuff" that continues to grow as a documentary "body of works."