The Print Verses An Original


By: Marcella Hayes Muhammad / Artist

Oh, my! I love that wonderful original but the price doesn’t fit my beer budget. I just have Champagne taste. So my next question is… do you have a print of that? And what is the big difference between the two beside the price?

I will address the mechanically reproduced prints:  Any image can be mechanically reproduced in millions of copies through the use of various printing methods.  Whether printed through letterpress or lithography (Litho) these images are a part of our daily lives.  We are surrounded by them: billboards and outdoor advertising, post cards, flyers, magazines, and product packaging.  Many people believed that mechanical reproductions would be the death of art.  In fact, the opposite has occurred. It has made the hand pulled Serigraph, wood block, Lino, and Lithograph print pulled or screened by the artist far more valuable because of its scarcity alone.

The mechanical print is a copy of the original printed onto either paper or canvas by an ink process. The artist does not have to have a hand in the making of this product other than provide a high resolution digital image for reproduction and let a company do the printing. Only thing, the print can fade over time when exposed to fluorescent lighting or the sunlight and last only 5 to 10 years. Some printed on canvas have peeled from the canvas surface or cracked leaving a mess. No investment there, but it can decorate your room for a while.

This artist has a few prints available through an online Print on Demand Company, Fine Art America.  Gicleé (zhee-clay) is a French term, in this case meaning, “spray of ink”, on archival paper, canvas, metal, wood, cotton fabric and ceramic. The pricing is already set by the company and the artist adds their markup which is usually from 10% to 20%. This is cheaper than an original, more durable than a “Litho” and feels more like the original. And you can order the image of your choice framed if you want. COOL!

I have reserved my signature style of Plastic Space abstract, using archival materials, to the Original only status to be of value to the collectors that have invested in this style of my fine art. I only have two images allowed for licensing to a Jigsaw Puzzle Company. “Sound Of Soul Strings” and “Maruvian Female Society Masks” I had to make the decision to limit my outreach of prints to increase the value of my fine art. A collector does not want to walk into Walmart and see their invested original image that all over the shelves in print form! I can respect that. In the meantime I must make some sales as originals move so slowly. I have images in my personal collection that I will place in the on demand printing market that are more figurative because, after all, I am selling something that people don’t necessarily need but is more of a luxury.

BUT…When it all comes down to it, there is nothing that can compare to owning an original piece of art. There is a warmth of the image that can’t be described and the knowledge that the artist’s hand was creating this one and only piece over time and now you own it. It will last over 100 years when using and creating on archival materials. Prints cannot convey that essence as they remain one of many and very two dimensional and subject to fading or aging of the material on which it is printed.

I cannot say it enough, layaway is always a possibility either with the artist or the representing gallery.  I have had several collectors with a beer budget make arrangements for monthly payments and finally owning an original. Once you own an original, you won’t be satisfied with anything less. So look around your home and decide if the walls are bare or only have family pictures hanging, you might want to look into some fine art and liven up things a bit. Add life to your walls!



Marcella is a visual artist that made a leap of faith in 1995 and took an early retirement from a successful elementary teaching career of 27 years. She and her husband moved from California to the Atlanta area to continue as a full time artist. She has a formal education in the arts, and has been a creative visual artist for over 40 years.

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