Wednesday, May 13, 2009


In January of 2009, I decided to open an Etsy shop and put all of my crafts up for sale. As you can see in the side bar, I have different items in the shop such as pet clothes, novelty furniture, paintings, and random vintage literature items.

Well, this created an artistic dilemma that never occurred to me -- can I really part with my originals?

Of course, the pet clothes are easy enough to part with because I have a pattern and can make the exact same thing whenever I want to. The furniture is easy too because, I mean, heck what am I going to do with all of it? Right now it's all just stacked in my crafty room waiting to be purchased so I'll have space to make more. And we only posted the vintage literature pieces that we're okay with letting go, so that's not really an issue.

But the paintings. What about the paintings? I, myself, could never replicate any of my oil paintings because they all just happened. I stood in front of a blank canvas with an idea of colors and maybe an image in my head. Then I put paint to brush and brush to canvas and let it roll.

Sometimes I start out with a sketch if I have a discreet image that I want to create, but mostly I just paint.

Many times I start to paint one thing and then it changes one... or ten times. Sometimes I just paint over the whole thing and start over, so some of the paintings have paintings underneath.

So I'm pretty sure that I can't replicate them, nor am I really interested in trying. Once it's out -- it's out and I can't go back to it.

This leads to the dilemma -- to sell or not to sell the original paintings. When I started the shop I put the originals for sale, but the first time someone showed interest in buying one, I freaked out a little. I though of it like selling a part of my body or soul -- something that I could never get back or make another one of. Also, in our vision of JaSar we have an art gallery in the playhouse. I would love to be the first artist to have a display there and if I don't have my "body of work" then I wouldn't be able to.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. Well, let me back up just a minute. I had some postcards of my painting "Big City Lights" made by Vista Print. This is the painting that most people seem to like so I thought it would be a good one to start with. The postcards were my first attempt at professionally reproducing my artwork. Vista Print is notoriously cheap and the investment was minimal -- and it showed in the end. The postcards were okay for a first try, but still a little disappointing.

Since I now have A LOT of these postcards, I send them out with other cards and as little "Hello" notes. We put one in with all of our Christmas cards, but I didn't really get much feedback. I didn't expect much either, as the quality was poor and the color was off.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. My Aunt received one of these postcards and wrote to me that she really enjoyed it and would like a larger poster size print if possible. I was ecstatic! I thought, here is my chance to experiment with Giclee printing! I had been reading about the process and it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

I contacted a local printer who does Giclee prints on canvas with stretchers. I brought the original to his studio and dropped it off. This painting is 36x24 so it's pretty big. He scanned it on his mega-huge scanner and sent a proof to me. It was FABULOUS! I approved the proof and it went to print. Within 4 days I was picking up the original AND an exact replica!

As a print and web production specialist (my day job), I was totally fascinated. The colors where spot on! Also, the printer added a black border around the outside edges of the canvas where the original was only partially splatter painted. This gave the print a very clean look. I mean you can hardly tell the difference between the original and the print! The outside edges and the actual oil paint clumps on the original are the only way to distinguish them.

Once I had the print, I had to come up with a way to ship it to my Aunt (who still thinks she's getting a crappy Vista Print poster). So Jason and I went out to our cardboard box mountain in the garage and reappropriated a few. This was SO difficult. I'm glad my dad's an engineer and some of that rubbed off on me, because making boxes is HARD! We wanted one that could be reused if the painting needed to be transported, so we decided on a cake box style where there is a top half that slides down over the bottom half. Plus, we didn't want someone hacking at the box to get it open and slice the print, so that design seemed reasonable.

Two days and about 10 hours of labor later, we had the box ready.

We padded it with these lace window curtains we had (random leftovers from who-knows-what) and packing paper (like butcher paper). We covered the entire box in packing tape so that if the box was rained on, it wouldn't go through and ruin the print.

We were serious box makers/packers for a couple of days there. You can see more pictures of the process in our Multiplicity set on flickr. Who would ever think making a box would be so difficult?

Now with the print boxed up and protected in all ways imaginable, even supplied with picture hanging hardware, it was time to send it off.

We shipped it UPS because we wanted to be able to track it and it wasn't that expensive. We waited the 3-7 days for it to get to Wisconsin from Portland. And when my Aunt received it this was her reaction:
Sarah and Jason,
I cannot tell you how humbled I am to have received the original instead of a poster. It is absolutely stunning and I love you dearly for doing this for me. I hung it right away, and was fascinated by how it seemed to change during sundown. At times it seems so intense, and then ethereal. Your impressionist-VanGogh like flair is very obvious, which is ironic, as he is my favorite and so is impressionism. However, your 'flair' is very modernistic. Thank you again from 'all of my heart.'

Of course I let her know that is was actually a print, but a print that looked almost BETTER than the original.

I was so excited that I had found a method of replication that produced a print that rivalled the original. Now my dilemma of whether or not to sell the originals is a non-issue.

I have listed the paintings in the shop as Giclee prints on canvas of original oil paintings. This way I can keep the originals for my some-day-wish of having a gallery showing or exhibit somewhere, but I can still share my art with others. I haven't actually sold any prints yet, but that's okay. I'm sure the experience that I gained by going through this process will change that. Maybe not soon, but someday.

And that's good enough for me :-)

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