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Common Prints Questions

Why and how do you select the images you publish?

Sometimes Robert selects the prints to be printed (Beloved Music Makers of Days Gone By, for example), and sometimes Alexander Wood. But of course we all have to agree upon it before we get started. If it’s new artwork we’re publishing (BB King), Alex has to work up some pretty clear ideas before I present them to Robert, and he has to like it, as Robert Crumb always has, of course, the final word.

Why do you usually print 100-200 prints per edition?

Where does one draw the line between fine art and commercial art? Between a fine art edition and merchandise? It’s a very difficult thing — especially if you enjoy and esteem the artwork of the commercial artists of the 20’s through the 40’s more than the “fine artists” of that period! But to make a long story short, we feel that an edition much larger than 200 loses its integrity, and can no longer be considered a fine art edition (for better or worse). In fact, in the last few years, we have reduced the editions closer to 100 than 200.

Why do you sell them for so little?

Many people wonder how and why we sell these editions for so little, and I’m continually told that those people interested in collecting Crumb would do so at a higher price point as well. Again, Robert has much to do with establishing our price. He is not a fan of the Modern Art world and we are not only disrespectful of the quality and content of most of the art, but also the way it is sold and marketed. It seems to be very elitist with a lot of glamour and glitter thrown in the selling game. None of these things are interesting to us. Robert feels an allegiance to his audience and feels strongly that if he is going to do these prints, they should be affordable to his audience.

Why are some prints more expensive than others?

Some editions have other parties we must compensate with royalties (Cheap Thrills and BB King, for example).

ARTIST'S PROOFS:

Artist's Proofs (A/P's) are usually a very small portion of a limited edition that is set aside for the artist to do with as he pleases. The artist will usually sign (for example)"1/20 artist proof" then a signature as usual.

TYPES OF PRINTS:

Wildwood produces three types of prints — serigraphs, giclees and etchings.

SERIGRAPHS: These are hand made fine art prints. Want to know exactly how they are made, then check out this Wildwood link!

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GICLEES: Giclée, (commonly pronounced "zhee-CLAY"), is an invented term for the process of making fine art prints from a digital source using ink-jet printing. The word “giclée” (from the French verb gicler meaning "to squirt, to spray"), was originally applied to fine art prints created on Iris printers in a process invented in the early 1990s, but has since come to mean any high quality ink-jet print.

All our giclees are printed on Somerset heavyweight enhanced archival paper. We use Epson Ultrachrome inks. For more information about Ultrachrome inks, go to this link. The giclees are rich and saturated color, with a guaranteed color fastness of 75 years.

The whole idea behind releasing giclee editions is to make Robert's most well-known images available to those who didn't get a chance to buy the serigraphs, which are now sold out. There are also many people who love the images regardless whether or not Robert has signed them.

 

ETCHINGS: The etching process is an incredibly detailed and laborious medium, but it gives a rich and beautiful image which seldom sell for less than $500. You have an excellent opportunity to buy one of Crumb's famous pieces for less than art school students sell their etchings.

OFFICIAL R.CRUMB SITE IS ADMINISTERED BY ROBERT CRUMB AND ALEXANDER WOOD OF WILD WOOD SERIGRAPHS

ALL ARTWORK IS COPYRIGHT ROBERT CRUMB UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

 

The Official R.Crumb Site
1150 Spaight Street
Madison, WI 53703
alexanderwood@sbcglobal.net

HOW WE PRINT AN ETCHING EDITION


1. STRAIGHT PLATE
Etching is a very old printing method of transferring ink from a metal plate onto paper. We first etch our image (through a photo/sensitizing method) onto a metal plate. Plates can be made of copper or zinc or steel. Here's a straight on shot of our plate ready to be inked. Obviously the image must be reversed so when it's printed, it reads properly.


2. INKING
Once we have our plate, we're ready to ink it. We scrape ink across the plate. The ink goes into the small grooves and lines we etched into the plate.


3. INKING THE OTHER WAY
Now we drag the ink across in a different direction to make sure all the small grooves and lines etched into the metal plate are filled with ink.


4. CLEANING
Now we rub off all the ink on the plate. Rubbing the ink off the plate will NOT remove the ink that's recessed in the grooves etched into the metal plate.


5. MORE CLEANING AND WIPING
We rip up old phone books and use the that paper as it has the perfect "tooth" to grab the ink. It takes four or five squares of paper and some patience. You can't rub too hard or else you will remove some of the ink in the etched grooves.


6. READY TO GO
Now we have our plate inked,  clean and ready to be printed!


7. PLACE IT
We place our plate on top of the printing press. There's some plexiglass on top of the steel press to help us register the plate and paper. We place our plate in guides we've previously marked.


8. PLACING THE PAPER
We've soaked our rag paper in water and hung it to dry. It's still a little damp and very soft. We place our paper over the plate following the guides we've previously marked. If you look closely, you'll be able to see the rectangle guide in black marker.


9. THE PRESS
Once the paper is properly placed, we cover the paper and plate with a thick blanket of felt so the roller's pressure is evenly distributed. The bed of the printing press is now rolled under the huge silver cylinder which has a tremendous amount of pressure exerted on the bed.


10. ROLLING 1
In this picture, we placed the felt blanket over the cylinder so you can easily see the paper (and plate underneath) slowly being rolled under the cylinder. You can just barely see the edge of the cylinder in the left side of the picture.


11. ROLLING 2
Here we see our paper and plate almost entirely through the cylinder and onto the other side. We can also see the end of the press bed at the right of the picture.


12. PEEL OFF
Once the we're clear to the other side, we pull back the felt blankets and peel the paper off the plate. The immense amount of pressure from the cylinder has pushed the soft paper into the grooves of the etched metal and taken the ink. The paper has also obviously been embossed by the plate itself.


13. VOILÁ
And here's our etching. The ink needs a couple of days to dry properly. Our plate is ready to be inked again, then cleaned again and then we're ready print another one. Once we get going and solve any problems (sometimes we have to shoot several plates before all the problems are ironed out), it takes about 20 minutes to print one etching.  

By the way, if you look losely underneath the plate in this picture, you'll be able to see the guide lines for both plate and paper. Hope this was helpful to you and that perhaps you'll have more knowledge of how we etch our Crumb editions. 

-- Alex Wood, Wildwood Serigraphs Publisher