from "About World Printmakers: Who Are We? What Are We Up To?"
and "FAQ: What Can World Printmakers Do for You?" on the World
Printmakers web site)
Launched in June 2000, www.worldprintmakers.com,
a website dedicated to traditional and digital printmakers and their work,
continues to be maintained by journalist Mike Booth and his printmaker
wife Maureen. Though Booth is from the U.S.A. and his wife from the U.K.,
they have lived and worked for many years in Granada, Spain. Their intention
with World Printmakers is to provide a dedicated space where
printmakers from all countries can exhibit their work and offer it for
sale to the global audience; to provide efficient, honest and trustworthy
services to print collectors; and to consolidate World Printmakers
as the website of reference for print artists, print collectors, art lovers,
educators and institutions from all over the world.
In addition to World Printmakers burgeoning
gallery of artists from more than 30 countries who subscribe to the various
levels of service provided by the site (everything from linked personal
websites to galleries of images available either for sale through World
Printmakers for a commission or by the artist directly with no commission),
the site includes forums, technical essays, equipment for sale, gallery
reports, lists of upcoming print competitions, interviews with artists,
a monthly newsletter, and, for the collector, background on printmaking
history and techniques and the conservation of works on paper, as well
as explanations of fundamental printmaking concepts like "limited
editions" and "print numbering".
Although World Printmakers began as an Internet magazine,
sales soon took off, and Booth is currently in the process of putting
together the staff and the investment necessary to turn it into a proper
dot-com company. Visits to the site average more than 50,000 page views
monthly. For European artists, this means an opportunity to be seen in
America, and for Americans, to be discovered in Europe, not to mention
Asia and Australia. Their sales secret, according to Booth, is an ongoing
campaign of mailings to businesses and institutions offering contemporary
fine-art prints as corporate gifts. "This is now called 'B2B' (business
to business)," says Booth, "but in fact it's based on mainly
old-fashioned direct-mail techniques."
World Printmakers is especially interested in providing
printmaking schools worldwide with a resource center. Teachers have permission
to print, download, project, quote, extract or otherwise utilize all the
material on World Printmakers for legitimate teaching purposes. World
Printmakers is also prepared to publish relevant research papers on printmaking
subjects. And if your department hosts student, faculty, or other exhibits,
they would be happy to consider publishing a virtual version on the site.
Questions and Answers
Section 1: Prints and the Internet
Q1: What effect does having a presence (either
a personal or a collective site) on the Web have on a printmaker creatively?
in terms of sales? in terms of career-building?
A1: A printmaker's Internet presence is an extension of his or her real-world
activity into the virtual world. Seen in that light, a Web presence is
merely an exhibit, a business card, an advertisement, a shop window, a
soap box, a brochure, a coffee klatch, a class reunion, a magazine, a
resource center, an ego trip, a hobby, a research project, a two-way street,
a turbo charger, a wellspring of serendipity, a labor of love .
It also has the advantage of being present 24 hours a day, every day,
across the entire world. Did I say "merely?"
Q3: What effect has the
Internet had on printmaking aesthetics?
A3: The first thing that comes to mind is the rise of digital imagery.
The computer monitor, and by extension the Internet, is the natural habitat
of digital images. Traditional-media prints usually suffer a deterioration
in quality when they're photographed or scanned and then published on
the web. But digital work really shines on a monitor. Conceivably this
advantage in how the work displays via the Internet is part of the reason
that digital imagery is on the rise. On the other hand, let's face it,
a computer screen is just a television with an attitude. Isn't it possible
that the whole Internet/digital imagery phenomenon is benefiting from
the tremendous predisposition created over the past 50 years by television?
I read somewhere recently that, while traditionally commercial art has
fed on fine art, with the advent of digital imagery it seems that digital
fine art is nurturing itself on commercial digital art, due to the long
head start that the latter had on the former.
Q4: How has World Printmakers presence
on the web affected the printmaking scene?
A4: Just as one cannot discover the meaning of life without living it
for a few years, I think I could not have discovered the meaning of World
Printmakers without dedicating a few years to building it. It's
only just recently I'm starting to get a clear idea of what it's about.
At the risk of sounding messianic, with World Printmakers
I think we have opened a door to a far, far better place for printmakers
and other artists.
"...the whole exercise stuck me
as quaint, like the Amish trundling round Pennsylvania in their horse
carts and bonnets."
Just yesterday we received a plump envelope in the mail
from an old friend of ours, an excellent artist and tireless art-activist.
In it were invitations/programs for a series of exhibits and other events
his group has scheduled over the next few months. You know, elongated
papers lovingly designed and illustrated, with the relevant information,
all carefully folded and stuffed into the envelope. My immediate reaction
took me by surprise - the whole exercise stuck me as quaint, like the
Amish trundling round Pennsylvania in their horse carts and bonnets.
In order to get his message out to a thousand people, our friend had gone
through Print Shop Hell. Remember that? It was the slow, clunky, laborious,
expensive way communications were carried out in previous centuries: design
up the mailing pieces, drive the dummy to the print shop, try to find
a parking place, try to explain to the printer what you want, drive home,
wait a week, drive back, park, look at the proofs, drive home, wait a
week, drive back, park, pick up finished work, pray that it's right, pay
quite a bit of money for the service, load the boxes in the car. Remember
to buy 1,000 envelopes at the print shop where it's cheaper. Pass by post
office, try to park, buy stamps, go home, stuff 1,000 envelopes, address
them, lick flaps, lick stamps (Ugh! Ugh!). Drive back to post office,
try to find parking place, lug box to building, push 1,000 envelopes into
mail slot. Wait two weeks...
"By using the Internet they can
access fifty times more people in a tenth of the time at a tenth of
World Printmakers is showing 21st-century
printmakers that there is a better way to do things, the digital way.
If this achievement sounds unremarkable today, think back just four or
five years. What happened when you asked an artist if he or she had a
website. They would look at you as if you were from another planet. "What
for?" was, invariably, their answer. Today the situation has changed
radically for the better. Artists are learning they no longer have to
revisit Print Shop Hell in order to reach a thousand people. By using
the Internet they can access fifty times more people in a tenth of the
time at a tenth of the cost. That's progress, and World Printmakers
has contributed to it by providing a group website that's more economical,
hassle-free, informative, and better promoted than most printmakers could
accomplish on their own.
Q5: What does the print scene look like from
your internet vantage point? What's in, what's out stylistically, technically?
What's going on in traditional media? New media? What's the balance? How
has this changed since you began?
A5: Stylistically: Basically everything has already been done. One could
make a case for the fact that art history ended with Grünewald at
the beginning of the 16th century. (Don't laugh till you've made the pilgrimage
to Colmar to see his Isenheimer Altarpiece.) So nowadays we see a lot
of artists groping around for "fresh and original" styles. I
personally doubt that anything very fresh and original can be achieved
by groping. I believe, in fact, that originality in artists is genetic.
Think back a bit on those who were truly original and perhaps you'll agree
with me that they had their neurons creatively re-arranged by nature.
I'm thinking of Van Gogh, Ensor, Gauguin, Schiele, Giacometti, Picasso,
Miró, Lucien Freud... I suppose the ratio of truly original creators
hasn't changed in centuries - what, one in a million?
"Since today's aspiring artists
have such exceedingly tough acts to follow, we get a lot of contrived,
Since today's aspiring artists have such exceedingly tough
acts to follow, we get a lot of contrived, freeze-dried freshness, novelty
for novelty's sake, "styles" bereft of style. Since anything
goes, the permutations and combinations are infinite and infinitely tiresome,
barring, of course, the aforementioned miracle which sometimes happens
when an artist is alone in a room with a plate or a computer.
As far as "schools" or "tendencies" in the conventional
sense, I don't detect them. I essentially see anarchy/banality with occasional
glimpses of personal genius capable of giving us hope for the future.
Technically: In traditional printmaking the changes seem to be in terms
of non-toxic techniques. Health and environmental considerations are considered
increasingly important. Between the traditional and the "new"
media there seems to be an intermediate stage: artists who combine the
old with the new in creative ways.
The most fundamental changes are coming from the digital sector. Having
started just a few years ago as the ugly duckling of printmaking, digital
imagery is picking up momentum at a relentlessly accelerating pace. As
late as last year I expressed some doubt in an article about the commercial
viability of digital prints, whether art buyers would actually want to
hang them on their walls. That issue now seems to be resolving itself
clearly in favor of digital, as Dot Krause's recent commission for the
Boston Federal Reserve Bank has shown
World Printmakers also has another important
digital operation cooking currently: several editions totaling 4,500 inkjet
prints to decorate a big hotel. So, the market is pronouncing in favor,
and the future of digital prints seems assured, along with the future
of digital everything else. We're entering a wholly digital age, and computer
art of all sorts slots seamlessly into the prevailing environment.
The net result is a tilt from traditional towards digital,
a tilt which will become more accentuated as time passes. And when I say
"time" I'm referring to Internet time, which passes a whole
Interestingly enough, not all of the new digital work
breaks radically with the past. I'm thinking, for example, of that "Para
Gate" print of yours. It occurred to me the other day what strikes
me as so familiar about it and why I like it so much. It's a digital variation
on classical chiaroscuro technique: tonal monochrome paintings whose visual
delight was based on subtle contrasts of light and dark. So, more than
a radical technological departure, Para Gate is a joyous mix of old and
new, if you see what I mean.
digital drawing by Martha Jane Bradford
"What sells is highly professional
work done in a wide variety of styles."
Q6: What does the internet art
market look like? What's selling? What media? What styles? To whom? What
changes have you noticed since you began?
What sells is highly professional work done in a wide variety of styles.
We sell more etchings, as I think we're perceived to some extent as an
etching site, but we also sell everything from woodcuts to digital prints.
Even mezzotints have a small but loyal following. I would give anything
to have a couple more good mezzotint artists on World Printmakers. Figurative
or semi-abstract work sells more; minimalist or geometrical abstract work
sells less. What we haven't managed to sell as yet are prints featuring
a series of randomly placed small unrelated elements.
To whom? To all kinds of people and businesses. Our clients tend to have
a medium-to-high cultural level, they're avid and demanding. Besides buying
prints, they want to know more about printmaking history and culture.
If they have a concern in common, it seems to be the question of the proper
conservation of their works of art on paper. They come from all walks
of life. There are more women than men, and many of them come from the
educational community worldwide. A surprising number of them are artists
themselves. Corporate clients tend to be sophisticated and busy. A company's
decision to buy original graphic art, either for gifts or decoration,
seems to depend almost entirely on the personality of the management.
A high percentage of them, again, are women. A lot of operations originate
with a query from the CEO's secretary. In our experience, she tends to
cut a lot of ice. Once a company buys prints, they tend to come back for
more. There are a lot of people out there waiting to discover the joyous
addiction to contemporary fine-art prints.
In addition to the rise of digital printmaking described above, the main
changes in the internet art market have been in volume of sales. We find
that it is directly related to international events. War is bad for art
sales. Does that mean that art is an antidote for war?. One would hope
Q7: Traffic: How many hits does your site get
per month? How do you monitor traffic? What kinds of people visit the
site? What kinds of printmakers become members?
A7: World Printmakers currently gets just over 50,000 hits
monthly. We use the services of Hitboxcentral.com to monitor traffic.
According to our stats service, World Printmakers receives
visits from people from 130 different countries. This is a source of satisfaction
for me, because I was determined from the outset that the site be truly
international. What kind of people are they? Judging from our correspondence
I'd say there is a slight majority of women, and something of a concentration
from the academic communities worldwide, both students and professors.
We also get quite a few visitors from print-related industries. Having
said that, we also gets lots of visits from other people from all walks
of life: doctors, lawyers, business people, and, of course, artists.
"...they are people who are active,
in there creating, trying things, making mistakes, trying again, people
with projects, ambitions..."
If I had to put my finger on a quality our artist-members
have in common, I'd say it's an openness to new ideas and optimism about
the ever-expanding possibilities of Internet. Beyond that, they are people
who are active, in there creating, trying things, making mistakes, trying
again, people with projects, ambitions... The Spanish have a nice word
for this cocktail of hopes and aspirations, they call it "ilusión."
I bumped into my old friend, Manolo Bello, the other day, whom I hadn't
seen in a long time. I have known Manolo, who's in his mid-40's, successively
as a photographer, furniture designer, painter... "Long time no see,
kid, what you up to?" "I'm getting into 3D cinema," he
says. "I got a new computer with some video editing software, and
I got a friend who's up to date on 3D, so we're putting together a short
film. You know me, Miguel, I live from my ilusión..."
Questions and Answers: Section 2: Digital
Q8: Printmaking practices: Is the idea of a limited
edition still a viable concept in a digital age? Are digital prints always
multiples or are people doing digital monoprints? Is digital printmaking
being combined with woodblock, lithography, or other print techniques?
A8: I think the limited edition is a secondary issue when it comes to
editioning prints, whether traditional or digital. The important thing
to me is whether or not they are originals, i.e. created as prints, as
opposed to copies of originals created in other media such as oils or
watercolors. For a long time now, ever since etchers started electroplating
their plates and thereby permitting virtually unlimited editions, the
limited edition has been more of a marketing technique than a condition
imposed by technical considerations.
I have come round to the opinion that whether or not to
limit an edition is entirely optional. An artist is free to do whatever
he or she likes on that issue. If one thinks that the market value is
enhanced by limiting the edition, then go ahead and restrict it. If one
prefers the supposedly more-democratic, less-expensive option of the unlimited
edition, that's OK, too. What I do find morally and esthetically repugnant
is a "limited edition" of 1,500, signed and numbered by the
artist, especially if the "print" is a reprographic copy of
In the final analysis, the only requisite I consider essential
is the full disclosure of all information related to the creation and
editioning of the print. Then the consumer can make a reasonable choice
based on the facts. Oh, and let's not forget the honesty factor, the corner
stone of any limited edition concept. If an artist decides to market a
print as a limited edition, I don't think it's too much to ask that he
or she respect the edition!
I never saw a digital monoprint, but it is perfectly possible,
though it seems to me to go a bit against the grain of this quintessential
Digital techniques seem to lend themselves nicely to mixing
with traditional media. I'm thinking of the work of artists like April
Vollmer and Serkan Adin who, if I understand correctly, create their images
in the computer, then transfer them to wood blocks. It's lovely work.
I'm sure other artists are finding other interesting ways of combining
digital and traditional techniques. I'd love to see more of that sort
of thing on World Printmakers, too.
" First of all, let's discard
that dreadful, fabricated word, 'giclee.' It just adds to the confusion."
Q9: Giclees (of work done in
other media, such as paintings): are they prints or reproductions in your
eyes? in the eyes of artists? collectors? Describe the type and extent
of print fraud currently. Has giclee compromised the market for prints
in general? digital art? original fine-art inkjet prints?
A9: First of all, let's discard that dreadful, fabricated word,
"giclee." It just adds to the confusion. God knows, we're confused
enough already. You mean inkjet reproductions? Yes, they're reproductions.
I think everybody in the printmaking community sees them as simple copies.
Presumably the only artists who take them in any way seriously are those
who want to sell copies of their work and get rich quick by calling them
"prints." I doubt that the majority of these artists have ever
seen an etching press or a computer; what they do see is an opportunity
to multiply their money, and they're off and running.
The prevailing print scams, both on and offline, are "soft fraud,"
which preys upon the ignorance of buyers - and it's massive. Anyone can
run a simple test himself. Just type "print" or "limited-edition
fine-art print" in Google, then review the first fifty sites which
come up. One would be lucky if three of them sold real fine-art prints.
The rest purvey copies, "giclees" and posters, all of which
have their legitimate place in the market, but not as "fine-art prints."
This cynically-orchestrated "confusion" in the terminology is
degrading and ultimately killing the market for contemporary fine-art
"This...'confusion'in the terminology
is... killing the market for contemporary fine-art prints."
I don't think inkjet prints have compromised the print
market at all. Rather the contrary, they have revitalized it with something
new, fascinating, and worthwhile. As I see it, the divide is not between
traditional and digital artists; it's between real printmakers using their
own tools to make authentic serial art and con men trying to sell reproductions
and posters as prints. Our job is to help buyers to distinguish one from
the other. It's a losing battle.
Q10: Media in the future: What
do you foresee the balance between traditional and digital print media
will be? Comment on the future potential of any of the following: inkjet
prints, laser prints, digital mixed media, LCD screens, electronic paper,
holograms, plasma screens.
A10: I see the future tilting towards
digital, not because of any intrinsic "superiority" of the digital
medium, rather for plain, practical reasons. There are more computers
than etching presses, and more kids who know how to work computers. Is
this to say that traditional printmaking will disappear? Not at all. I
think there will always be a dedicated fraternity of etchers, screen printers,
lithographers, woodcut artists, etc. And there will always be a market
for their work among connoisseurs. But I wonder if that market will be
growing or shrinking in the next few years.
As for digital output devices, I think it's a secondary point. Right now
it's inkjet. If someone invents something better, then digital printmakers
will move to that. The device itself is an unimportant issue as far as
I'm concerned. I think digital mixed media is here to stay. It facilitates
and potentiates the work of innovative printmakers. More power to them.
As for art on screens, I actually invented that a couple of years ago.
Then I discovered that, as with so many of my inventions, someone else
had invented it first. I read somewhere recently that they're already
commercializing big, flat screens which you can hang on the wall to display
digital images. I suspect that when the price of these screens comes down
enough we'll see a lot of them hanging over fireplaces. Why not?
"...they... voice the 'can't see
the hand' objection, along with a lot of other spurious reasons for
rejecting innovation in printmaking."
Q11: What response would you
make to the statement that digital work is not "real"? that
you can't see the hand?
A11: The fact is, in a digital print,
you can see the hand. It may not be a brushstroke or an intaglio groove,
but if you have ever worked (struggled!) with a computer drawing program,
you can experience the same sort of "How did she do that?!"
admiration when looking at a digital print that you get when looking at
a great etching. There are people who are still incapable of perceiving
this experience, and they will be the ones to voice the "can't see
the hand" objection, along with a lot of other spurious reasons for
rejecting innovation in printmaking. These "art Luddites" are
on their way out, and millions of eager, open-minded, computer-hip, young
people are taking their place in art schools... and the art market. Turn,
Q12: Do you see any effect of
internationalization of contemporary art owing to the Web?
A12: I can see clear signs of internationalization,
if on a very small scale, in our own operation. Here we sit in Spain selling
prints made by printmakers in Poland and China to collectors in Holland
and the U.S.A., this thanks to the Web. So the short answer is yes.
The longer answer has to do with the future of Internet,
which I think will be all enveloping. If I may be permitted an A-bomb
metaphor, we have seen the Web's blinding flash, but we have not yet felt
its terrible shock wave. I am not a futurologist, but my guess is that
the World Wide Web will globalize everything to an extent that we cannot
imagine today. The implication for contemporary artists? Get your digital
ducks in a row, the Internet Armageddon is nigh.
Our thanks to Martha Jane Bradford
and the Boston Printmakers for their
generosity in permitting us to reprint
this interview. See their website at: