Process: Guitar Playing Robot Final Chapter

At last the time has come to present the Guitar Playing Robot print! Nearly a year in the making, here is the final result and some thoughts and notes on the process.

Full-size actual print

Mom models the Guitar Playing Robot print for the camera

Note: This is Part Four of a process post. For earlier posts see Process: Digital Art Editing of the Guitar Playing RobotProcess: What Counts As Cheating When Making Art?, and Process: Edition Separations (Again) For Print.

You might not know that I’ve been working on this thing for so long because the first sketch I posted was back in June last year, but the original 4 x 6 drawing was done in early 2014. Here is the stack of prints that I picked up yesterday.

Stack of numbered prints

Stack of numbered prints

They are gorgeous! That was absolutely my first impression when I saw the first print in Steve’s studio, and family members seemed to echo that when I unveiled the stack during their Sunday dinner. I’m tempted to leave it at that and maybe that’s the sales savvy thing to do, but the whole point of this blog is to be transparent about the process.

Wabi Sabi: Beauty in imperfection

The process of hand pulled screen prints involves a lot of variables and the result is that while the same image is getting printed again and again, no two prints are exactly alike.

Here is some closeup of some elements being slightly off.

Registration shift

A shift in registration of red or black ink layer

Now some anal retentive might look at that and say, “That’s off! I can’t believe you let your printer get away with that!” I can assure you the fault is all mine. As noted in previous process posts, the colors line up and get trapped under the black line that ties everything together (printers call this the keyline). What I should have done when designing this is made that border line thicker. I’m not sure why I didn’t. It’s thinner than most of the other line work in the drawing. I think part of this has to do with the scale of the thing. The final print is 18 x 24 inches. My computer screen isn’t that big and it’s difficult to get a sense of what the actual size is. The next time I do a print this size I think I’ll get some actual size prints on paper done before I order the prints or make the final films and decide from that what is working at what isn’t.

Then there is this errant dot.

Closeup of errant dot

Pesky errant dot floating in a white void

I’m not sure why it’s there, but errant dots happen. If it happened anywhere else I wouldn’t think much of it, but this one is kind of in the middle of a white void. If I didn’t mention it, a lot of people wouldn’t have noticed. However, I belong to a Facebook group of silkscreen poster collectors and artists. The collectors seem to be the vocal majority and some of the things that some of them notice and pick on just boggle my mind. It makes me nervous to sell prints for fear that some buyer will be outraged over a dot, slight bend in the corner, or a shift in registration (how well the colors line up). Most recently I saw a post where someone was concerned over an ink smear on back of the print. Who is going to see the back of your print?

The least I can do is acknowledge it an own up to it. Yes, there is a dot there. I thought about reaching out to other artists and asking if they would do something about it, but in the end it’s my decision. There are no rules here. It’s my print. I make up the rules. On a handful of prints I’ve taken the tip of an X-Acto knife and scratched the dot out. Maybe I’ll continue to do that as I sell them. Maybe not.

In 1964 Dorothy Podber walked into Andy Warhol’s factory and fired a gun at a stack of Marilyn Monroe prints. Four of the five painted prints received bullet holes which were patched up and then sold. As a consequence, those paintings were later sought after for the story behind them. My scratching a dot off a print might not be as good of a story as patching bullet holes, but it’s how this story unfolds.

Then there is this:

Closeup of design flaw

Closeup of string/screw design flaw

Somehow in all my Photoshop layers I forgot to fix this little outline of a screw on the pickguard. The white line of the upper string really should go all the way through. How many people would notice it if I hadn’t pointed it out? I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t catch it, but this print is just one chapter in the story of an emerging artist and these things happen.

Editions

Numbered Prints

Numbered Prints

I’m throwing this in here because my sister had some concerns about this. I mentioned that before I started signing them I would have to count the prints. The prints get signed and numbered in such a way: 1/149, 2/149, 3/149…and so on. So why did I have to count them? Because I only ordered 140. The regular edition for sale would be 137 prints and I would keep three on hand as Artist Prints (or Artist’s Proofs). I would number those like this: 1/3 A.P., 2/3 A.P., and 3/3 A.P. There isn’t really a great reason for that in this case. If I’d been commissioned to do prints for a band or event, part of the contract might be that I get to make some number of Artist’s Prints to sell (or keep) for myself in addition to the edition that the client ordered. I ordered 140 because it’s a round number, but I wanted to keep the regular edition at 137 because that’s a prime number and that’s just how I operate. The remaining three prints I planned on calling Artist’s Prints because I don’t know what I’ll do with them. I might keep them for myself to put in a physical portfolio. I might want to give one away at a later date when the rest are gone. I feel like at one point I will auction off one or more for charity. In any case, I’m disclosing here and now how many prints I actually have, which is 153. 149 are in the regular edition and there are three remaining. Of those three I think I’ll label two as Artist’s Proofs as originally planned, and I might save one for some hand embellishments in the future. That just means that I might draw, paint, or write on top of the print and if I do that it will get a 1/1 designation.

Often a printer will print more prints than is required for the job because some amount might become damaged along the way. Sometimes, but not always, the printer will go ahead and pass on those extra prints to the client. In this case Steve sent me home with an extra 13 prints that I didn’t order. He could have held on to them for himself (and he probably has a couple in a drawer somewhere) or he could have destroyed them. I could have destroyed them if I wanted to keep the edition a little lower, but what a waste that would be! I suppose I could have cut up the 13 worst into postcards or repurposed them for covers of books or something, but even the very worst of these prints looks pretty remarkable to me and I just don’t have the heart to do it. Besides that fact, 149 is a prime number, too.

B-Stock

Closeup of printing imperfection

Closeup of printing imperfection

Okay, you caught me. Some of the prints are better than others. What I’ve seen some artist’s do is label them as B-Stock or “Scratch & Dent” and sell them at a slightly reduced price. These “B-Stock” copies are still part of the regular edition this case. Generally I’ll try to send out the best prints on a first come first served basis, and possibly offer B-Stock options as my supply dwindles.

Variants

Some artist’s will issue a small number of variants of a print. This might be a print done with different or more colors or done on a different color of paper. I have no plans to do variants of this print. That isn’t to say it couldn’t happen, but I’d much rather do more guitar playing robots playing different guitars in different settings. The only variant I’m currently considering is one hand embellished copy.

Pricing

Pricing has always been a difficult thing for me. Price something too high and no one buys it. Price something too low and risk seeming less confident in the work. My dad tells the story of an uncle with a dog that needed a home. An ad in the paper saying “Free Dog” resulted in nothing. Another ad that read “Dog: $5″ resulted in several inquiries. Perceived value is a tricky philosophy.

Prices are all over the map for screen printed posters of this size. Looking at prices other artists have set for 4-color prints of this size the range is anywhere from $20-$100+ depending on the detail, how well known the artist is, and the size of the edition (the number of prints available). $30 to $40 seems like a more realistic average for the “less famous” printers, and since I’m still up and coming I think $25 isn’t unreasonable.

I could put the prints up for sale right now, but I’m going to wait until early tomorrow evening. I’m going offer up one for free on my Facebook page in an effort to get the word out about this piece and my site. Promotion is a tricky thing too, but I’m learning more as I go along. Check my Etsy store tomorrow evening for this print and maybe pick up a few other things while you’re at it.

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