~ by Maria Benner
When Scott finished the 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall series, we went to a local print shop, and ordered 5-10 prints of 20+ paintings. We ended up paying nearly $600 upfront, and stored the prints until they sold. The hefty upfront investment deterred us from ordering more prints, until we had a game-changing idea in 2012 to buy our own printer, and make the prints ourselves on demand. Epson had relatively affordable printers available, and one we chose, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, was on sale. The printer arrived via FedEx, and when we turned it on, it refused to work, because it insisted that the ink cartridges that it came with could not be recognized. So we mailed that one back, and Epson sent us a replacement, which worked. Our printer requires nine different cartridges, each one costing $31.99, plus shipping (they are not available in Anchorage). I usually wait for a coupon code from Epson to arrive in my e-mail box before placing an order, but today I noticed that I was running dangerously low on one color, and ended up paying full price. Doh!
The first step in making a print is taking a quality photo. I take several pictures next to the large windows in our studio in the best possible light. Then I choose the best photo and use Photoshop to adjust levels, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc., trying to match the image to the original painting as much as possible. Next I connect my laptop to our work beast, the printer, load it with high quality Epson photo paper, and print the image from Photoshop. Most of the time, the printer is a champ. Sometimes it bleeds ink, or prints lines on the image, meaning the heads need a cleaning. So we throw away the rejects and try again. Then we consult our list of paintings that have been released as limited-edition prints, and find which number comes next, and we write the number at the bottom of the image, like 54/365. Scott signs each print, and then we package them in plastic sleeves with heavy duty backer board, and a certificate of authenticity. Then it’s ready to be mailed, or sold in our studio, or at a venue that sells Scott’s art, like Dos Manos, or Midnight Sun Brewing (in January and June).
Our prints come in three standard sizes that fit in store-bought frames. Some people choose to have them professionally framed, but you can also buy a more affordable frame at many stores. Unfortunately, the size of our prints is limited by the size of the printer, but maybe someday we can upgrade. Our printer’s max paper size is 13 inches wide.
The name of our business is Real Art Is Better, because we believe that original art is better than reproductions, but we understand that not everyone can afford the originals. The other major upside to making prints is that once an original painting sells, we can still keep selling the image, allowing more people to have it, and enjoy it. Last year prints accounted for about a quarter of our sales.