When we were asked by our friends at Illustrators Australia to be part of their quarterly member magazine Outline, we were thrilled! We love working with the extremely talented artists that are part of IA and to be featured in Outline was a privilege. Just last month we supported Illustrators Australia by sponsoring the Peoples Choice Award for the Annual Illustrators Australia 9×5 Exhibition – ‘Flourish’ and were a major sponsor of the A3 Show in 2012.
Here is the interview from Outline Magazine – this magazine is only available to members. For more information or to become a member of Illustrators Australia click here.
Image Science is well-known to the IA community, having worked with many of us to create art prints. We speak to the founder, Jeremy Daalder, about the behind-the-scene process of his print studio and how we can work with them to represent our work in the best way possible.
Outline: Could you share with us your background, and your path to director of Image Science?
Jeremy: I started Image Science in 2002 while I was studying photography and remain the principal ‘techie’ that keeps it all running. Basically, I had some spare time while studying, and I quickly found it impossible to find really high quality digital services in Melbourne. I’d just got back from London where things in this area were a little more advanced, and really Melbourne was filled with slow moving, expensive, traditional service businesses.
In particular, film scanning was ludicrously expensive and poor quality. So I bought a film scanner, and leveraging my IT skills (I have an Honours degree in IT), I taught myself digital imaging from the ground up. Basically, my computing knowledge allowed me to pick apart techniques and apply a real science approach to improvement (hence the name Image Science). We really have grown organically through demand since then and have clocked up 12 years … we’re deliberately small and very big on customer service.
Outline: Could you share with us some of the illustrators you have worked with? What kind of work do you typically do for illustrators?
Jeremy: We’ve worked with a LOT of illustrators & artists in general, in various ways – from complete beginners, to quite famous names like Leunig. Some names that might be familiar:
– Jody Pratt (el presidente!)
– Michael Leunig
– Alexander Stitt (of Life Be In It fame!)
– Lara Cameron and Tegan Rose (who run the boutique yardage company Ink and Spindle)
– Emma Leonard, Cat Macinnes, Eamon Donnelly
– Painters like Jeremy Geddes, Matt R Martin, Michael Peck, Ross Watson, Mick Turner and many more
..um I feel like I am name dropping! Suffice it to say we’re very fortunate in that we get to work with, and count as friends, a large number of the most creative people working in this country! And these are just the illustrators – we work with hundreds of photographers, graphic designers, typographers and mixed media artists. Our ‘target market’ is basically anyone that puts ink to paper in almost any form.
The key services we offer illustrators are:
– capture (scanning or photography of artworks)
– processing (retouching, layouts etc)
– fine art, archival printing
…Or in setting people up to do this for themselves – we can help with basically all the equipment – namely accurate monitors, calibrators, archival printers and all the consumables to go with them. And bucket loads of advice on anything from basic digital imaging questions right through to effective sales techniques.
My favourite approach is to meet personally with the illustrator for an hour or so and talk through all the various options etc, then come up with a plan with them to turn their original works into regularly saleable reproductions. I think we’re really only seeing the beginnings of this ‘affordable art’ market – and the clever illustrator is really learning to multi-stream their work into different outlets. To me it’s a really key part of making your practise sustainable in the long term. And we have some very successful trail blazers we’ve seen grow from beginning to amazing success. So basically – we can help at all levels!
Outline: We are really interested in self-promotional tools for illustration for this issue. Many illustrators use simple postcard mailers, could you share with us any other successful or unique formats you have seen?
Jeremy: We’ve seen a lot of variations on the card theme – including a lot of distinctly arty approaches. Like all things it’s a balance between getting what you ideally want – which can be VERY expensive – and just doing a bog standard type mailer. I personally think that basic mailers are largely ignored these days – in this fast paced, media rich world, I think people need to try a bit harder to stand out from the crowd. I’ve seen some very effective ‘demo reels’ where illustrative work has been cut to music and then shared on vimeo.com or the like. And I’ve seen some amazing card work – where die cut cardboard is used to turn an illustration into a pop-up basically.
To be honest, in print sales marketing – the most effective marketing we see is internet based – targeted blog posts on key art collector sites, personal mailing lists to print collectors, and clever social media use to create a buzz. Feeding into the collector mentality and creating a sense of the time critical, whilst at the same time making it really easy for your customers to buy (e.g. by offering a fixed price including insured shipping to anywhere in the world so there are no nasty surprises at any point)…has proven very effective for the people at the forefront of this.
Outline: What is the difference between reproducing illustrations at home with a semi-decent printer, vs working with a professional print studio like Image Science?
Jeremy: In theory it’s possible to set up similar equipment to what we have here (indeed many businesses pop up and have a go at this!). The really hard part is doing it at a very high level and very consistently across many years. For example – we offer some editions prints where the first prints date back to the early 2000s. For the ‘lay person’ it is very very difficult to set up process management to achieve consistency over a period like this – across significant changes in print technology and materials behaviour. We can print now as we did then – so artists can safely offer limited editions of significant price across a long period by using us.
But more importantly, even if that sort of consistency is more than you need, I personally think our key advantage is taking on all the complexity of this. You CAN get great results at home (and we can help you with this!) – but I think for many artists becoming a digital print expert is not the best use of their time. It’s time better spent on your actual work, and on your business development and marketing. So we’re best seen as partners – for a small part of your potential print sales margin, we take care of all the day to day hassles of producing exquisite, archival, and consistent prints. And we make it as easy as possible – most of our artists store a library of works with us and an order is a simple two minute process of an online order/email saying ‘print file A on material B’ basically.
Outline: How does Image Science’s approach differ?
Jeremy: My policy has always been to approach the craft side of imaging in a computing/science manner. This might not sound all that trendy or inviting at first glance but what it means in practise is:
A. Develop knowledge through a repeated process of action->measure->tweak->action->measure->tweak. Or more accurately, use the scientific method. Don’t just accept the rules of thumb that are so prevalent in the imaging industry (e.g. you have to print at 300 DPI, or that running a printer with a CMYK RIP is per se better than using the standard driver)….but test everything. Because most of the rules of thumb are either flat out wrong or a long way from ideal.
B. Use an ‘open source’ approach. That is – share the knowledge we have gained and developed. We put this into action primarily in our knowledge base – easily the most comprehensive such resource in the country with over 250 free articles and a free ‘from the ground up’ Digital Fine Print book.
This sharing extends to things like ICC profiles. We had these up for free general download back in 2002. There are still businesses today that don’t offer these, or indeed many still don’t even know what they are or how to use them properly! While not everyone needs to know what these are, any good printing organisation must – and should be happy to explain and help their customers who want to take things to a higher, more consistent level.
C. Use calibration and process control techniques pervasively. This means we do a lot of documenting of processes and job logging etc. It means that we can offer consistent results year after year, across different times and materials. This is essential for really high end edition printing…and it’s where all those people who just buy a big printer and think they can do something similar ultimately come a cropper.
Outline: Many artists and illustrators work with Image Science to create incredible art prints. Could you share with us the technical aspects to ensure illustrations are reproduced beautifully? What is the best format for us to supply files etc? (This would be probably be the longest answer – we would love your detail for this as lots of us get confused here!).
Jeremy: Well we have a pretty comprehensive guide to this right on your website already in the Illustrators Australia Resources section, so grabbing that and following it is your best bet.
That said – the basics are pretty easy. First things first – we want RGB rendered data supplied as a TIFF or JPEG sized to the print size you want.
So this means no vectors, and ideally no CMYK. You can work in vectors of course…but from your vectors, produce a sized, print ready file – that way there’s no issues with weird rendering effects along the way – if you supply us pixels, you’ll get those pixels precisely printed as you desire. Also, we ask that you supply us RGB colours rather than produce your files in CMYK – because really, you don’t know what ink percentages to use for our printers. Fortunately most of the industry is moving to RGB at the production end now. If you do submit CMYK we’ll work with it, but we definitely prefer RGB.
Basically, create a document in Photoshop or similar at the size you need for your final outputted piece of paper. A lot of illustrators use our sheet print service, because these make it easy for you (or your customers!) to use standard size frames. So you might set up an A2 document at 360 PPI. We actually have pre-prepared templates for sheet prints to make this really easy.
So – download those, open up the A2 template, and place your artwork onto that page in the way you physically want it to appear. We let you lay out the whole document so you can factor in your own white space concerns – giving you complete control. E.g. most artwork is printed with a larger border at the bottom so that you have room to sign/number your work, and so that you avoid the ‘falling in the frame’ visual illusion you get when you have an even border at the bottom. Make sure you artwork stays within the blue guide lines in our template – these indicate the printable area, so if you go outside them your work will get clipped/unspecified results. These lines are just guides, of course, and won’t print.
Once you have placed your artwork, just flatten down the file, save it as a TIFF, and then get it to us (over the web, on a stick, carrier pigeon – whatever works for you!).
That’s all there is to it, really. And if you get stuck, then give us a ring and book a time and we’ll take you through the process personally so you can be sure you’re all set.
Outline: Are there any illustration projects you have worked on that stick out in your memory?
Jeremy: Many! And for various reasons – e.g. the most successful print run we’ve seen – a ‘timed release’ that resulted in 846 prints sold in 12 hours! That resulted in us using two printers full time for 6 weeks. Or printing all the work for the Illustrators Australia A3 show. Or meeting Alexander Stitt – I grew up with the Life Be In It campaign and although I am perhaps a little too Norm myself these days, I consider that one of the really legendary public service campaigns in this country.
But from single individual prints through to monster edition runs – we love to help all our clients!
Outline: How do your illustration projects compare with your photographic work? You started as a professional photographer I believe?
Jeremy: I have actually come to prefer working on the illustrative material even more than the photographic – I guess it’s the complete freedom of imagination we see in the illustrative work. And also it’s that some illustrators are still working with surprisingly primitive methods like Pantone books and ring-around prints – so I really enjoy guiding them on their journey towards better print work through modern digital techniques. Basically, helping them achieve what they want more easily – and indeed guiding them towards wanting even better things!
There’s no reason why Australian artists can’t enjoy the same levels of success as your Mark Rydens and Josh Keyes etc. We’ve certainly got the talent, but I think the technical and business/marketing teaching in this country has been a bit behind….but we’re here to help and we’re always very happy to work with individual artists or IA on anything at all in the digital imaging area. As I said I think we’re only in the infancy of this era of affordable art and it should be a fun and beautiful journey along the way as the market develops!
- Adam B -
Thanks so much for your detailed answer. I'm sure you hear it all the time, but you guys really are so wonderfully unique in your ability and willingness to help.