November 29, 2017

What Exactly is a Giclee?

Growing up in a family of artists, I have been exposed to all mediums of art.  As a child, large oil paintings, small watercolors, carvings, bronzes, and etchings covered my walls and decorated my rooms.  My father was always creating in all mediums of artwork so my knowledge of the subject grew though my hears.  I remember as a child being confused at why others didn't decorate their walls like we did.  Didn't everyone have pieces of artwork on every wall?
At a rough old age of 28, I decided to go into business wih my father, Al Sprague. We formed Sprague Editions, a company dedicated to the reproduction and distribution of my father's artwork. Through this business venture, I expanded my knowledge even further on the different means of art reproduction, the reproduction process, and the value of the artwork to the customer. Throughout my tenure as Owner/Art Representative, I have educated many on the various categories of art reproduction and the different mediums of fine art. Although, a large population of customers have a love for what they hang on their walls, many simply do not understand what is in their collections.
One of the most common questions I receive is, "What is a giclee?" A giclee is a high resolution reproduction of an original piece of artwork or photograph. Large printers have the capabilities to print on paper or canvas at a high DPI (dots per inch). Because of this high resolution, the reproduction takes on the closest to an original than any other form of art reproduction. In addition, many artists add to a giclee to emphasize brush strokes, lighting, etc. Although these embellishments are added, a giclee is not to be mistaken as an original. It is a printed reproduction of an original regardless of any added effects.
Many artists have chosen to move into giclee printing instead of the traditional offset reproduction process which produces limited and open edition prints. These decisions have been made simply because there is no need to keep an inventory of giclee reproductions on hand whereas limited and open edition prints take up a large amount of space to store. Giclees are printed on demand rather than in bulk. In addition, giclees can be printed in any size. This provides an ease to both the collector and the artist. It becomes a customized print-to-order transaction versus a supply and demand transaction of the past.
Giclees have become the answer to high end decorating. If a client or business would like to decorate with original artwork but the purchase of an original piece is not in the budget, giclees are the answer. Do they hold the same value as an original painting, absolutely not - they are still a copy of the original artwork - but they do have the feel and look of a painting.
Experience the Beauty of Panama through Al Sprague Giclees ... visit today.

May 13, 2017

The Degas of Panama

Art is magical - it not only sparks emotion but it tells a story without words.  Every artist strives to be known for his or her story - hoping that one day they will be remembered as the artist who captured a subject matter and brought it to life through art.

Being a daughter of two artists, I have been exposed to the world of art for as long as I can recall.  I have studied the Masters and appreciate their stories and all that they have taught artists and admirers today.

As a young child, I danced ballet for 14 years.  Needless to say, Edgar Degas was one of my favorite artists.  At first, I admired him because he painted beautiful works showing the world of ballet.  As I continued to study his career and portfolio I learned he was a master at capturing the human figure. 

Blue Dancers, Edgar Degas, 1899

I have always said my father, Al Sprague is the Degas of Panama.  His beautiful renditions of the polleras show not only the beauty of the dancers, but the pride Panama has in a culture that has been passed down from generation to generation.  

Polleras, Al Sprague, 2013

As a young student at American University in Washington D.C., my father painted many paintings of my mother.  Much of these were used for his Master's thesis.   Recently, I received an email from a gentleman inquiring about a painting he had fallen in love with over 30 years ago.  He had cherished it over the years and was digging into the history of the work and confirming that the painting was my father's. When looking at the photo attached to the email, I was shocked to find a painting of my mother.  

Preparing for Bed, Al Sprague, 1964

Just as Degas was mastering the human figure through his early work, so was my father.  This, and so many early pieces of my father's, remind me of Degas' paintings of women combing their hair, taking a bath, and getting dressed. 

Seated Bather Drying Herself, Edgar Degas, 1895

 Looking through the door and capturing the figure "doing everyday ordinary things" was practice for my father.  He continues to use these techniques when sharing a story of the market and lottery vendors, the fishermen, and the pollera dancers dancing down the street.  It is as if he captures them in a moment in time allowing the viewer to witness a story in action.

Venta de Pixbae, Al Sprague, 1988
Lottery Vendor Bronze, Al Sprague, Unknown Date

Pulling in the Nets, Al Sprague, 2013

Very similar to Edgar Degas, my father began his career painting portraits of family and friends.  This provided him even more practice at painting the human figure.  I can clearly remember sitting downstairs under our duplex in Balboa while my father painted portraits in his studio which was actually an enclosed garage.  Today, he still paints in his studio - a converted garage found at his house in Virginia.

Portrait of Betty Goldstein, Al Sprague, 1967

Degas was best known for mastering the human figure in motion.  His paintings, drawings, and bronzes of the ballet dancers are typically what most people recall when they think of Degas and his work.  He captured the beauty of the dance and the drama of the performance. Today, in his converted garage studio, I believe my father has become the Degas of Panama - mastering the human figure in motion and best known for his pollera paintings - capturing the beauty of the dance, the drama of the the performance and most of all the pride in the culture of the people.

Montunas, Al Sprague, 2013

Group of Polleras, Al Sprague, 2012

I know, in my heart, that in years to come, my father's work will be on display around the world and the story of Panama and its culture will be told through his portfolio.  

Living a Double Life as a Daughter of the Famous Panamanian Artist, Al Sprague

I am a forty something mother of three and a wife of a hospital administrator.  We live on a lake in a small North Carolina town.  If you met me today, you would never know that I grew up with a father who was so well respected in a small country the size of South Carolina because of his artistic talent. If you visited my home, you would begin to see the opening of a window into my past and you just might see a glimpse of my double life as a daughter of the famous Panamanian Artist, Al Sprague.

Growing up with a famous father was a life much different than many of my friends ever experienced.  The saying of my last name in Panama always brought on the question, "Are you related to the famous artist, Al Sprague?"  As a teenager, this statement brought the rolling of my eyes and a not-so excited answer of "Yes....."

In high school, I was ridiculed in geometry when I couldn't draw the shapes correctly on the blackboard with "Are you sure you are the daughter of artist Al Sprague?"

I laugh now when I think of this time in my life.  I had no idea of the uniqueness of my childhood. My every day life with my father provided me with the opportunity to stand on the sidelines watching how his artwork enhanced Panama's sense of pride in its culture, heritage, people, and natural resources.  How do you explain that to others who were not exposed to that?

In 2013 I stumbled onto an announcement on FaceBook that Memphis in May International Festival had chosen Panama as its country of honor for 2014.  My brain immediately went into overdrive and I knew I had to pitch the idea of my father being being part of this month-long festival in the city of my college alma mater.  I knew this would be a great opportunity to share my "other life".

What a joy it was to open a door for others to see a different side of my life.  Through this experience, I was reminded, once again, how important my father's artwork is to Panamanians, especially those who have migrated to the United States to live and raise their children. His work captures more than just a moment in time - it expresses a pride in a culture; a way of life; and of a country that is rich in its history and people.

Backstage after the Danilo Perez Jazz Concert

Artist Reception at Gallery with Panamanian Representatives and Memphis in May Representatives
I can't help but smile at the thought of living a double-life as a famous artist's daughter. My every day life has been filled with extraordinary experiences because of my father and his God-Given talent. Thank you dad ... I look forward to many more adventures and experiences in the future. 

A Love Story

I have always said that artists have a unique way of seeing things others just can't see.  They can express something on canvas which opens the eyes of others. 

My father has done just that throughout his career.  In the early 1970's my father saw something in the way the light hit the templeques of the pollera dancers (the national folkloric dancers of Panama).  He saw the gracefulness in the way the dresses moved and most importantly he recognized the absolute beauty in the girls who wore the dresses with pride.  He had to open the window for everyone else to see what a beautiful tradition was right before our eyes. 

This early painting portrays the beauty of the polleras.  I first saw this painting on my father's easel in 1976 and told him how I loved it.  He promised it to me right there on the spot.  Today I wake every morning to the beauty of Panama as it hangs in my bedroom for me to enjoy.
Over the years, my father continued to paint the beautiful girls in their cherished dresses.  He spent many weekends at Old Panama taking photos of the dancers that he would use as material to produce these wonders.  An Al Sprague pollera became a "must have" for many in this small country.  He traveled the country to capture the many types of dresses and dances.  His favorite place, still today, is  the small village of Santa Domingo just past Las Tablas on the way to Pedasi.  He says the light is perfect and the dresses are the prettiest. 

"Galinda" is one of my father's paintings using the polleras from Santa Domingo.
Today my father's polleras hang proudly on walls of many across the world.  He has created a pride for many Panamanians for a tradition that may have gone unnoticed in the past.  This was best explained to a group of Panamanians during a show at the Panamanian Embassy in Washington D.C. when the Ambassador stated that it took an American artist to see and paint the essence of Panama for Panamanians to see the beauty of their country, people, and traditions.

"La Reina" is another painting of the beautiful dancer from Santa Domingo.

I guess one can say my father's career of painting Panama is a love story.  He fell in love with the people and the culture a long time ago.  And now, he continues to nurture that love through his art which opens our eyes daily to the beauty of a country and its people.  

August 4, 2013

Perfect Harmony in Art

Harmony has been defined as "a pleasing combination of elements as a whole".  It is something we all strive to accomplish in our lives ... may it be harmony with others or harmony within ourselves; we all seek to find that pleasing combination in all that we do in life.  I believe my father, Al Sprague, has found that pleasing combination in his world of art.

Pollera Oil painted in 2013

In the Beginning, my very first Blog entry,  I told the story of how my father discovered his talent and love for art.  After getting in trouble and not really knowing which way to go with his life, my grandmother, Josephine Sprague, sent him out with paint, a canvas, and an easel and told him not to return until he had completed a painting.  It was at this moment that my father discovered his passion for art but it would take years of painting, drawing, and sculpting to find and create harmony in his world.

Watercolor painted in 1969

My father describes art as something he has to do, it's almost like an addiction - He sees and he wants to create. There is rarely a day that goes by that he is not creating something.  Granted, sometimes it may be fishing lures or decorative rocks, but creating is just part of who he is.  It gives him a sense of wholeness; a sense of being; it is his harmony.

Bahamian Oil painted in 2008

Life hasn't always been easy for my father.  He has struggled with much in his lifetime.  Like many artists, he has  struggled with alcoholism and depression, but one thing has remained consistent - his love for art.

We, as admirers of his God-given talent, are the lucky ones.  We get to experience harmony by viewing his creations.  Viewing his work is like hearing a beautiful symphony playing on canvas. The colors, the composition, the light all play together and create a perfect snapshot of harmony.

I, though take it one step further - I see each piece of his work as a building block to creating harmony in my father as an individual.  It is the combination of his life creations that has made him into the artist we all know and love - a person who has found harmony in himself through the world of art.

April 5, 2013

Postmarked for Eternity

The 13 cent Canal Zone stamp was the first postage stamp published using my father's artwork.  Issued February 23, 1976, pictures the dipper dredge, Cascadas.  The Canal has always been a subject matter my father has embraced.  He created a drawing, etching, and painting of this composition. 

The original is part of a permanent collection owned by the ACP (Autoridad del Canal Panama) and was reproduced in the widely distributed Panama Canal Review in 1975.  In addition, the black and white drawings of this collection were reproduced and sold in packets early in my father's career.  I remember as a child going to Stephens Circle with my mother and selling these packets of drawings.  Many people still have these black and white drawings framed and on display in their homes today.  

The 15 cent Canal Zone postage stamp was the last postage stamp produced by the Canal Zone before the ending of the Canal Zone postage system.   The first day of issue was October 25, 1978.  The image captures the operation of the electric "mules" as they guide a ship through the lock and is probably the most recognized Canal Zone postage stamps

The original painting used for the 15 cent postage stamp is part of the permanent collection of Al Sprague paintings found in the rotunda of the Administration Building of the Panama Canal in Balboa Heights, Panama.  It too, was reproduced in the 1975 Panama Canal Review.

Since the production of the Canal Zone postage stamps, my father's work has been used to produce six Panamanian stamps.   

April 3, 2013

Painting the People of Panama

"Muchacha Sentada en el Patio", Oil, 1988

Experience the Beauty of Panama through Al Sprague Artwork... this has been a saying I have used for many years.  My father truly captures the essence of Panama through his artwork... it isn't just the Canal or the beautiful dresses of the Pollera... it's the people... they are what makes Panama such a beautiful country.

My father has a keen sense of seeing the beauty in some of the most simplistic things.  He gets excited about the way the light reflects off the brightly colored fruit at the market or the different colored bottles on the cart of the raspadero.  I can't count how many times we stopped the car on the way to the interior to take pictures of a vendor on the side of the road selling vegetables or flowers.  I have to credit this to his artistic eye.  He just sees things differently than the rest of us.

"Flower Girl", Oil, 2008
Available as a Giclee

My father captures the lighting, colors, and strength of the market vendors in his paintings of the marketplace. 

"Tomato Vendor", Oil, 1991
Available as a Giclee

You can almost smell the scents of the market, feel the texture of the fruits and vegetables, and feel the warmth of the sun when looking at his work.  Many people love his renditions of the raspadero and his cart.  The paintings bring back memories of chasing down the cart vendor and waiting for the delicious taste of the icy treat.  

"Raspadero", Oil, 2010
Available as a Giclee
Over the years my father has consistently captured the traditional wooden carts used by the market vendors.  These carts are typically filled with fruits and vegetables and pushed into the streets during the day.  When walking through the market areas, it is common to see multiple carts lining the street - each filled with fresh treats for sale.

"Market Carts", Oil, 1975

"Vegetable Vendor", Oil, 1988

If asked, I would have to say, the market vendors remain one of my favorite subject matters of my father's because he consistently captures the beauty of Panama through the everyday life of the people of the country.